Discussions: MT x Lloyd Chambers on the Pentax 645Z and Nikon D810

Today’s post is going to be a little bit of an experiment: the first in I hope a series of discussion-collaborations with Lloyd Chambers of diglloyd.com, respected technical expert and all round good guy. We’re covering the Pentax 645Z and Nikon D810 and a whole bunch of other diversions for the kickoff…I do realise it’s a bit lengthy, but this is probably the closest you’re going to get to being in the conversation. Let us know what you think!


My first thought on the 645Z is lenses.

Ming Thein:

Same – or rather the lack of?


or rather lens selection.

The lack of more than a few (if that) really good lenses.

the 90/2.8 macro is really good, but are there others of that grade?

Ming Thein:

The SDMs are the best of the bunch – yes, the 90 is outstanding, the 55 is not bad – much better stopped down, and the 25 gets there by f8.


On the 25…

Ming Thein:

I would say it probably matches the Zeiss 2.8/21 by f8.

But sample variation is a disaster.


My test showed that it cannot match the Zeiss 21/2.8 at any aperture.

But I had one sample and you had four?

Seems like probability for a mediocre $5K lens is way, way too high.  Compared to Zeiss Otus which holds very tight tolerances in manufacturing.

Ming Thein:

And that’s the troubling thing. The first sample would not focus to infinity and was clearly astigmatic.

The second one was astigmatic. The third was not bad. The final one is pretty good.

At least, the one I purchased matches my 2.8/21.


I’d expect fairly strong astigmatism in it as a wide in any case.

Ming Thein:

I think we have to remember it’s a 19mm-e on 44×33 but covering full 645 though. And that’s pretty darn wide, even though it doens’t seem to render as such.


But the thing is, where is the 15/2.8 and 25/2 or 25/2.8 equivalent… no T/S, etc.  That’s the rub.

Ming Thein:

Or leaf shutter lenses.


True enough though the 645Z it’s 21mm equiv exactly across the long side.

Ming Thein:

But in all fairness, Hassy and P1 don’t have these either. Hassy has the 1.5x HTS, Phase has one Schneider 120 macro TS, and that’s about it.

My bad, was thinking diagonal.


Heck I’d like to see leaf shutters on a DSLR.

Ming Thein:

You can have it. It’s called Leica S.


IMO the very best glass is Leica S.

Ming Thein:

And then you can also be broke.

  1. ..I think the Otus gives it a run for its money.

At least it will when the lineup is complete – and at f1.4 instead of 2.5, and half the price (or less).


The lenses would be OK (buy used), but the S body is an OMG and way beyond me.

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And that really demonstrates relative value, doesn’t it? The 645Z is what, one third the price of an S?


Yes, the Otus is faster by more than a stop even in format equivalent terms.  Otus is no less good than S lenses that I can see.

Yes, GREAT sensor, and Ricoh has those controls (mostly) nailed. Thoughtful design.

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Personally, it seems MF in general is not really there, for any system.


I’d agree.

I’d like to see Leica offer S glass for a variety of MF bodies.

backfocal distance a problem with current designs though (precludes adapter at least).

But that 645Z sensor is a nice piece of work.   But results are sensor/elecronicis + lenses (plus of course the wetware behind the camera).

Ming Thein:

I’ve tried Hassy V film and digital, Hassy H, Leica S, and now P645. Each has some pretty significant drawbacks – V tops out at 1/500s, has no wides and has to deal with a body designed for square and digital backs that are rectangular. Hassy H feels terrible ergonomically and just operates very clunkily. Leica S is eye wateringly expensive, the sensor lets the whole thing down compared to the competition, and the S2 I used had some serious FW bugs – it wouldn’t write anything to card subsequently if you changed ISO whilst it was saving. P645 lacks lenses and leaf shutters, but has the best sensor and ergonomics of the lot. Phase One…well, nobody from them ever replied any of my emails, so I wouldn’t know. I’d say customer service is a bit of a disaster in Asia…


Seems like Zeiss is the perfect fit for MF like Pentax 645Z: Otus grade for MF.   Tiny market though and is it needed?  Who *needs* the 645Z.

Ming Thein:

Honestly? Very few people could even really maximize the potential.


Agreed on those systems. BUT…

Leica S could conceivably go to 50 or even 80 MP and that would start to look more compelling.

Ming Thein:

I personally think the 645Z should really be shot like a DSLR, not a MF camera for best results: because it’ll give you MF results where you couldn’t even come close before. And THAT is interesting, in my book – both pictorially and technically.


  1. 645Z feels like a big Nikon to me.

Ming Thein:

There’s no 80MP 33×44 sensor – yet. And the 50MP sensor would make it equal to the H5D-50C, IQ250, 645Z etc. – but probably at the same price as the P1 or more.

  1. ..I prefer the 645Z. Nikon still haven’t mastered the art of mirror lockup.


There will be… and S glss should hold up.

Ming Thein:

Self timer = auto mirror up. What’s so difficult about that?


Ricoh did execute really well.  It’s so *obvious* so why do so many vendors do it wrong.

Ming Thein:

At 80MP on that sensor size, we’re talking ~45-50MP on FX – that’s diffraction limited by f5.6-8. I don’t know how useful that’s going to be practically, to be honest.


But Ricoh screwed up like everyone else on one point:  why is there a  30 sec limit on exposure time without jumping through hoops  when the sensor can do an hour with aplomb.

Ming Thein:

Many things are obvious, but laziness, inertia, and design by consortium seem to be the main causes. Ricoh and the GR are a good example of doing it right – there’s really *nothing* to fault about that UI.

Put the camera in B or T


I see 80MP in that size as debayering cleanup in large part.

Ming Thein:

One press to open, one press to close. But yes, timed multi-minute options would be nice. One stop increments at that point would be fine, too.


B doesn’t cut it:  who presses the button?

I’m in the cold at 30°F the wind is blowing and I’m gonna **#$848#$ stand around to press a button?

Ming Thein:

I suppose there’s that wireless card + app. I see that as being useful for landscape work.

You DID walk out in the cold 30F wind in the first place…

I have a Norwegian student who says there’s no such thing as bad weather, just incorrect clothing.


Yeah you can always carry extra crap along… that’s what I’m forced to do with the Nikon.. carry an MC-36 whose battery is always low.!

Give that Norwegian student 30 more years and a pot gut and we’ll see.

Ming Thein:

Speaking of batteries, I’m finding my Nikons seems to be self-discharging of late – all of them. New batteries especially. I wonder what’s up with that – down 10% or more after letting them sit for a week.

He’s 60.


Point is, so EASY to just allow user to select 60 or 90 or whatever: Ricoh GR goes to 5 minutes piece of cake built in.

Ming Thein:

And with an ND filter, but that’s another thing altogether.


all right, give him 30 more years! :;

Ming Thein:

He’ll be dead


Speaking of ND filters, the 25mm is a bit of a disaster: ultra thin drop in NDs are required in an odd size – good luck finding them. I haven’t been able to.


The lens is supplied with one, isn’t it?

Ming Thein:


Well, then you have a 1.5 stop ND that cuts glare huh.

Ming Thein:

But sometimes you want a bit of reflection.


Odd that no screw on front.  Zeiss can do a 15/2.8 with screw-in front, so it’s a design thing that need not have been done that way.

  1. .. “dead” things creepy if too much POL.

Ming Thein:

I admit I’m mostly just being difficult because I’ve never used an ND much before on wides, but I could see experiments I’d like to try – especially with 1h exposures.


Did this piece and many others… definitely do not want too much polarizer off.  http://diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140120_1-polarizer-choices.html

Ming Thein:


Haven’t tried but does the 645Z have a (non) ISO 50?

Ming Thein:

No, 100 is the lowest.

Let me double check.


I do like ISO 64 on the D810.  Very impressive quality.  ISO 31 (non ISO) is soft though, not appealing.

Ming Thein:

  1. 100 is the lowest.

Is 64 better than 100 on the D800E?


I keep wondering if Nikon went to a mirrorless design accepting current F lenses and made a 36 X 32 sensor… many lenses would work quite well I bet.  Otus 55/1.4 would.

Ming Thein:

Trouble is, other than for long exposure work or video or extremely fast lenses and tropical noon, I can’t imagine wanting less shutter speed – especially given more shutter speed = less shake…


YES, 64 is definitely better.  Not that 100 is bad, but the first inlklings of noise show up at 100.

Ming Thein:

Are we talking the D810 or the D800E here?

30×30 square!


ISO study of D810:  http://diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140720_2318-NikonD810-noiseISO-fruit.html

Along with chroma noise reduction: http://diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140723_0900-NikonD810-noiseISOChroma-fruit.html

Yes, that too.  Or maybe 32 X 32 to push it.


Ming Thein:

Would you say it’s a noticeable step up over the D800E?

As in: given what you’re likely going to lose selling a D800E, and have to pay to upgrade…


Well, D810 high  ISO superb too up to 3200 or so, and one must keep in mind reproduction size which relates to number of pixels.

Yes, D810 step up…

Ming Thein:

If you keep doing this I’m going to send you a bill later.


both operationally already saving me time and image quality a notch higher too. Hard to quantify though.

I’m gonna sell my D800E and buy the D810.

Ming Thein:

The thought of doing the mirror realignment dance doesn’t excite me though.


Tear the mirror out and use LV only with that EVF non option?

Ming Thein:

I’ve spent so long making manual focus usable on my D800E pair that I am really loathe to sell and do it again.


It’s time to lose the mirror as one option.

Ming Thein:

I’d go for that.

But I don’t know if Nikon has the balls, frankly.


Don’t sell it then.  D800E remains a strong camera. My needs involve precision so I have to have the best Live View and no vibration electronic shutter and so on.  Not the same as stree.

Nikon is female.

Ming Thein:

Well, most of what I shoot commercially is stopped down on a tripod with controlled lights. The street-urban type work is mainly for teaching and personal entertainment.


The quiet shutter is a big plus on the D810.

then you want a D810 for its operational behavior in LV.

Ming Thein:

Mirror/ shutter vibration was and is a big deal on the D800E. Does the D810’s mirror buy you any extra handholdability?


Massively better Live View on D810:  http://diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140719_2030-NikonD810-LiveView.html

Ming Thein:

I must be the only person who’s never had an issue with the D800E’s LV.

I honestly view the mirror as a much bigger impediment to IQ


Well, see my actual photos of both.  D800E = hideous mangled blurred view. D810  = clear.

Ming Thein:

That’s significantly better.


Mirror handheld shooting?  Cause on a tripod not involved with MLU.

Ming Thein:

It’s a wonder I could make sharp photos at all with LV!


Have a drink or two first for tharp pictures.

Ming Thein:

No, the mirror mechanism – Nikon claimed less vibration, which should theoretically improve handholdability.

Tripod is adademic.


Have not evaluated that… but the D810 seems nicely quiet.

Ming Thein:

I’m finding 1/125s is the borderline for consistently sharp hand-holding with the Otus, but my hands aren’t that steady.


Maybe that quietness is the mirror damping you refer to.

Ming Thein:

Yes and no. Cameras like the F6 have a loud mirror but surprisingly good damping.


I can shoot down to 1/15 and with 3 or 4 frames get one tack sharp.  I call it mass coupling:http://diglloyd.com/index-msi.html#LiveView

Ming Thein:

Others have a loud mirror and poor damping (Sony A850, for instance)

1/15 is on a tripod or handheld + LV?


  1. .. but one expects some correlation with similar era design.

Ming Thein:

I think if one used an LCD magnifier + LV you could probably get much lower than with the finder.


handheld:  couple the camera to the slow-moving body.

Ming Thein:

Actually, I think the correlation is all cost related…

The F6 was/ is expensive. And has no digital bit, either. So all that cost has to go somewhere…and I doubt it’s margin, given the lowish volume.


possibly, but it’s all about eliminating high frequency vibes… and mass coupling (holding technique) can do that.  It can’t damp the mirror I suppose.  Some canon bodies better that way I think.

Makes sense.   Mass market era even at $3K.

Ming Thein:

Talking about high frequency – to me, that remains a problem with mirrorless: all of them still have this shutter shock problem.


and half of cost is electronics so physical stuff gets shorted.

Ming Thein:

EFC solves it to some extent, but introduces other compromises like rolling shutter artefacts or no drive modes.


Sony A7 in EFC mode has no shutter shock. Nor Sigma Merrills, etc.

Ming Thein:

Sigmas use a leaf shutter.


leaf shutters (all). But you know that.

Ming Thein:

The A7 would still have rolling shutter issues, no?


Yeah but Sony A7 does not and can be shot all the time in EFC mode.

Rolling shutter issues for still frames?  That’s a real concern?

Ming Thein:

At high shutter speeds/ fast moving objects, yes


  1. .. one can pop out to regular mode I suppose. But dusk in an alley….

Ming Thein:

I can think of several situations in which I’d have had very strange results from a sequential readout shutter

Also true

Question is why didn’t they put that EFC mode into the A7R, which needs it more…


Better to have option than not and hard vibrations (Sony A7R).

CPU speed?

or sensor limitation?

Ming Thein:

The A7R has other issues, like data compression.

And again lack of lenses.


Leica M has same problem as A7R, only somewhat less severe. Ruined all my long tele shots in the field.

But that might change soon. 😊

Ming Thein:

I wouldn’t use an M for tele work. The EVF is silly, the RF useless above about 75mm, and that leaves you on a tripod.

It seems that body hardware is progressing much faster than lens choices though. Lots of new systems, only M4/3 and Fuji seem to have fleshed everything out so far.


EVF is immensely useful to me on M (focus accuracy).

Ming Thein:

True – but why bother with an RF at all then?

You might as well use a D610 and live view. Or an A7/7R.


Back to D810: I see it as a workhorse.  It’s not great by any means (so many “could have done this right”), but it is a true workhorse.

Because red dot stickers are cheap.

Ming Thein:

Isn’t that pretty much true of most pro Nikons? I seem to always come back to one for serious work


M lenses are kinda nice at times.

Ming Thein:

Because all of the system bits are there, and they get the job done. But I find them very difficult cameras to love


Kudos to Nikon for making something solid.

Ming Thein:

It’s only the Zeisses that give them some magic


Nikon makes too many easy things too hard.

like it has always been. But need not be.

Ming Thein:

Out of curiosity, is there any Nikon glass you like at all?


That’s a good point:  today’s lab test for lenses are just a spreading malaise.

Nikon glass… yes…

Ming Thein:

A lot of photographers have forgotten how to use their eyeballs and brains.


Points to the 14-24 for an incredible zoom for when you need it (focus shift sucks at close range though).

Ming Thein:

I actually don


eyeballs applied to web page charts. :;

Ming Thein:

don’t like the corners on that thing.

And yes, I’ve used three of them, too.


Cornes are good on 14-24. It has differential focus shift.


Ming Thein:

And some field curvature and CA too


Took me 2 years to figure out the friggin’ 14-24 behavior.  See my differential focus shift case studies. It will clear up a lot.

  1. .. not that much I care to shoot on Nikon: not much magic.

Ming Thein:

I find it easier and cheaper to mount my 21…


(Nikon lenses).  Some very good, none great.

Ming Thein:

I’m inclined to agree. I tested a 200/2 VRII recently – one was going second hand at my usual dealer – and was a little disappointed, especially compared to the 2/135 APO.


Well, the 14-24 has very low distortion in the 21-24mm range. Zeiss 21/2.8 I prefer also, but has wave distortion… all depends on subject I guess.

Ming Thein:

That’s what ACR profiles are for.


200/2 is way overrated on sharpness.  Good in central 1/2, then doggin’ it and f/5.6 – f/8 required.

ACR can help but that micro contrast gets whacked by correcting. And that’s part of the Zeiss magic.

Well, D810 sensor I’m not so sure is ideal yet.

Ming Thein:


Personally, what I’m increasingly finding is that I’m matching one or two lenses to a body/ system and working that way – it seems necessary to get the best across the board. There’s no longer a one-size-fits-all system as the pixel counts keep climbing.


Sensor cover glass non optimal.

Ming Thein:

  1. What’s the giveaway? Flare?


That works. I had to have my D800E bodies gone over special 2 years ago to get the sensor/mount aligned.

Ming Thein:

And that’s one of the reasons I’m loathe to get an 810 – QC seems so bad these days that I really don’t want to go through that again. But maybe that’s a working pro’s standpoint: it works, it’s reliable, clients are happy – why spend more to change?


Not flare… just less than peak sharpness that ought to be there.  Otus is designed to all but eliminate it, but manh lenses seem less good than I’d expected (e.g. older Nikkors).

B&H Photo: 30 day returns. 😊;   http://diglloyd.com/gear-nikon.html

But easier here in USA.

Ming Thein:

Older Nikkors just don’t seem that good to me in general. Even my 58/1.2 Noct really needs f2-2.8, and even then, it isn’t even close to the Otus. It is smaller and cheaper though, I guess.


Yeah that’s part of it—just not that great.  But I think some of the Zeiss wides are impaired slightly.

NOCT need f/5.6!  Had a cherry picked one… order of magnitude under Otus.  But ‘style’ lens of course.

Ming Thein:

I wonder if this pairing thing is just something we’re going to have to get used to. GR for wide, D800E + Otus for the midrange or P645Z and 55/2.8, then back to Nikon again for anything over the 90


MF suffers badly in that regard.

Ming Thein:

I bought it as an investment to go with my F2 Titan.


Keep it. I wish I had mine.

Sharpness is not everythign.

Ming Thein:

That’s the plan. I shoot that combination for fun and to decompress.


The Nikon 28/1.4 is not all that great either, but I loved the way it draws. Sold that too. Darn.

Ming Thein:

And to remind me what a real camera should feel like.

I actually came across a couple of those recently – I really don’t like it, surprisingly. I prefer the 2/28 Distagon or the GR’s rendition.

The GR’s lens-sensor combo is something very special too, I think.


Pentax 645Z is a “real” camera.  My arm got tired shooting these potraits in 20 minutes http://diglloyd.com/blog/index-30.html#20140708_1542-Pentax645z-examples-portraits

Ming Thein:

None of the Leica 28 options I’ve used can touch it (but not tried the new 28/1.4 ASPH, I should ask Sean Reid about it).

I started doing weights. It helps.


Agreed, Zeiss 28/2 I prefer to. Different.

Ming Thein:

Technically terrible though – field curvature and all – but the rendering is glorious.


Ricoh GR lens is really good but I bet it’s all hardware corrected… and so what, it’s a killer combo. Fixed lens cameras the answer to your “matching” thing.  http://diglloyd.com/blog/2013/20130718_4-future-is-fixed.html

Ming Thein:

I agree – too bad there aren’t many options other than the Sigmas, which have terrible workflow.


Yeah, Zeiss 28/2 is classic design, but gorgeous for close/mid range environmental and such.

Ming Thein:

For the quantity of throughput I have…workflow trumps that last 5% in IQ.

I actually have concerns that a future Otus wide may be too clinical.


That DP2 Quattro… disappointed. Smearing.  Ends the Merrill line.  Maybe it’s software though (faint hope).

Ming Thein:

I was told from an inside source that new SW and DPP are coming in the next week that should fix it.


I have not been successful in processing even one image on my Mac Pro with SPP 6.  Every edit window pops up off screen.

Ming Thein:

Played with one last couple of days – my printmaster here works with Sigma for various things – I was surprised by how slow it was and how noisy it was, too. Not much improvement over the Merrills that I can see, other than blue color accuracy.


I have some nice martian rocks for you.

Ming Thein:

Now I’ve lost you.


SPP 6 leaves developer hooks in… sleep system… hang with password dialog to debug… shoddy work.

Ming Thein:

Is it just me, or do you feel like the first round of consumers are increasingly becoming beta testers these days?


Last comment on skepticism of “all will be fixed”.  Two years of sending bug reports leaves me very cycnical here.


Ming Thein:

  1. D800/D4 left AF issues, E-P5/M1 shutter shock, Leica M240 QC – lugs falling off (!)



Product = hardware + software.  Vendors don’t get that.

I meant that “increasingly” happened a few years ago. Absolutely! Except perhaps Nikon and maybe Canon.

Ming Thein:

It just never seemed to be that way in the past. I didn’t feel like the whole workflow was ‘fragile’ and things were broken/ needed fixing.

My D200s just worked. My D2x just worked.


Well, I separate somethings from manufacturing “surprises”.

Ming Thein:

I didn’t have to take the damn camera apart just to make it focus properly.

I was surprised that my 645Z’s mirror was aligned AND needed almost no AF fine tune.


  1. But I think we’re talking manufacturing tolerances on very high res here.  Tolerances not upgraded to match resolution Nikon AF simply incapable of precision, period.

Ming Thein:

I also don’t hear as many issues with consumer grade cameras, though whether that’s because of tighter automated machining tolerances or the users being less discriminating, I have no idea. Maybe it’s worth buying a D3300 or something to find out.


Good results with 645Z focus, when it can actually focus and not hunt.

Ming Thein:

That’s also a possibility.


Could be lens designs made for higher tolerances for variation and not so good to begin with (in part).

Ming Thein:

it also definitely seems like resolution has outstripped the ability of most tolerances to match it.

I’m thinking of bodies, not just lenses


  1. To see that, shoot Otus 55/1.4 on a D7100 or similar, focus with LV.  Even that is not easy.

Agreed: AF, planarity of sensor/mount (including many lens mount/unmount cycles, etc).

Ming Thein:

Speaking of Otus and QC – I’m very, very impressed with how consistent they are. Leica are a bit of a disaster in that regard – as bad as Pentax. I’ve had 6 copies of the 50 Summilux ASPH, and only two were decent.

Coatings separated off my 21/1.4 and 50/0.95. I gave up after that.


Leica M constant battle 3/4 lenses “off”. Ridiculous. Had to wait 2 months for my 18/3.8 SEM, still has same color fringing on left side only.

Ming Thein:

I’ve had the chance to test three Otus 55s – they’re identical in every way, as far as I can tell.

Sounds like that’s not just me, then.

I’m actually starting to think handmade is NOT a good thing. There’s no way hand tolerances can consistently match or better a machine.


Don’t get me started on 50/2 APO.  My replacement is also skewed left/right (on another brand new body).

Ming Thein:

Flare flare flare!


I’d agree.  Zeiss Otus quality control very, very high.  Probably best in industry. Regular Zeiss very good, but some variation.  Still, much better than CaNikon.

Ming Thein:

I cannot justify paying the $16,000+ (at least here) that an M240 and 50/2 APO would cost. Not when I could get an Otus AND a 645Z for the same money.


Not just flare: left/right skew too. Both copies, original and “hand picked” replacement. Go figure.

Don’t forget the special edition version you really really want.

Ming Thein:

I didn’t see skew in my sample, but the flare was definitely there. The RF alignment…was a disaster. I was taking my camera apart in the middle of a market in Yangon.

The red one?


I would like to see that new 28/1.4 though.

Ming Thein:

Agreed – but only because I’m a sucker for 28mm. To be honest, my GR gives me better results than any Leica 28-e combo did.


Both 50/2 APOs have focus skewed forward on right. On two bodies for the first, one (brand-new replacement body for the 2nd).

Ming Thein:

Leica must love you.


Any 28/1.4, I don’t care about the special edition.

Ming Thein:

I can wait for the Otus version.


That’s why Leica always tell me “sure we can loan you X… in 9 months”.

(for review).

Ming Thein:


Nikon here do not loan me anything – which is why I’ve got so many questions on the D810.

Apparently I do not merit loaners.


Otus will kick it’s ass anyway. Leica M designs have rampant field curvature for the f/1.4 designs.  eg f/8 for the 35/1.4 Summilux at distance and be there.

Nor me.  No one wants to talk to honest reviewers.

Zeiss IMO has the highest integrity in this regard. I have huge respect for them.

Ming Thein:

I think part of that is deliberate – the field curvature – because otherwise you can’t edge focus accurately with the RF; you’ve got to center focus and recompose.


what’s a rangefinder?  :;

(I use the crappy toy-grade EVF on the M240)

Ming Thein:

Well, they’re just shooting themselves in the foot long term: if everything is awesome, then credibility becomes an issue

The Olympus one…


50/2 APO is the right approach.  They need to apply that idea across the line.  But then I will have to abandon Leica (cost).

Ming Thein:

I already have for cost and reliability.

$8000 or whatever they’re asking now for a 50/2 is madness.

To bring things somewhat full circle again…what’s your verdict on the 645Z and D810? Buy, or not buy? Upgrade, or not?

Then the bigger, more interesting question is: does anybody really need either?


I am not buying the 645Z  but I want to be very clear why…

Ming Thein:

Personally, I’d give the 645Z a recommended rating with the qualification that the ‘good’ lenses need to work for you

The sensor is utterly epic though


First, the cost.  And for me, there is no ROI on buying one.  Second the lens line. Third the D810 serves my particular needs for my site; the 645Z serves no purpose (I run though gear constantly, it would sit there with no purpose).

Absolutely I rate the 645Z high.  I’d *love* to have one with the 90/2.8 and a good 21/2.8 and something dunno in between.

Ming Thein:

Diminishing returns


90/2.8 alone would be OK. But spend $14K…. ?

Ming Thein:

I admit the ‘want’ factor trumped most other considerations for me; I sold my CFV-39 to pay for it, and have an upcoming project that could use the resolution. But still…it’s a tough justification.


Other problem: where would I shoot it?  It fills my entire daypack, it’s a beast.  Just no fun at all inthe mountains.

the Live View on the 645Z is a huge plus for any precision work, I would think that would dovetail with some stuff you do.

Ming Thein:

Ironically I find it very difficult to justify the D810, even though the D800Es have been my workhorses. Mainly because the ergonomic changes are enough to annoy me (I use that metering switch a lot); I’d have to buy two, spend days sorting out mirrors and focusing screens, and on top of that…well, the D800E still does the job just fine.


No EVF on the 645Z is a problem too… presbyopia incrasing nuisance so rear LCD requires loupe, etc.

I agree with you, but my needs are quite different…

Ming Thein:

  1. I plan to shoot the 645Z handheld for corporate/ industrial documentary mainly. The D800Es are what I use for precision because of the macros and TS lenses.

How is the D810 better with no EVF either? 😛


D810 already reducing my error rate (Live View quality, faster turnaround on LV shots, no risk of vibration with the EFC shutter).

It is not, but it is smaller and with far superior lens selection in quality and size. 😊 http://diglloyd.com/blog/2014/20140626_2006-NikonD810-thoughts.html

Ming Thein:

I think it’s actually a very interesting sign that the market is moving this way: both of us would probably be served just fine by either if we had no choice; and the image quality is still miles beyond anything from several years ago. But there’s so much choice it makes me wonder how camera makers are going to survive…


It’s about ergonomics, controls, operation, hit rate.

In this regard, the Sony RX1R really nailed it for me.

Ming Thein:

Didn’t at all for me.


(with a Really Right Stuff grip)

Ming Thein:

Actually, my highest hit rate cameras are…an Arca Swiss 4×5 and sheet film, and the GR.


In the field error rate for ad-hoc extremely (very very high hit rate).

Gotta have the EVF and grip on the RX1R.  Then it’s almost error free for me for ad-hoc shooting fun.

Ming Thein:

The D800 is abysmal mainly because of shake and focusing.

I’d rather have the GR. But I’ve never been a 35mm person.

I’d probably be all over it if it was a 28, though


I’d like Ricoh to make a full-frame GR with 28mm f/2.8.

Ming Thein:

Oh yes.

With the D800E/810’s sensor.


Me too. RX1R should have been 3 focals.

Ming Thein:

Like the Sigmas? That approach actually makes a lot of sense.

And the FL choices were sensible.


Well, matched lens to 56MP sensor and built in EVF, leaf shutter, built-in flash.

Ming Thein:

Too many pixels.


Yes, like the Sigma Merrills.

56MP as 36 output or so will eliminate bayer issues.

Ming Thein:

Or even half, down to 28MP.


Pixels aren’t just about detail.

Ming Thein:

Yes, I know.

Tonal information, DR and noise, too.


  1. Any size you want:  full, 3/4, 2/3, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4.

Ming Thein:

Processing speed issues…


That’s the rub.  11+7 bit IMO no match for D810 14-bit

Ming Thein:

I’d actually like to see a 100MP sensor with 4:1 binning – RGB and ND for extended dynamic range.


Not really.  D810 files just fine for me.  645Z too.


Ming Thein:

On a full 6×6 chip for Hassy V, while we’re at it.


Should be 36 X 2 X 2 (Sony RX100 density)


Ming Thein:

Try that with the 645Z.

It makes my D4 look rubbish at 51,200.

In fact, I honestly cannot think of a good reason why I still own the D4 at all.

Other than because I like the ergonomics.


Or the Sigma DP Merrills.  http://diglloyd.com/blog/2013/20130221_2-stitching-the-SigmaDP2Merrill.html

D4 has a velvety look to its images.  Very nice. But I don’t want a measly 16MP.

Ming Thein:

The D4 has surprisingly high acuity given it still has an AA filter.

16MP was more than enough 5 years ago…our output forms haven’t really changed, for the most part. Most people are still using them for social media or small prints.


seems to matter less on lower res cameras.

Ming Thein:

I’m probably the only one resolution limited at 10×15″ print area with the 645Z.


I personally enjoying seeing things I could not see while there.  It’s just plain rewarding and fun.

Ming Thein:

Not everybody is like us

In fact, most aren’t.

Or we’d have that EVF 33×44 mirrorless camera with Otus AF lenses…


six feet wide with sigma as your printer knows works well I think.  http://diglloyd.com/blog/2013/20130802_3-SigmaDPMerill-printing-really-big-is-awesome.html

could be Otus quality a lot smaller as a mirrorless

Ming Thein:

  1. Curved sensor too perhaps

We can dream…


44 X 33 ml would be hot.  Wonder why Pentax does not do it (RIcoh GR MF!)

Would be hot, hot, hot seller.  Sony is the only vendor likely to do I think.

Ming Thein:

  1. ..probably cost? At $5-7000 for a body, hmm.

That said, I’d buy one.

Good thing photographers are provided with two kidneys and other subdividable, transplantable organs.


which would be a bargin at $7K given what it is (lens + camera) compared to a 645Z

Ming Thein:

Not a system though. And I was speculating at 7k – it may well be more like 10.


Two focals: 21mm and 28mm.

Ming Thein:

I’d rather 28 and 40

or 55


Anyway, D810 great camera, 645Z terrific too, but so huge that it’s not for many: 645Z will just be left behind too often for me.

What I’m hearing from readers is that D810 upgrade is worth it to them. It is for me, but maybe not for everyone—all depends on what and how you shoot.

Ming Thein:

Looks like I’m going to somehow have to get my hands on one.

I really enjoy the 645Z though. And the IQ is another notch up.


Me too. But I call it a “car or house camera”!

Ming Thein:

But I agree: size and lenses mean more often than not I just bring one.

You don’t have 200% import tax on your cars, that’s why.


BUT if all I were doing was landscapes or such stuff, and no other systems, I might go with one.  That is not my situation.

I buy my cars used too.

Ming Thein:

Even if used. New has huge tax…used prices are commensurate.

A two year old Honda Civic goes for about $30-35k here.


Couple of 645Z things bug me: the modal image review constant waste of time for me. A few others.

645Z has also failed to record images several times.  Seems to happen after card format.

wow! (car)

Ming Thein:

I think there are options as to what you can access in image review – pretty much everything except browse others.

No write issues here.

Cameras by comparison are tax free…


no options without 3/4 chimping operations to get there and then back to histogram.

Ming Thein:

Win some, lose some.


D810 cycles between 1/2/3/4/5 screens, your choice.  645Z cannot.

Ming Thein:

I honestly think it’s the way you have your playback options set. I can have my basic info + flashing highlights + single button zoom just fine

It remembers my last playback info state on review


Fixable in firmware. But K3 has same headache. Big time waster for my shooting.

Any flavor you want as long as its vanilla. Problem is cannot get to alternate info without menus presses.  Then repeat that to go back to histogram.

Too hard to describe here. Does not do it.

Ming Thein:

You might be asking it to do something more complicated. Vanilla is fine for me.


I want to be able to cycle between RGB histogram, uncluttered view, basic info, flashing highlights.  AFAIK cannot be done.

Ming Thein:

Not easily, no.

You can have one of those but not all easily.


Nikon D810 does it.

Ming Thein:

So does every other Nikon since the D2H


And not complicated.

Ming Thein:

Playback is the one thing they got right. A lot …fail.

Canon especially.


Not a show stopper. Just an annoyance. Every camera has its share.

Ming Thein:

Well, if they didn’t, we would stop buying and they’d all go out of business. In any case…it’s been great chatting with you, but I’m going to have to call a halt because have to head out to meet a client shortly.


Worth noting:  645Z can Live View most anywhere in frame. That is not a given these days (center only on Leica M, fixed modal on Sigma, etc).

Ming Thein:

The Nikons do anywhere also


Fun time! Bye Ming!

And Canons and many others. But not Leica M. 😟

See ya. 😊

Ming Thein:

It’s handmade. Perfection. Just like the RF 😉

Until next time!

Thanks for the great chat.


Thank you too. 😊





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  1. If you leave ergonomics (AF speed, …) and size (weight) aside, have you gained anything going from the 645z to the Z7?

    Has image quality improved?

    At some time you indicated that colour disturbed you with the 645z: what was off to your mind?


    • Never mind those two items you mentioned being hugely significant in their own right – there’s also stabilization on every lens, and the ability to use pretty much any lens you might ever need natively (or adapt it). The difference might be as much as five stops or more between IBIS and faster glass; in low light even with the larger sensor, it’s a no competition win to the Z7. DR is about the same, and color is much better. Good enough that the jpegs are usable with the right in-camera settings.

  2. I just read this dialog again and wish you two would have another chat about the pros & cons between the Nikon Z 7, Hasselblad X1D and the Fuji GFX 50 R. How enlightening it would be!

  3. Bill Walter says:

    I missed this post originally, but just read it today. Very entertaining and informative, this back and forth with you and Lloyd. It’s like being a fly on the wall. Thanks for the post.

  4. Thank you for all that you do. Quick question based on your knowledge and experience with the 645Z and D810. I am a nature and landscape photographer, primarily large format 8×10 film, looking to add digital capabilities. I own a Pentax 645N with the following lenses: (45-85 FA, 80-160 FA, 75 F2.8 A, 45 F2.8 A, Extension tubes). I do not own any Nikon gear. If you were a landscape/nature photographer would you go with the 645Z body and leverage my FA and A lenses from my 645N or would you go with the D810 and Zeiss glass? The cost is about the same with either path, I just want the best image quality possible for my landscapes and nature images.

  5. Pentax No.1 problem is lenses and is lens QC off the line. Same with the FA Limited’s, particularly the 31mm. All my Made in Japan Pentax K lenses are flawless. My Assembled in Vietnam lenses generally mediocre. Something is not working right at the Vietnam facility.

    • Damn. That’s not good to hear, and sadly consistent with my experience of even the new (and very expensive) 645 lenses. They too are not assembled in Japan. The 25/4 required a number of samples to get a good one.

      • The DA (crop) line doesn’t seem too bad but I believe there are still a lot of SDM failures. I have an AIV 31mm Limited in for complete rebuild with an specialist at the moment having suffered its problems for far too long (this is a £1100 lens!!!). Soft as butter wide open with terrible PF and LoCA, the focus mechanism now seizes up. Not a good lens and consistent with Lenstips’ review. Those with older Made in Japan copies don’t seem to have these problems and their copies consistently demonstrate why this lens is considered a legend among Pentax shooters.

  6. I have to say in general that Ming’s website is a lot more interesting read than Lloyd’s which is little more than a “bait to subscribe” blog. Not to mention that Ming is a far better photographer. So remind me, what’s the point of interacting with Lloyd ?

  7. I like the chat style. E-mails, podcasts and alike I fear will turn out too stiff and formalistic.
    Lloyd’s links would benefit been given access for free. (I’m a subscriber) The links are relevant for the discussion, but in this context Lloyd should let the readers have a glimpse into his world. That would perhaps sell more tickets.

  8. I like the idea, but it needs some refinement. My 2cent:

    1) narrow the subject. The D810 alone would have been enough to discuss.
    2) change the chat-like communication to something more like email-style. This will immediately make it better readable.
    3) do NOT make it a podcast or video. Written text is much easier to understand for non native speakers
    4) please mark Lloyds links in some way if they lead behind the paywall. It’s a bit annoying to click on something and to see the login box.

    On a side note: maybe you should do the same and put your gear reviews behind a paywall. I personally love your reviewing style and that would allow you to do more of this kind of content. I think that extensive gear reviews are the only type of content that users are willing to pay for.

    • Thanks for the feedback. Tricky to limit the subject too strictly as the context is what makes the comments useful. Wasn’t aware Lloyd’s links were paywall – perhaps we will just not link at all in future. As for me doing a paywall, I don’t see the point. The administration and expected increase in workload would make it not make financial sense.

  9. Michael Matthews says:

    If this “little bit of an experiment” involves seeing whether a cross-pollination between the two blogs takes place, all well and good and very interesting. If it’s a subtle way to gauge whether your audience is in the market for paywall subscriber content — jeez, I hope not. I’d be among the first to argue that you deserve to be paid for your work and that the content of your blog is head and shoulders above average. You’ve turned out the equivalent of a first-class, noncommercial magazine, replete with analysis, insight, instruction, great visuals, and interesting reader participation…all for free! Anyone who doesn’t realize the value of what you’ve given is too vastly self absorbed to merit attention (that directed to the bombastic snark comment which could well have been deleted). My only problem with the dreaded paywall approach is that I simply can’t afford it. At least not at the Lloyd Chambers rate. This may not apply to the majority of your readers, but I’m stuck with what I’ve got: not a lot. Here’s hoping you can justify continuing this effort. And my thanks to you for all 1.9 million words and the clear, thoughtful way in which they’re presented.

    • No, if I decide to go paywall, I won’t be asking opinions about it first. It doesn’t actually work for the intentions of the site – a lot of whose value comes from the community and below the line comments – so I don’t think it’ll happen. More likely I’ll finally accept some of the advertising offers. I believe very much in giving something of greater value than the price, though as you point out – singlehandedly publishing a magazine every week is quite an effort. I used to run a photography magazine actually; we published perhaps 6-8 articles per month of the kind I put up every other day. And I had a team of six. Here, it’s just me – and I’ve also got a commercial shooting schedule to run, amongst other things. That said, sustaining it is not easy nor is it a trivial amount of time; at the point at which the work outweighs the fun – that’s about the main return here – I’ll have to consider monetizing it better somehow. Ironically though people would pay $50-70 a year for subscription to something like that, I think I’d struggle with three times the content and zero advertising. Ironic, no?

      The honest reasons behind the collaboration are:
      a) I thought it’d be interesting, because I respect Lloyd’s opinion;
      b) I’d like to offer my readers something different;
      c) I am running out of things to write about – and no, I don’t want to focus on reviews because it’s too time consuming and I usually have to buy whatever it is I’m reviewing, which is obviously an economic disaster.

      As for the comments: I generally don’t delete anything unless it’s downright abusive or spam. Everybody is entitled to an opinion, but they’re also entitled to be proven wrong by others 🙂

      • “Running out of things to write about” – just reduce the frequency of your output then? I don’t think any of us would complain if you blogged once a week instead of three, you already give us more than enough of your time (and we’re very grateful for that). Personally, I like the mix of subject matter – reviews, your photoessays, the ‘on assignment’ stuff. You could also get round to doing all those things you said you were going to try in past reviews?

  10. Dear MT,
    I really liked this kind of conversation and wouldn’t change a lot. As I’m in for an upgrade of the D610 to D810 I was especially interested in learning your opinions. Together with Thom Hogan, I usually look at your three sites to get an opinion on different products. My wife and I really like DSLRs and don’t mind the bulk and weight of some lens/camera combinations as the results are astounding (I don’t understand the mirror less DSLR war going on in the forums). For leisure, mirror less like the XT1 and OMD provide the fun factor and image quality, too, for most situations (however, I prefer the XT1 and 56/1.2 recently over the OMD).
    I think that every new way of presenting information (as this specific example) will draw opposing opinions. One sample only wouldn’t make it clear, however, whether this is a new form being worth pursued in the future. In my opinion it is.

  11. Max Spann says:

    I wonder if you guys may have been a target audience for the Ricoh GRX system? It follows a similar philosophy as the multi-camera, high resolution lens approach of the Sigmas but more compact overall. Although it does seem that the system is dead and has a limited number of lenses. The current lens modules also use low resolution sensors. It was probably too early for its time. With 40+ MP APS-C sensors behind those dedicated lenses it would have been quite future proof.

    • I actually owned one for a while; I think you’re right in saying it was too early for its time. Too slow, too clunky, but pretty well built. EVF should have been built in, though.

  12. I’m enjoying this as much as your other articles, the flow of the conversation actually makes it very enjoyable to read and I can really imagine the 2 of you having conversation; it’s like reading a book, leave me room for imaginations.

  13. FWIW, I don’t see the one-upmanship, but stepping into a conversation without knowing both personalities, and not having the inflection of real speech, I guess someone could read it that way. And if you say Lloyd is an all-around good guy, I don’t know why people don’t take your word for it and give the both of you the benefit of the doubt.

    But I do agree with the comments that while this format has promise, it needs to be edited a bit more, and be more organized. The free exchange style is great, but maybe try to group the comments that go with each other together?

    Future guests? Maybe Mike Johnston or someone similar. I’d love to eavesdrop on a conversation on photo technique, and photographic style and art. The Nick Brandt interview was really great.

    Don’t forget that you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs first, so kudos for the experimental spirit! 🙂

  14. The discussion inspired me to take my Zeiss 28mm/2 out to sketch some photos this morning on the way to work. I’d been using the Nikkor 28mm/1.8 more recently, but the Zeiss is gorgeous lens too, if not ideal for my other usual landscape use. The Nikkor’s field curvature of the helps foreground corner sharpness. Unfortunately, the Zeiss’ ad infinitum corner curvature hurts foreground definition. It’s more of a challenge for me to find subjects that suit the Zeiss 28mm’s rendering.

    • I’ve used the 28/1.8 quite a bit for documentary work, but honestly, if I have the luxury of time for MF – the 2/28 is a much nicer lens because of the rendition for people/ documentary. I agree for landscape it isn’t ideal though; you’re probably better off with one of the zooms which ironically all seem to have less field curvature than the primes…

      • I much prefer primes to zooms though. I don’t even own a zoom for F-mount. Most of my recent work is done as diptychs and triptychs with the camera held vertically (usually on monopod or tripod). I’ve been shooting a series on abandoned granite quarries in New England. The forward field curvature toward the camera on lenses like the Zeiss 25mm/2 and Nikkor 28mm/1.8 acts a little like tilting the focus plane on a view camera for Scheimpflug effect (in the bottom half only). Forward curvature sharpens foreground edge and corners compared to a flat field lens or one with negative curvature, but the trade-off is softened distant/infinity sharpness in other parts of the frame, like the top edge. Most of the compositions I make are subjects in medium sized spaces with sky near the top, and because it’s hard to tell when clouds are sharp or not, I can live with the compromise. In an example like this one, the ZF.2 28mm/2 would lead to a slightly softer rocks near the bottom corners, though it’s probably something only an obsessive person would notice: http://www.flickr.com/photos/steven_keirstead/10896834324

        I also use the ZF.2 35mm/2, 100mm/2 and 135mm/2 lenses, and mount those for narrower or closer views. I suppose a pair of f/2.8 zooms might cover similar focal lengths with a little less weight than this kit, but I’m not sure I’d enjoy using them.

        • The more I scrutinize images from the 28/1.8, the more I’m convinced something odd is going on with the focal plane – it isn’t simple curvature so much as the actual thickness appears to change from corner to center and back again. Field curvature on the 2/28 is useful for increasing the apparent focal plane to background distance in the corners, which has the effect of appearing to increase isolation. But it also means you can only really put subjects in the central 2/3rds at wider apertures if critical sharpness is important.

          • I’m sure that both 28mm lenses could stand to be redesigned for better general corner performance. I’m usually trying to get pretty deep depth of field, and so I often use f/8-f/11, which does obscure the corner performance differences between these two lenses somewhat, but the Zeiss hasn’t worked quite as well as the Nikkor for me.

            I’d really like someone to market a compact 28mm/2.8 F-mount lens with higher levels of correction of aberrations than either of the existing Zeiss or Nikkor high-speed lenses. Even if it cost almost as much as the Zeiss 28mm/2, I’d probably buy one. But it seems like the marketing trend is speed over quality for new prime lens designs. Except, the Otus line is to have both speed and quality (convenient price, weight and size be damned). Maybe Voigtländer or Sigma could step in and fill this niche?

            • I’m trying to think if there is a high quality, small wide that would work in that range – the Zeiss 2/25 comes to mind, as does the Voigtlander 20/3.5 – but only at f8 or thereabouts. The Sigma wides aren’t anything to write home about. Perhaps the 20/2.8 AI might work? Or the 28/2 AI? Both have a good reputation, but I’ve not used them on the D800E.

              I’m pretty sure there’ll be a wide Otus in the 24-28 range (probably 25, knowing Zeiss) which will be another f1.4 design that’s pretty much perfect wide open. But it won’t be small or cheap…

              • I might try a used 28mm/2.8 AIs Nikkor again some day, if I see a good used one. I had one in the film era, about 1987-88, and it seemed quite good then, but haven’t tried one on the D800E. I foolishly sold nice metal lens for a plastic-not-fantastic 28mm/2.8 AF Nikkor right after those came out. The AF 28mm was just barely acceptable if stopped down to f/8-f/11, not great, useable in a pinch at f/5.6, terrible wider open. I managed to take some good images with it, but those were good in spite of its optical quality, not because of it. An old example of a good image from a mediocre lens: http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~keirst/photojournalism/pj36.html

                I do like the Zeiss 25mm/2 a lot, and it’s great in tight spaces, when a 28mm isn’t wide enough. I used the 25mm here in a tight space in an old quarry, where I was really quite close to this wall of cut rock, with my back up against trees, but a viewer of the triptych gets an expansive view, one that make the space look less claustrophobically tight than it really was. http://www.flickr.com/photos/steven_keirstead/11742346863 It’s a neat lens for such effects, but it often doesn’t mimic the way the human eye sees as well as a 28mm does. Which is odd considering the human eye is about a 25mm/2 lens, but then the fovea is much smaller than an FX sensor, and while the peripheral vision sees more it’s not sharply defined (and such considerations ignore eye movement too).

                • One 28mm I do like a lot is the Leica 28mm/2.8 M ASPH, but the M9P I have isn’t quite as good in image quality as the D800E. Plus using anything wider than 50mm on the Leica requires use of Adobe DNG Flatfield Plugin to fix the corner discoloration, which is annoying. Too bad Leica hasn’t figured out that their canned plugins for wideangles don’t work for every lens-body combination, and they haven’t engineered a way to allow users to take a set of flatfield images that could be stored in the camera to more critically correct the flaw on a lens by lens basis. I do love the form and traditional controls of the Leica camera, but I use the D800E far more for its extra resolution and better shadow detail.

                • I too prefer the 28mm FOV – there’s something quite natural about it. You may also want to consider the other option of going with a separate 28mm camera – perhaps the DP1 Merrill for tripod work, or the GR if you’re handheld. The DP1 isn’t much down on resolution to a D800E, and the GR delivers the best APS-C bayer image quality I’ve ever seen. I quite happily pair the two and don’t miss the difference that much most of the time.

              • I owned the Voight 20mm in F mount and used it on the D800. Resolution (lack of) was terrible across all apertures and highlights would blow very easily. Its rendering and colours were beautiful though. But I couldnt live with the lack of sharpness and didnt want to use it only for “special effects” so sold it.
                I now use a 20mm f2.8 AIS Nikkor. It is sharp and contrasty and controls CA amazingly well (i have an excellent copy). But its rendering is not a patch on the Voight – which I sometimes wish I still owned for dreamy shots on sunny days.

  15. Martin Fritter says:

    Thanks. Great fun and quite interesting. Given the frequency of comments regarding quality control, has the technology in the abstract become so refined and exacting that it’s not possible to manufacture it to spec? It seems, for example, that Zeiss is the only company that produces lenses good enough for the D800E/D810. And the, it seems, only the Otus. And to use it, you have to modify the manual focusing system! There some sort of paradox of digitalization afoot, I think. Or at least an instance of the law of diminishing returns.

    • I think it’s not so much not possible, but the spec/ tolerances need to change. It was fine for lower resolution cameras and less exacting designs, but this is no longer the case; I suspect not all manufacturers have updated their requirements.

      Diminishing returns? Most certainly. But then again remember that we are now pushing past medium format film in 35mm, and large format in MF digital – so effectively condensing the gear down one size (or more) means tolerances must also shrink.

  16. I enjoyed it for the insight into various manufacturers and particular cameras, lenses and combinations that seemed particularly frank. Leica seemed to get quite heavily trashed, for example (is that just because of the high prices?). However, I do agree with the earlier comment that gave advice on the discussion needing to have more focus and less one-upmanship, if it is going to be more useful and readable.

    I also understand how as competent professionals working so closely every day with your tools, trying to get the camera/lens combinations to work as effectively, reliably, consistently and predictably as possible that you will be very aware of any shortcomings. At the end though, I was left with a feeling of how painful and frustrating such a level of perfectionism must be.

    • It’s frustrating – especially Leica – at that price point and unreliability. We’ve spent the money – perhaps more than most – and know there’s something wrong, but there seems to be at best a very grudgingly reluctant acknowledgement from the other side. Voting with one’s wallet is the best way to go…

      • I’m on my second 2/28 cron because the first one had a focussing problem. From initial deep disapppointment to elation because boy is this a great lens (if you get a good copy)! Sharpness is a given but the rendering is something else. The colours and contrast are intense. The look is very filmic. I am a fan of the 28mm focal length and have many 28mm lenses but for me the Leica 2/28 cron is the king.

        • And here’s the problem with sample variation – it’s no longer possible to statements that apply across the board. In an ideal world all lenses perform to spec, but they’re usually somewhat less. My 28 cron was good to excellent, but not outstanding. My 28/2.8 ASPH was a dog – but I know that’s not normal because another sample I tried was very impressive. Sadly few manufacturers seem to have their QC in order…

          • I think the problem with Leica is that a large percentage of their customers dont actually use their gear that much as they are rich “dabblers” or posers. These ppl wouldn’t actually know it if they have defective equipment so dont complain. No problems – no need to fix – right? Hence, Leica’s poor QC…….

          • If the data that Lensrentals.com has been collecting is representative, it appears that only Zeiss has developed QC standards that result in consistently reliable products. From what I have read, Zeiss is the only company that MTF-tests every SLR or mirrorless lens made, whether manufactured by Zeiss or by a subcontractor like Cosina or Sony. Only lenses that meet the minimum standard are sold. That doesn’t mean that every Zeiss lens is perfect, but that does mean they are all above that minimum standard for performance. It’s ridiculous that Leica isn’t doing the same sort of MTF-testing for every lens. For the sake of Leica’s reputation, and for their customers’ sake, I hope the company improves QC when they start manufacturing at their new factory in Wetzlar. Nikon and other less expensive companies should also tighten up their loose QC standards. High resolution cameras are too unforgiving of optical flaws to continue using the old ways of QC, standards that were fine for film and low resolution digital are no longer good enough for 24 or 36MP FX sensors, and most lenses made to old tolerances will probably look even worse when sensors get to 50-100MP.

            PS. I work at Harvard University’s Biology Teaching Labs. We’ve been evaluating microscopes for replacing our aging fleet of Zeiss West Germany and Olympus CH-2 microscopes, which are used in introductory Life Sciences classes. We’ve looked at samples from Carl Zeiss, Leica Microsystems, Nikon and Olympus. They all make pretty good student grade scopes, and have LED lamps now that produce superior color to old tungsten lamped scopes. Any would be a big improvement over the 20-40 year old instruments we are replacing. Nikon E200 and Olympus CX22 are probably optically the best. Leica M500 is ergonomically far, far better than all the others, but very slightly inferior optically than Nikon and Olympus (more field curvature, slightly worse contrast and color transmission). Surprisingly, the most disappointing is the Zeiss Primostar scope. The Primostar is far heavier than all the others, and top heavy too, so much so that we have found that students have an easy time knocking them over. We have a few Primostars already and have had several damaged this way. Optically, the Zeiss Primostar is good but not as good as any of the others. So we are leaning toward the Leica M500s for our new fleet of scopes. FYI, Leica Microsystems, Inc. is a completely separate USA company now from Leica Camera AG in Germany, though Leica Microsystems still has their main factory in Germany. They share a common ancestor company, Ernst Leitz GmbH, but have no business connections now.

            • Straight answer: my experience agrees with their test results. I’ve had the highest consistency and best overall results from Zeiss, and across a large number of samples of various yes – everything from 50 year old Hasseblad glass to modern Otuses and Master Primes. That said, there are some which are consistently not so good, too – the 50/1.4 Planar, for instance…

              • Yes there are some CZ’s older lens designs that are have been disappointing when reproduced in modern mounts with little improvement.

              • Martin Fritter says:

                I have three Zeiss M-Mounts – 21/4.5, 28/2.8 and 50/1.5. Somewhere on his site, Lloyd says the the 21 is the best 21 lens ever made for Leica. The 28 is wonderful. The Sonar is controversial – I believe you (Ming) don’t like it. It is however beautiful on film. None of these lenses retail for more than $1,300 US. The 21 is supposed to have problems with color vinietting on the digital bodies (I only shoot film). It seems that very wide lenses all have problems with digital the solution being in-camera software correction or correction is post. Is this correct?

                • I like the 21/2.8; the 28 didn’t impress me compared to the Leica 28/2, and the sonnar – well, it depends on whether you get one optimized for wide open or stopped down, and how you shoot it. The design has notable focus shift. Wide lenses have issues because of interference between the optical formula and the sensor filter pack or microlenses; especially if they’re non telecentric designs.

                • Adobe Lightroom has a plugin that makes it relatively easy to fix color cast problems with the M9 (and I assume the M8 and M240) called the Adobe DNG Flat Field Plugin. You can take color correction images of an all white subject, and the software plugin removes color casts (or color cast plus vignetting) found in the reference flatfield photo from other images taken with the same lens. Ideally your flatfield reference photo has the same aperture and distance setting as the photos you want to fix. I use a credit card sized thick piece of translucent white plexiglas held in right front of the lens for my reference photos. This works well for my M9P with the ZM 21mm/2.8 and 35mm/2.8, as well as the Leica 24mm/3.8, 28mm/2.8 and 28mm/2 M ASPH lenses. All of these have some grater or lesser degree of color cast without correction, even the Leica wide lenses with the camera’s built in correction profiles turned on, but with flatfield correction the color casts can become undetectable to the eye. Unfortunately the plugin saves a second DNG file for every processed image, so that doubles space requirements on your hard drives and backups. You also have to use DNG format, so if you want to use RAW files from another format they must be converted to DNG first (easy in Lightroom).

                  It seem to me that Leica should be able to work out a way to do this so the camera could store flatfield images for each lens and apply correction as part of making the raw file. Will they though? They would be admitting their existing color profile system for the digital M cameras is imperfect at fixing the color cast issue even for their own wideangle lenses, never mind those from other makers.

  17. Tim Ernst says:

    Ming – as/per your great conversation with Lloyd, the B+W ND 40.5mm filters work just fine with the 25mm, although you can’t stack them with the polarizer or with each other, but there is plenty of room for one of the NDs at a time – in fact they are actually a tiny bit thinner than the two filters that come with the lens.

    • The regular ND or the VAR ND? I was hoping to just buy one VAR ND as I do in other sizes rather than having a set of 3. Good to know though, thanks…

      • Tim Ernst says:

        I got a pair of regular B+W NDs, one being 10-stop. I could not find a var ND listed anywhere in that size, but I wonder if Sing Ray would make one? Sing Rays standard-size var NDs are indeed pretty thick, but I have a Schneider 77mm var ND that is thin, so it would be possible. I’m having Sing Ray make a custom 40.5mm blue-gold polarizer to fit the 25mm, although I have to send them the filter drawer before they will make one, and I can’t find anywhere to buy a spare filter holder (I want an extra one anyway), and Ricoh has been no help, nor any of the big dealers in the US like B&H. Thanks for your work…

        • I managed to find a couple of var-NDs online; no mention of thickness so had to order and try out. Not too expensive fortunately as neither quite fits…11mm in one case!

          Good luck with the custom. Perhaps you can ask if they’ll do a var ND too…

  18. George Low says:

    I for one really like this raw, unedited approach. Would love to see more of these ‘RAW Chats’. Thanks for posting Ming.

  19. Wow, a super Tom comment eaten by the internet… that smarts. Or it may appear later and I’ll look silly for having posted this. Anyway…

    Long, interesting and whimsically written story short: no photographs? We know your quality MT, but what of Lloyd? Would’ve been interesting to see some of his pictures.
    [I’m a child of the information age and paying for website content makes absolutely no sense to me, so I’ve never seen his site behind the paywall. I do pay for magazines, books, films, etc. Happily.]

    • And I should have begun: I didn’t think this was bad, it was a first try—I think we have some good ideas down below for how to fine tune if you’d like to try again. It’s your site MT, just give things a shot!

    • You can see a few summary reviews By Mr. Chambers at http://diglloyd.com/index-free.html . They don’t go into the same detail as the full site reviews, but they’ll give you an idea of his style and substance. Scroll way down the page for some mini-reviews of Zeiss, Nikon and Canon lenses.

      • Thanks Steven. Mostly test shot photography in the free archives there, but I think I get an idea of the general type of photograph Lloyd is setting out to make. What actually stood out most for me were the lifestyle articles about clothing or green tea, etc; quite refreshing, actually, to bump into content like that on a photography site…

    • I thought about that too, but couldn’t think of any that’d be appropriate.

  20. Larry Cloetta says:

    This is a duplicate of comment I already left at Digilloyd, but I really enjoyed this. You two, though, to me, quite different in perspective, have been my two most respected commentators, by far, over the last couple of years: informed opinions presented in measured ways about the things that actually matter.
    However, had to stop reading halfway through to order the Zeiss 28 f2 I’ve been on the fence about for two years, so, damn, expensive chat.
    This on top of the Nikkor 50 1.2 ais I just got last month, and have enjoyed more than any lens purchase in years, so am admitting that I am “that kind” of photographer.

    So, loved this, but not sure you have anything left to talk about for a while:)

    • Haha, thank you. We were planning state of the industry – both image making and camera making – at some point as a counterbalance to all that gear.

  21. Obviously you both are experts in the field and there was tons of technical data and opinions shared. However, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of one-upmanship in the tone and manner which I felt was a distraction. Secondly, your rallying cry of post-sufficiency (just find something that works for you haptically and go take better pictures) seems at odds with whole debate. I’m sure these technical differences are real but how much difference do they make for 99 percent of the readership? I thought we were done with the camera wars and polemics and on to improving as photographers.

    Having said all that, I enjoyed the read nevertheless although wouldn’t be a follower probably in the future due to the truncated style. I was impressed that, at then end of the day, you put the Ricoh GR on such a high pedestal. It’s nice to know that for a camera with that FOV, it stands at the level of the new Pentax Z and Nikon 810. Wow. A full-frame GR would be at the top of my “want” list for sure but with an EVF.

    • I’m not getting the one-upmanship vibe that others seem to be finding, Roger. But because it’s coming from you, I take it seriously. And will look at this again…

      As for sufficiency: it’s relative. If you’re posting on the web, you don’t need medium format. If you’re Ultraprinting, you do. I think that’s the bit that’s missing…perhaps time for another updated article.

      The GR: image quality per unit volume is high. Perhaps one of the highest. Quality at the pixel level is awesome. But we just don’t have that many pixels…

      • I don’t see the one up-manship at all. There was some debate, and some might see that as one up manship, but that is typical of today’s society where even minor disagreements are perceived as direct attacks. Good technical discussion, with lots of interesting points. I’m getting a D810 at Narita airport tomorrow, for what it’s worth. I love my D800 but the D810 fixes enough of the little things that I don’t like about the D800 that I’m happy to make the purchase. I do wonder whether I can afford to keep the D800 as a backup though.

        Completely unrelated, anyone have a quick solution for a MB-D12 whose cursor button fell off? Still works perfectly, but I don’t like the exposed electronics. I tried to find a soft rubber something at a Daiso store that I could chop into some similar, but no luck. The Nikon repair shop in Nagoya need 6 days to order it, and I’m back in Canada tomorrow.

  22. Erling Maartmann-Moe says:

    Great conversation! Could be both Podcast, Slideshow with audio, and text like here. I think it would be very helpful if you inserted some links to the products that you talk about, not everybody have full overview of lenses and bodies on all platforms.
    I cannot contribute much to the main discussion on Nikon/Pentax, as you know I am a Leica user (formerly Canon). I agree that the price of the S body is very high (maybe not compared to PhaseOne/Hasselblad), I just want to say that it is a great system, ergonomically and in IQ, and that the entry point is lower than many may think, as often S-lenses are sold used for 50-60 % of new price (because many upgrade to CF leaf shutter versions of the lenses), and that there are bargains to be made on the S2 body, possibly even on the S (006) when (hopefully) a new model with CMOS is launched at Photokina.

    • What I found when shooting in the cold is that thick gloves get in the way of operating diminutive cameras like GR, RX1 or even EM1, so big cameras with big shutter button is a must, not just correct clothing! 🙂

      • I agree – the RX100 is particularly bad because the buttons are flush. The 645Z is excellent because the buttons are enormous and domed, but that’s also because it’s got an enormous amount of surface area to put them on…

    • Thanks Erling. That’s easily fixable (I’ll do that now, actually). No arguments from either of us that the lenses are awesome…but the body price is rather ambitious.

  23. Tom Hudgins says:

    While inflection of audio might help comprehension, I think this ‘raw’ transcript of your conversation works very well. Whatever you do in the future, leaving it unedited–that’s what holds my attention.

  24. John Polson says:

    Two self-aggrandising wankers trying to show each other, and their respective readers, who is superior (especially Lloyd) … truly painful to read. It was like an ego competition and the thought this might have some actual MERIT to real people … ill-advised at best …

    • Sorry, I was trying to make content for my readers. It seems that I would be better off forgetting about it and running a business that actually makes money instead.

    • Larry Cloetta says:

      For John Polson, who vomited up this ugly bile from the cheap seats:
      Because Ming has manners, class, and judgment that you sorely lack, his gracious reply to your ingracious comment left a lot unsaid. Because I don’t have those qualities to the extent that he does, I offer you the reply that you richly deserve.
      If you did not like the format of the exchange, that’s fine, though one that is not shared by most.
      However, all you had to add was a vituperative, moronic character attack. Moronic how? Did you only now discover that Ming was ‘a self-aggrandizing wanker’? He didn’t change overnight, so why are you even here? You’ve got time to read through 30 minutes worth of “self aggrandizing ego competition” and they’re the ‘wankers’? Moronic. You don’t subscribe to the information in Lloyd Chamber’s blog and yet you know he’s a ‘wanker’. That’s choice. And moronic. And typical.
      The thing about the internet is that small, emotionally stunted people like you can sit in their mother’s basement and make lurid comments about things they barely begin to understand, then go back to their own wanking.
      The problem with having a very large knowledge base, as Lloyd and Ming do, and then sharing it publicly, is that there are always certain people, who, out of envy, will call you a know-it-all. Or, if they are classless jackasses, such as yourself, they might use “self-aggrandizing wankers” as their epithet of choice.
      John, actual criticism carries with it the burden that the critic must in some way be better informed and more knowledgeable than the person criticized, which leaves you out, left with nothing but sophomoric name calling. If you know something about photography over and above what these two know, then, given how successful these two blogs are, there would obviously be a huge market for your special knowledge. If you lack the work ethic, determination, smarts, and knowledge base to undertake something that immense, then, start with something small. Everyone here would like to see you add one single thing to the discussion between these two that you felt so compelled to squeal about so inelegantly, just one bit of actual knowledge about any of the things that they discussed which would advance everyone’s understanding. Just one. Most people got something from their exchange. Truth is you seem to be nothing more than the pimpled faced fat girl who hates the prom queen.
      An apology is owed Ming. Or just go away, because on the evidence, you’re the only ‘wanker’ here.

    • Not that funny Mr. Polson. Why the need to be rude? This says more about you than about the content of the conversation, which was interesting to me, and to others. As someone who is thinking about the Pentax 645Z, I also find any informed opinion on the camera useful.

    • John Polson,

      If you ever have had time in you (I’m sure) meaningful life and met MT as I did you would realise that your statement is an utterly amount of unsustained rubbish. I had the chance (and privilege) of meeting him and sharing some cigars in KL, and is one of the most humble and interesting people that I’ve met.

      If you feel down because there is too much technicality that your brain cannot cope with, you might try your luck with Ken Rockwell.

      Best Regards,


      PS: Best of luck in your “I’m sure already successful” career as photographer. With your comments you are not more that annoying somebody that offers tons of knowledge, personal time and effort for free, thereby harming all the readers of this website.

  25. Max Spann says:

    It sounds like you guys are talking about lab microscopes with all these exaggerated (IMHO) qualms about lens/camera resolution limits ruining your work. :). Lloyd seems especially distracted by the obsessive measurement of minute characteristics. I am a gear head myself and enjoy indulging in technical analysis. However it is hard to deny that improving my technical proficiency and equipment capabilities does not translate to my ability to take great photo as much as promoting inspiration through the study of aesthetics; art, literature, and in particular, the contributions of photography greats.

  26. I follow both of you guys. Very enjoyable reading and it feels like jumping between two sites in going through your conversation.

  27. I totally concur with the two masters about RX1R and GR. These two cameras give me insane hit rates in the “ad-hoc fun” way that curation has become my main challenge – a good kind of challenge I suppose.

    I really wish there is a high quality fixed lens compact for 55mm or 85mm. I love the concept of Sigma Quattros but its workflow (or lack of) totally turns me off. In the meantime, Nocticron 42.5mm on EM1 gives me the next best thing for 85mm equivalent. Hopefully Photokina will bring pleasant surprises.

    • I can tell you there’s an incredible 85mm option coming…but it is NOT at all compact, sadly.

    • Photokina Olympus MFT: Most likely there’s a replacement body for EM1. My only wish is the sensor to be less noisy. That would pay justice to lenses like PL 25mm, Nocticron 42,5mm and Oly 75mm.

    • OK, I’m nearly 90% sold on the RX1r now…

      How long until Christmas?

      • No, Tom, by Christmas, you’d want the curved sensor RX2 🙂

        I know I’m dumping the 1R for 2 as soon as or before it’s released, one because Sony cams seem to plummet in value after new version releases. And two, the integrated lens design promises reduced variations and sensor-matched adjustments, which means a new camera is good to go that on Day 1 without having to worry about AF or mirror adjustment BS which is such a pain to do.

        • But Ciao, remember that the new one doesn’t make the old one take any worse images!

          • My bad, just me projecting some GAS onto Tom. No pun intended 😛

            • That poor man has it bad enough on his own! 😛

              • I have to bad, alright. And if I could use this power for good, I wouldn’t. 😮 😛

                A sinner!
                (My Catholic upbringing played a part)

                • how can auto spell correct change “it” to “to”?

                  I got the iPhone riding roughshod over “neat” the other day, changing it to “best.” It’s like being the main character in some wretched Kafka story…

                  • Mine does it all the time – ‘on’ and ‘in’, especially.

                    • I once pranked an Engineer colleague by modifying his MS Word dictionary’s entry for “the” to “teh” so it automatically spell-corrected every “the” to “teh” as he typed his reports. It was one of the funniest achievements in my life thus far—seeing him looking lost and confused at his computer: try, try, trying again, failing; watching his fingers as he typed, switching back to the screen to see the result, and going “!?”

                      Karma coming to get me for this maybe!

                    • I have a couple of contacts whose names are Teh – Asian surname – and they keep getting corrected to The! Opposite problem…

                    • Ouch!

        • Ciao!

          I know they demo’d a full-frame working prototype, but do you think they might actually drop one on us Xmas ’14?

          The RX1r has become a kind of slept on gem now I think; I found a used one with the EVF for a seriously good price and it’s been haunting me ever since. All the usual misgivings that a Sony purchase brings up swirl around in my head—mainly I just can’t get past something Lloyd mentioned above, the 11+7bit RAW compression algo Sony likes…
          This is only anecdotal, but I just find Sony RAWs more brittle and less chromatically snappy than 14bit NEFs—on dead of night shots taken walking home, recently I’m playing with exposing for streetlight and shopfront highlights (making sure they aren’t clipped, at all, pretty much putting me close to base ISO, maybe a stop over) and really dragging shadows up in post. And the CoolpixA outperforms the Sony A7 on these exposures, and it shouldn’t, but it does. My post-processing method is perhaps the reason, I simply pull global exposure up, pull highlights down, pull exposure up, pull highlights down, etc. Then fine tune from there with a light tone curve or local brushing (but usually, the light has already done all my work for me and I basically only need those first two controls). The highlights were never clipped so I’m just returning them to where they were on this method; using the exposure slider instead of the shadow slider to bring darks up seems to work better generally and I prefer the way the entire frame is rendered that way. Just using shadows and highlight sliders in Lr, I may as well radically pull contrast all the way down, either way mushy flat images result; exposure plus highlights works a treat for everything, except the A7.
          Why? It could well be that Sony RAW compression. An APS-C sensor from the D7000 days shouldn’t be outdoing an up-to-date full frame Exmoor, especially not on shadow recovery! But I’m getting what I’m getting…
          My other thought was since this is too improbably, that it might be Lr—Adobe’s interpretation of A7 RAW may be still very rough around the edges and is costing me these tones; whereas the D7000 sensor is a well known quantity by now, and even updates to it like the ClpxA or GR are simple to cater for. There’s no way I’m using Sony’s proprietary RAW converter; it’s almost as hideous as Sigma Photo Pro.

          When will camera makers just stop this madness? All they have to do is outsource to Adobe; I mean, there already outsourcing to software houses, for more see Silkypix, so what on Earth is the problem? They are holding us back with their fraidy-cat conservatism and small minded scrooginess.

          But forget all that—the RX2! I hope and pray they bring us this curved sensor format. And absolutely, it’s time to follow Sigma’s suit and present us three Zeiss primes fixed to three compact bodies. If someone could get Nikon V3 like AF on these fixed compacts, that’d be game over for me—about three quarters of my entire photographic repertoire could be done on these things. And probably would be. I’d keep the D3 and lenses, but everything else could go.

          I’m still interested in the Rx1r. The 35 f/2 has looked good to me ever since I first laid eyes on it (what it does) and most everything about the camera ticks boxes for me—if I can get high quality tones up to about ISO 2000, I’m pretty much set these days; there’s nothing I can’t do, for what I do, with that. I’m kicking myself as I had the optional EVF unit (when I had the RX100mk2) and sold it off at a silly loss when selling the Rx100mk2 (also at a silly loss)—the RX100mk2 had to go, but the EVF: I should have just kept it about as you never know. Alas!
          I have a Nikon F2 that’s going to go, and a couple of lenses; the Rx1r I found is almost the same price as what I’m looking at there… though it’s not really the economics that hold me back. It’s just those RAW tones (which may turn out to be awesome with the right converter)… and the CDAF performance, to some extent—though on CDAF, I’ve learned how to live with it and my expectations match real-world performance pretty much now.

          And, main point to someone as shallow and easily pleased as me, they look good!

          • Sorry just to make it clearer: the bad bits of the A7 night shots I talked about were mainly the in the highlights—pulling that recovery slider down (remember I exposed to make sure I didn’t clip anything, I’m just putting brights back where they were after the in-software Exposure bump) just greys-off highlights and generally degrades them, much much more than any other digital camera I have.
            The closest thing I’ve seen to this is the way L.01 is on a D3. That’s really what it’s like with the A7. And I recall post-processing RX100mk2 files, and found them the same—photos of my kids in bright sun at base ISO were almost un-editable… any “recovery” type changes to highlights just returned horrid tones.

            • The ‘L’ ISO (pull) settings all let highlights clip and do a little interpolation to try and smooth off that tonal edge; for the most part you don’t see it if you don’t have anything that has aggressively contrasty highlights, but street lamps, bright sunshine etc. are definitely going to show a complete zero tonal information reading – and it’ll be very obvious when you attempt recovery, because all of the channels are clipped and there’s completely no color information left to interpolate from.

              • Right. And that’s what strengthens my comparison, since Nikon’s interpolation and Sony’s compression are both computing values and the results are felt hard in post. So the A7, I find, is very similar to that non-native Nikon pull mode but we’re at its native rating. There’re a few conclusions we could make: the first one I went for was that the problem was me—and it may take a while I suppose to get into the groove when using a new sensor and manipulating new RAWs… I have read many photographic writers mention this, and I’d agree it sounds like common sense; but to play Devil’s advocate (and be my own best friend) might not that time thought of as being time to learn and acquaint oneself with new data actually be time to acquiesce and get used to being shortchanged? Like a frog being slowly brought to the boil… Yes, it’s new data and different sensors will return tones differently, of course, but with some amount of historical post-processing experience under one’s belt with different cameras (sensors and data) why should it be that we go back to square one with a new machine? I’m not sure I buy it—when coming from experience, first impressions are trustworthy, I’d say.

                The next simple conclusion we could make us that what Sony rates as native, isn’t. And I noticed Thom Hogan drop a comber that the A7’s native ISO was 200. And to test it out I shot with 200 as my base for a month and a bit, and meh. Not so sure.
                Doubling checking against Sensorgen or DxO results, the sensor’s maximum dynamic range is should be at 100 (I appreciate it doesn’t have to be all in the highlights!)… So hmm… I’m back to shooting base at 100, and exposing for highlights religiously: I mean capturing scenes assuming that if I don’t get brights almost exactly where I want them at output then and there in camera, I won’t get it. Workable, but let’s just say I don’t have this stress with a D3 (from 2007).

                The culprit we might next conclude on is the Sony compression. We know it’s going to be tested most severely in high contrast highlights—this seems to riff with the behavior I’m seeing; though I also must say, all highlight tones seem to be barely modifiable, so it’s not minute…

                And that’s where I wonder about another possible conclusion—that the software, the RAW conversion, is letting us down. It’s quite possibly the case—I recall a comment on the Epson R-D1s (another camera I own, and use!) where a German user had mentioned going from Lr2 to 3 was like he’d been given a new camera. It’s eminently possible that the quality of RAW conversions can change, and on that view they’re typically going to be better as the camera gets older and the software newer.

                So, it’s still up in the air for me. And I’ve changed my exposure routine to suit—but I can’t help wondering if life wouldn’t be a whole lot better on Sony if they dropped the compression algo… I wouldn’t even mind keeping it 12bit! Though if we’re going to drop the compression, may as well go all the way and offer a deeper bit depth option for the drastic PPers.

                • Actually, the ‘deeper bit depth option’ isn’t so much for drastic PP work, but more natural tonal gradation – especially at the highlight end. I’ve noticed that not all bits are created equal: even though ostensibly two cameras may be 14 bit, one may be packing a lot more tonal information into the upper couple of bits than another. The 645Z is one camera which I feel actually uses all of its 14 bits – more so than the D4 does, for instance.

                  • Interesting.

                    I’m still working through the gold mine of information our last BTL talk on bit depth brought up (when I mentioned we should start a petition for absolute maximum RAW bit-depth output from any sensor, and got taken to school by the guys). Off the back of that, all the information and opinion shared, I gleaned some radically new ideas about ISO and how to shoot at night, plus, in theory, how 12 or 14, or more! it makes almost no difference.
                    Where it gets tough is what you just said, MT, and that’s exactly my experience. What I see at the computer, editing files from all these different digital cameras I’ve used or still use — as well as sample RAW files from other cameras that some resources make available for us (I downloaded a bunch of 645D RAWs a few weeks back, for example) — what I see is that 14bits look and edit better than 12; and 11+7bits, while the difference should almost be imperceptibly small, are weaker than either…

                    Interesting about the 645Z data. I’ve never really liked the D4’s look so much — and I have grown to think whatever it was Nikon put in the D3, but not the 3s, that might be my favorite Nikon rendering; CoolpixA a strong second, better than D7000 for sure — but it was interesting to read someone rate the D4’s velvety look on here the other day. I’m looking at it again, but as mentioned above, the D3, envelope wise, is all I need—and what I see as body downgrades like the meter lever going from the prism and the focus levers on front an back changing from the excellent three stage C S M and three mode panel/dynamic/single switch on back (four on D2, F6: you remember!) to the D7000 way, which isn’t bad, but nowhere near as good for me… I see all this a downgrade which outweighs the mild resolution bump. I’m beginning to doubt really that I can ever move on from the D3, even if in terms of pixel count and DR I really want to—haptics are still more important to me. Changing to a whole new camera brand for more res and DR is almost easier, if that makes sense. First world problems though, the D3-ster is still completely sufficient and awesome and about the best photographic tool I own.

                    Will MURDER that fascinating curved sensor camera if Sony cripple it with their 11bit three card monte. Here’s hoping they get the message from us users loud and clear…

          • Tom & Cio

            You make my heart tickle i little faster bringing up your enthusiasm about the RX1(R). I’ve been so close an acquisition several times.
            I unchecked it due to my not always calm hands and the lack of other focals brothers and sisters, and went with the EM1.
            But each and every time I hear about a ‘a la DP Merrill’ concept, not being so quirky, I start sweating. Who will be the first brand to offer 3 – 4 focals fixed lense mirrorless camera sporting IBIS? Still waiting.. and I cannot see it coming at the Photokina this year either.

            • Gerner, can we go sacrifice a cow on a mountain or something to MAKE THIS HAPPEN.

              It’s so obvious, and will work. And no-one — no one who plays nice with Adobe — makes them.
              Let us pray!

              • 🙂 If we knew how to make us commercially interesting enough to the industry would definitely pay off a nice set of fixed lens hi-rez IBIS, OVF cameras.

            • Gerner, I think you made a good choice to go with EM1 if you’re concerned about calm hands. But having said that, RX1/R has a pretty good shooting envelope. I could handhold it at 1/80s and still get pixel-level sharp shots, as long as Llyod Chambers’ “mass coupling” technique is used with an EVF. You are more likely to be frustrated by its other idiotic quirks, like resetting focus distance after powering off and slow AF.

              • Ciao

                I had the RX1R in hand and shot some hours with it. I kept my auto ISO as high as ISO 800 in aperture mode to ensure sharp shots. I found the little sweaty very pocketable, however the grip is poor without the ‘grip’ accessory which I never tried to hold around. In some way I felt the camera actually was much a showcase in compactness for FF rather than a tool that felt safe in hand. It’s really small! I liked the files from this little wonder over my EM1 files, but that’s maybe not that strange after all 🙂

                I hold myself onto the EM1 until I learn that either camera maker will launch the God Super Portable Fixed Lens FF Uber High End Package consisting of 28, 50, 85 w. macro adapt. lens element. As said, should be very EM1 like in responsiveness though.

                Another thing holding me back from showering my hard earned money upon the industry is I need to make outstanding images with a hit rate than today. When I am in control of all the elements it is time to upgrade the gear.

                PS! I just invested in a quirky crazy Sigma DPM 1, 2 and 3 system. That much I love the concept 😉

                • Arghhh..

                  ….I need to make outstanding images with a hit rate than today…

                  I meant of course * I need to make outstanding images with a HIGHER hit rate than today *

                  I might as well add I also need to develop my photography in general. I picked my old photo hobby up again since April this year due to a happy retirement. When I am *there* and the 3 x compact system as well I’ll fire off the necessary amount regardless price.

                  Ming welcomed me despite my crippled technique and this humbleness of his showed to be my big chance.

          • Tom, re: RX2 arrival, who knows? Sonyalpharumors has been teasing that an announcement is coming soon. But then I read another conflicting report saying that the initial curved sensor might be lower res so Sony might go for the RX1S concept instead. In any case, while I wish for a new model with faster AF and better corner sharpness, I’m not sweating over it, there are so many improvements I can make on myself before the next RX is released. I do agree that if you’re considering a purchase now, it may not be the best time given Photokina is only few weeks away.

            As for RX1/R files, Llyod reports that though 14-bit RAW image data is recorded, it’s tonally compressed and stored as 8-bit. I’m not sure which is more destructive compared to the A7/R 11+7bit RAW files. He does make whole bunch of reasons why in real-world use, RX1/R compression doesn’t matter. He even admits that there are no readily available methodology and cases to quantify the suspected loss of DR and color depth in the high key saturated areas where the loss is expected to occur.

            My actual experience does mirrors what Llyod claims. I haven’t had to worry about processing latitude on all of my RX1R files so far after 20k shots, at least not for the street photography work that I do. I don’t even bother to bracket. But for ultimate IQ in a variety of applications, nothing could beat Nikon D800E/D810 right now!

            • Do you see the RX1R’s files as being more like the Nikons or GR in terms of tonal plasticity, or the A7/RX100?

              As for ultimate IQ in a variety of applications…sorry, but that crown now goes to the 645Z. 😉

              We shall see about the D810 soon, I picked up mine yesterday. Need to do the usual mirror calibration/ AF fine tune dance before I can shoot with it…

            • Hi again Ciao. That’s very heartening, actually, to hear the RAWs edit fine for you—it sounded like the compression algo on the RX1 series is different again to the A7… Sony must be trying different things, but as I mentioned above, I’m confused why they are actually trying at all: most users buying these things and using RAW aren’t short of a Gb or two, and are used to getting 14bits, why undercut them? Technical arguments for and against aside, it makes close to no retail sense.

              I’ll sit in for the RX1r… It may well be that the temptation of ISO 64 on the D810 is too much and I grudgingly sell off a ton of stuff, put my Christmas money in the mix, and start 2015 on the forefront of 35mm digital imaging technology. I’d like to challenge myself and make an in-store poster (about 3 by 2m) for a chain of shops my company runs. Be a neat project for me and our graphic designers, and I think the camera would offer something more than upressing from the D3 or A7. A pipedream though… 3K USD is a tough one to pull off. The poor man’s D800E, the A7r, is always there, used, for circa 1.3~1.5K… No EFC (as in the A7!) hurts it, but to my best understanding, in the danger zone the shutter shock hits resolution down to 24Mpx… So at its worst, it’s where the D3x and A7 and D610 are… Considering used D800Es are about 800 USD more, that’s a trade off a cash strapped photog might make.

              I’d be very interested to hear your responses to MT’s question, if you have time. In my experience this far, I’ve never manipulated files more plastic than Nikon’s (I don’t own a D800E but have downloaded sample RAWs and the shadow recovery there is simply amazing; in the highlights, only X3Fs offer more than the D3, say, I can routinely pull a stop and a half of “blown” highlight back from Foveons, and often two—can’t properly test for any more since SPP offers no more than -2EV on the exposure slider… I can get a clean stop from the D3, often a stop and a third. Sony by comparison: I feel blessed if I can pull half a stop, at base ISO)

              • Hi Ming and Tom, I hands down prefer RX1R and D800E colors over GR. (DxOmark gives GR’s color depth a score of only 23.6 where as RX1R (25) and D800E (25.6) are both higher.

                As for tonal plasticity, my files from RX1R and GR have almost the same malleability, again supported by Dxomark’s rating (DR is 13.6 bit for RX1R and 13.5 for GR). But I still prefer GR’s B&W conversion, Ricoh’s special sauce?

                When it comes to high ISO performance, RX1R could easily go 1.5 to 2 stops higher than GR before significant degradation (for reference, DxO rates 2537 for RX1R and only 972 for GR). I don’t usually rely on their scores but in this case, my real world results do line up.

                Looking forward to your D810 review, MT. Hope you didn’t have to spend too much time AF fine tuning, I really lament this part.

                Tom, USD3K is not too hard to swallow if you consider RX1/R as a poor man’s Lecia M+35 Summilux 🙂 jk, I’d still hold out for the announcement of RX2 if I were you.

                • I find the GR’s native colours with ACR profile very…odd. You’ll probably recall I didn’t like the original colours at all; things improved with the last ACR profile and are acceptable to good (though not as good as the D800E, let alone 645Z or Hassy) with a custom profile. That said, the GR still retains this distinctly desaturated, cool palette. I find I need to do correction on reds/yellows with the other cameras after applying curves, but not the GR; the special sauce remains intact even after the custom profile (it does affect luminance, in addition to hue and saturation).

                  Do you really think ISO12.8k on the RX1R is usable? That’s two stops higher than the 3200 limit I’d put on the GR. I have trouble believing that because my D600 definitely maxed out somewhere around 6400; the D800/D810/D4 are similar if you maintain your quality threshold at a comparable level, and only the 645Z is usable one stop up.

                  • I should’ve been more specific about the ISO limit. 6400 is the max I would go too, and another half stop beyond 6400 is borderline acceptable if files are down-res’ed. But since tinkering with noise reduction is an exercise in frustration, I actually just cap the RX1R at 3200 and GR at 1600 to maintain a quality threshold that I’m happy with, only raising ISO when it’s absolutely shutter speed limited.

                    That 645Z sure is another level, thanks again for the reviews.

                    • Thanks for all this information Ciao and Ming. Ciao, I keep my A7 AutoISO behavior limited to 3200, also; there are definitely situations where 6400 is just fine and not noticeably much worse than 3200, lit interiors are a good example, it just takes a spin of the d-pad wheel to leave AutoISO and cater for those times; but unfortunately for me, most my shooting chances are walking home after work in the dead of night, in this scenario 6400 is just cutting yet another stop of highlight headroom off the shot, and introducing a lot of amp noise (tends to appear as magenta fog at the bottom of the frame) for not much gain really (considering how readily the current gen of Exmoors give shadows back in post). The way I expose for my night-time photos at the mo’, I don’t venture much higher than 2200, almost always inside 1600, both by scene-metering design and conscious limiting [I also find that real world performance can follow DxO individual test scores quite well and stick to the ~2250 ISO threshold they list as I found that to be about the limit for best quality in most situations on the A7]. I also have a CoolpixA, and I limit its AutoISO to 1600—so same again. It’s not that we can’t go higher — I’ve gotten pretty decent 6400 from the A — but the best insurance for quality in most situations is to stay in limits; all other situations I’ll be dialing the ISO in manually to suit.

                      The luminance grain from the A7 is quite rough and marked, and I gather this is an intentional Sony strategy, one I think I agree with actually, that we’d rather keep detail at the expense of noisy looking output, that that balance is better than smoothing it all over for cosmetic reasons. But an interesting benefit of the luma snow is how low you can take shutter speeds when venturing past 2200 since edges are not so well defined anymore… I often find not much perceptual sharpness difference between high ISO (1600+) photos at 1/15 or 1/30; in which case I’ll always take a longer shutter and lower the ISO a little, to get as much signal to that sensor as possible… 1/10 is the lowest I’ve been successful with (if you recall, there is zero stabilization tech in an A7). I guess not having a mirror to slap about, in concert with the EFC helps; but at cleaner ISO ratings, the brute resolution shows up sloppy shot discipline very easily and I find at less than 640, 1/1.5 FL is the bare minimum for crisp pixels. Which, while I mention them, are very hard to come by in the camera’s AF-C mode… I think the PDAF system has been misunderstood and overrated on the A7; I find straight CDAF in AF-s much more consistently sharper, and a little more absolutely sharper (when you can get it to agree to focus on something). As Ming and Lloyd were discussing above, AF is a whole new ball-game these days, and a camera like the D810 gives me pause for that reason alone. I think it’s the one area where I’d like an A7r better than a D8xx series—with the mag view MF in the finder, and peaking, I can make sure I’m sharp on what I want to be sharp on… Quite a few lenses have stung me on the D3, in all focus modes, and at those times I often think “Crikey, if this is what happens on a 12Mpx camera…”

                      Interesting about the RX1r colors. For sheer chromatic pleasure, the CoolpixA is my best, it’s super accurate but like a heightened reality; but as I mentioned above, for all round “flavor” I have grown to really quite love what the D3 does—orange skin tones and all… with a little tweaking, it gives people a nice kind of diluted bronze/gold look. I haven’t mastered it yet, but it never disappoints me in any light—all in all, I’m starting to understand the value of that.
                      The CoolpixA was a multi-faceted purchase for me: revenge for the D7000 I bought too early on, and sold; a love for premium compacts; a love for Nikon; and secretly, a desire to see if I can stand up to the pixel density in it, which is the same as the D800-series. On the latter, I feel like I’ve crossed a threshold and can glean good, though not maximum, pixel sharpness from it… and this is something that contributed to recent thoughts about a camera with higher resolution than those I already have. I’m still in thought about it, so we’ll see. The key point is I don’t feel any burning need for these cameras — Rx1r, A7r, D800E/D810 — right now and am happy to let the ideas turn in my head for a good while yet. If Sony announce that RX2 though, that might change things—not immediately… but after two goes on the merry-go-round with Sony, I know to wait at least 6months first for (used) prices to come back to Earth.

                      The next camera I buy will be a Fujifilm x100s. For my wife! 🙂 Her Birthday in a couple of weeks…
                      She needs a camera that can go in her handbag, looks retro, gives amazing colors, makes her feel like she’s using a proper camera [she quite likes to take a photo], and focuses fast enough to get kids—it’s almost perfect for her. Of course she’s never going to be shooting RAW…
                      I am sensitive to how present for you but actually a present for me this all looks, so I’ll temper the present with some shoes and clothes and girl stuff. God knows how I’m going to go choose and get that ;-_-
                      Which leaves an old Nikon D60 and Panasonic DMC-L1 at home that no-one is using anymore… I plan to box them up, and maybe in a few decades they might be interesting and worth something, not necessarily money, to someone; maybe even us! Ah cameras 🙂

                    • Try pulling back saturation on the ACR defaults for the A by about 5-10 points – I find it helps a lot. Nikon have gone consumer color (as usual).

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Thanks MT… I tended to pull 5pts off saturation on nearly every edit, and liked the verisimilitude; but I might have caught KenRockwell disease, because I’m drinking the Koolaid Nikon’s selling now—I like the baroque saturation, and put the 5pts back on, every time 😮 🙂

                    • Hah! But once you tweak the curves, tones are affected and saturation goes back through the roof…this is preemptive.

                    • X200 is right around the corner, Tom … Hope she can take a raincheck! 🙂 AF on X100S is unpredictable — I don’t think it will keep up with the kids unless you zone-focus.

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      Thanks for the heads-up Andre!

                      All in all, TOM! WAIT!!! 🙂

      • It’s always christmas when you go second hand gear shopping in Tokyo! 😛

  28. Paul Stokes says:

    Truly an amazing discussion. Reading either of you individually is fascinating and instructive, but both of you together, well just riveting. I agree with Mat about the full frame GR, but isn’t there a 50mp MF sensor available. I think that might really be too much to ask for.

  29. Nikolay says:

    Don’t do this anymore, pretty please. It’s much more complex to read than your usual well-written, well-structured articles. More like an unstructured forum mess from people with attention deficit disorder gear-related sites are full off. I (and lots of other people) always valued your writing skills and well-thought statements you’re making. In other words – you made us addicts to high-end quality reviews / essays and this one is definitely a huge step back from the structure standpoint. There should be definitely a better format to collaborate and cross-promote with Lloyd – may be in a form of “dual” two-opitions essays.

    That said (it may sound unpleasant), I want to thank you for making outstanding images 4&5 I bought recently – they’re brilliant! And I see you almost abandoned micro 4/3 for larger formats? I know it makes sense given the style you’re pursuing – total clarity of Ultraprints, but it’s so far from us poor amateurs still taking images with old good E-M5 🙂

    • Well, we had to try it. Back to the drawing board for now.

      Yes, M4/3 lacks sufficient resolution for Ultraprints.

      • Good try to see a different side of the public profile. I love the casual chat between two experts. It is obvious they do not need to talk art here.

        • We might in a future one if there’s any interest 🙂

          • Megatron says:

            There is!

          • You might try something that’s a more structured collaboration, though that would be more time consuming, unfortunately. Perhaps something made to be more like two pen-pals of old publishing their letters back and forth – a paragraph or two from one of you followed by a long response from the other, with a touch of editing so that it doesn’t seem you are stepping on each other’s words, and speaking out of turn, due to your dual excitement. Despite its imperfections I liked this experiment. Thank you!

    • Steve Jones says:

      I agree, let’s not do this… please? Like watching two basketball players tossing the ball to each other and performing tricks for the audience. It SHOULD be great but somehow it isn’t.

      • Yes, I believe it’s a great idea per se – two opinions are better than one, but it should be structured WAY better to be readable. Someone here told about podcasts, but it will not work for people like me for example – Ming is in my morning coffee reading list and I don’t want to download podcasts and listen to them. Well-written text is much more valuable these days when overall sloppiness is a major trend.

        • Any suggestions on how we could structure it better?

          • Sebastian says:

            1. Try an e-mail conversation. The above is hard to follow partly because question and answer are sometimes separated by three other remarks. E-mails are inherently more structured than chats.

            2. Choose a more specific topic. D810 + 645Z + general discussion of lenses, brands etc. gets you all over the place. You could as well have named the article “Ming and Lloyd talk cameras”. Instead, talk about fine points of camera usability, or about fixed lens cameras, or mixed camera bags, or focusing issues, etc.

            3. Edit the conversation. No print medium would ever publish interviews unredacted. Most importantly, cut stuff out if it takes you too far afield. Also, see that what you say is relevant to your reader, not to you. For example, Lloyd pointing to his website is perfectly fine for illustrating a point, but sometimes it seems like you are just unaware of the work he’s done — which again is perfectly fine, but not of interest to the one reading the piece.

      • Okay, point taken. We weren’t performing tricks for anybody; it was a normal discussion as far as I’m aware.

        • “A blogger is judged based on what he show, not what he writes” 🙂

        • John Polson says:

          More’s the pity … a “normal” conversation? A belaboured ad for Lloyd’s subscription services which you (unwittingly?) acquiesced to.

        • Steve Jones says:

          I will say it’s great that you tried something different. So easy for things to get formulaic and boring and then before you know it you’ve turned into Ken Rockwell. Something to be avoided perhaps. I think conversation works great as conversation but it ‘feels’ different when translated into a typed dialogue.Yes, a video conversation as someone suggested ( with the cameras ) would be great but oh boy! a lot of work, and a generous budget and time factor needed to pull that one off! Once you have a successful format i imagine it’s quite difficult to make changes and move it forward. It’s at least a good try.

    • Kristian Wannebo says:

      I think I disagree.
      Right, such a conversation takes a bit more to digest, but it gives more of what happenes between the lines.
      It would take even as good a writer as Ming Thein quite some time to condense such a conversation to a concise article.

      Why can’t we readers do some of that in reading?

  30. Great idea and great read. Thanks for doing this.

  31. I hope they listen here to who became the two best tech specialists in the field…
    – Ricoh : make a full-frame GR with 28mm f/2.8
    – Hassleblad : make a 6×6 back for V (with video and a Mamiya mount)
    – Nikon : make a Full Frame mirrorless
    – Sigma : invest in Software
    Canon doesn’t get much love here 😉

    • We aren’t canon shooters, but any of those comments could apply equally to Canon I think. That said, I am not holding my breath for the day any of them listens to us…we don’t evangelize enough for the likes of most marketing teams.

  32. I wonder when you guys were going to collaborate. What an interesting read, thanks for sharing! Keep up the good work!

    • Two prominent gear heads talking sense. That threw in a lot of clarification for me whether I should go back to FF after acquisition of my MFT Olympus EM1 system.
      I have just ordered 3 x DP Merrills for the reason not to ware all that bulk gear again. Will use them for fine art and landscape I wanted the DPQ in the beginning, but I saw too many files (all of them) showing kind of X-TRANS look. That kept me away.

      Thanks Ming and Lloyd for sharing your thoughts in public.

      • Enjoy!

        • Lloyd mentioned his love for RX1r with handgrip and added ‘3 of them sporting different focal length would do the magic’. If the option has been available, I would not engage 3 x DP Merrills for a low bulk fine art and landscaping solution.

    • Thanks – hope it wasn’t too hard to follow!

      • My humble opinion – it wasn’t *too* hard to follow, but I would much rather have a transcript from a face to face, (or telephone) conversation than what I assume was an IM chat. I think the flow would have been much smoother. That aside, awesome content to a topic I was much looking forward to read about. Thank you both!


  1. […] had two of the latter. Several conversations later with other pros and shooters I trust including Lloyd Chambers convinced me this was not the case: there were a lot of little changes, and they added up to […]

  2. […] is one that’s familiar to Lloyd. It was my first time there. Following feedback from the first instalment, we’ve edited the conversation to make it a little more readable; again it will be posted on […]

  3. […] the reasons why I eventually caved and upgraded one of the cameras – and not just because I had that conversation with Lloyd Chambers. Whether these differences are significant enough is something that you will have to answer on your […]

  4. […] on gear today. Here's what they meant about the DPQ. You may see the whole conversation here: Discussions: MT x Lloyd Chambers on the Pentax 645Z and Nikon D810 ________________________________________ Lloyd: That DP2 Quattro… disappointed. Smearing. […]

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