OT review: a thousand kilometers in the 2019 BMW M5

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A thousand kilometres (or five days, one long distance trip and some regular urban use) might sound like a lot, but it really isn’t that much time to get to know a car as complex and layered as the 2019 BMW M5, codename F90. It’s like a couple of hundred shots with a Hasselblad, or maybe an handful of tracks with a high end pair of headphones. A taste, an impression, nothing much more. I’m not a car reviewer by any stretch of the imagination, nor do I have the driving skills of somebody like Chris Harris; I merely have some interest and probably a bit too much obsession. For reference, I’m coming from a 2018 F87 M2 as my daily driver, on which I’ve barely passed the 12,000km mark and feel like I’m just about getting to understand it to the point of late night friendship terms, but not quite familial contempt. A description of the character in question thus follows.

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Fundamentally, it’s a 5 series: a large, comfortable executive (I really hate that word) sedan with some underlying core athleticism and a degree of powertrain refinement. Your expectations are set based on the six generations that have gone before. There aren’t any fundamental surprises; this is evolution, not revolution. If you were in a hurry or not really clued in, an M5 looks identical to a regular 520d with a sport package, or worse, one of its smaller siblings. This exterior is perhaps the most understated of the M5s yet, with only the enormous brakes, quad exhausts and a badge or two to give away there’s 4.4 litres, two turbochargers, six hundred horses, seven hundred and fifty newton-meters, four wheel drive and a 3-ish second 0-100km/h time lurking under there. In short: the ability to scare the crap out of four unsuspecting ex-friends who thought you brought the comfortable ride. It’s aggressive, but in the dark grey of the tester – the sleeper of Q-cars.

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Getting in gives you a few more, but not many clues – there’s a lot more leather than a regular 5; it’s of a higher quality, and there are a bunch of red accents on switches and toggles and things that suggest perhaps a bit more. And those seats: massively bolstered, adjustable in just about every way imaginable, and with backlit M5 logos (not joking). But though they’re based on BMW’s normally excellent comfort seats that have a mid-back pivot, generously adjustable lumbar support and ample base cushion bucketability – I really struggled to get comfortable in them. I blame it on the aggressive upper wings that push your shoulders forward, scrunching your back up and forcing a slight hunch. Both myself and my colleague had backache after a two hour drive, fortunately alleviated by heated seats – but this turned out to be a harbinger of things to come. There’s great complexity and sophistication in this car, but also a degree of over engineering compensation that left me confused after coming from the much simpler M2.

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We are now at the point where a 1900kg sedan can move like a supercar of not that long ago. I say move, because it’s not just straight line; it’s also laterally, retardationally and probably also vertically if the right mountain road presents itself. It’s so fast that one moment you’re doing sixty (miles, kilometres, doesn’t really matter), you put your foot down, and with no drama and no time later – triple that. This car is so fast in a straight line that the normal rules of cars don’t seem to apply; there is always more than enough power available to do whatever you want, overtake in any space you want, sustain whatever speed you want, and not break a sweat doing so. Effortless is perhaps the best overall description of the powertrain: no lag, no fuss, just a bit of basso growl and the occasional antilag backfire if you’re in Sport Plus mode.

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It apparently has something to do with the hot V (exhaust manifold and turbos in between the cylinder banks) configuration shortening the gas path and improving response. All I know is that this drive configuration should have spelled anathema to performance not that long ago (turbocharged, torque converter automatic, 4WD) and something approximating big straight line speed, nothing off boost but twitchy jumpiness on boost, and massive understeer to top it off – but here, it simply doesn’t. There’s no lag, but there’s a huge wave of torque available from zip revs; the traction control system, limited slip differentials and 4WD grip make for maximum traction all the time and torque vectoring to allow for cornering at nonsensical speeds. The 8-speed ZF ‘box is the right pairing for this car – very civilised in automatic mode and not lurchy unlike the 7-speed double clutch in my M2; but fast enough when the occasion demands – certainly doesn’t feel any slower than the DCT, despite not being as violent to keep with the overall personality of the car. Curves are dispatched with mere suggestions to the surprisingly quickly geared (but as with most modern electronic systems, somewhat numb) steering wheel and a strange mix of floaty body roll, but little lateral force pushing you down into your seat (which you’d otherwise expect, given the speeds).

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The M5’s lack of performance drama – no, ‘histrionics’ would be a better word – makes the car feel both brutally competent and slightly detached at the same time. It doesn’t scare the driver despite its capabilities; it merely does what you ask with no question or hesitation like a robotic terminator army. The limits are very, very high; way beyond my comfort level and abilities on a public road. There were curves taken at three times the posted limit with plenty of performance in reserve (I could adjust line mid-corner without even remotely unsettling the chassis). More than any car I’ve driven in recent memory, the way the M5 devours any road reminds me of the Ferrari F12: so supremely confident, planted and fast that there’s always the feeling the roads simply aren’t big enough for the car. (It’s also a physically very large car, and felt like it on the back roads of Penang Island. Also, unlike anything Italian, it starts in the morning and doesn’t catch fire if you look at it wrong.) It’s like the feeling of expecting  a 400m sprint but suddenly finding the running track has turned into a series of 30-40m straights followed by right angle bends, and having to do weird things to your knees to follow the course. You can do it, but it feels forced rather than fun, and you never really get into a rhythm. I suspect if you were to switch the car into its traction-control-off-RWD-only mode you’d get some flamboyant powerslides, but it’s really bad taste to return a car with tires showing cords.

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You can, of course back off completely and drive it like a normal 5-series. And when you need to, those enormous brakes (6 pot Brembos biting 400mm rotors upfront, single piston sliding rears on 380mm rotors) scrub speed very quickly indeed. Turns out though you still have more grip on the Pilot PS4S tires than braking power, though. Merely standing next to the wheels after a hard run hints at both the amount of kinetic energy that has to be shed after repeated hard stops (it’s a heavy car) and the amount of heat in the engine by itself; the oil temperature would stay in the ‘warm/ok’ range anywhere up to eight hours after shutting the car off, despite a lengthy turbo timer after shutdown. But I digress: drive it like a normal 5-series, and you’re sort of missing the point. Why would anybody spend nigh on three times (in Malaysia at least) the price to drive sedately? Remember, the standard 530i isn’t slow either: 0-100 comes in 6 seconds. Remember from earlier, the M5 does the same in half the time: and that’s an apt analogy for the relationship between the cars themselves: you can do everything at twice the speed with no additional effort, which is nothing short of a phenomenal engineering achievement (remember: two times the speed equals four times the energy).

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So, it begs to be driven quickly. The kind of quickly that makes almost everybody else on the road (the M5 really has very little competition, and most of that comes with two doors, a supercar silhouette and an even higher price tag) look like stationary obstacles; the kind of quickly that gives you far more confidence and ability than you have any right to imagine you possess. And the kind of quickly that should instil a healthy dose of fear in any experienced driver, because at those speeds – if you hit the limits of technology or grip or a monkey crossing the road – this is the tropics after all – then you’re going to find things get nonlinear very quickly. I never drove the car at more than seven tenths because even at these speeds, I knew I was way out of my depth. It’s the opposite kind of car to the M2: far more capable than you, but looks after you and is polite enough never to say anything less you embarrass yourself in front of the other passengers. The M2, on the other hand, neither helps nor hinders you, but clearly lets you know what it thinks of your ham-fisted inputs. The M5 can be set up this way, too – turn everything off, including 4WD – but this requires far larger cojones than I happen to possess, so I left things in my preferred mix of 4WD-sport, MDM traction control, sport plus powertrain, sport suspension and sport steering, saved to one of the two M-buttons on the steering wheel. The softer suspension setting tends to have long period oscillation/heave; the harder one pogos on Malaysian roads. Sport is better, but lacks the magic carpet float of the current 7-series or the suppleness of the passively damped M2.  Just like previous cars, there are far too many options. I much prefer the simplicity of the M2 that really only asks if you want your throttle response lazy, or sharp?

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I suspect this option cornucopia reduces confidence at the limit somewhat: until you’ve really explored handling in all conditions, you never really know what the car is going to do in any given situation if there’s that much adaptive electronics, and must trust the computers and sensors and actuators to keep you out of a tree. There’s more than enough tech and options and buttons to keep anybody occupied, but perhaps too many to distract a serious driver. In some ways, it’s almost as though the car needs all of those things because of what it is: it has to be larger and more comfortable so the weight goes up, which means power has to go up, and you need 4WD to tame all of that, and then bigger brakes, adaptive damping etc. and a server farm to coordinate it all. Simple, the M5 is not. Or maybe it’s not possible to have this kind of speed, grip and feeling of security without this level of complexity; I honestly haven’t driven anything else that ticks those same boxes. And even then, the closest thing to the current M5 is…the previous M5.

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If a Lotus Elise/Exige/etc is a rock, the E46 M3 CSL would be a flint axe. The M2 comes in as a well-forged hammer with an ergonomically excellent handle. Which makes the M5 nothing short of an enormous stainless steel wrecking ball wrapped up in flawless (and slightly cushioned) Nappa, with three-color ///M-stitched accents across the seams. You can use it gently, but it’s simply so much more fun to pretend you don’t know it’s right behind you, then hit the release button and hold on. I can’t help but personally feel that such speed warrants a bit more effort from the driver; you should at least feel partially guilty for the rate at which the scenery is blurring. I like to feel the adrenaline without going so fast as to require an autobahn, runway, or police escort. And as good as the rest of the car is – handsome, well finished, tasteful, well appointed (personal seat ergonomics notwithstanding) – it’s the powertrain that imprints itself on your brain; in an era of many impressive engines, the S63 and friends is something really special. It’s a whacking great polar bear in a three piece suit that awakens with a cold start grumble you feel as much as hear, that most of the time lumbers along with surprising lightness, but is only one prod away from turning into a howling, barking, cracklingly unhinged lunatic that might just eat you if you fail to show it who’s boss. And fuel economy? You’re not going to worry about how much the polar bear eats when you’re concentrating on merely holding on. MT

This series was shot with a Nikon Z7, 24-70/4 S and Contax-Yashica Zeiss 2.8/135 MMG with available light in a single quick session between driving and meetings; post processed with Monochrome Masterclass workflow and the ACR profiles from the Nikon Z7 profile pack. I wish there was an Amazon or B&H referral link for the car, but sadly not! Thank you to BMW Malaysia for the loan – the M5 has alas been returned all too soon…

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Ultraprints from this series are available on request here

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Comments

  1. L. Ron Hubbard says:

    Really wonderful to read your thoughts on cars here, especially BMW! I’m car shopping right now and narrowed down to two cars, with my #2 pick being a BMW M2. It looks like a great car, but I want something that is so much more special than this, more special than a Porsche, or Mercedes. So this week, if all goes as planned, I’ll be buying a Lotus Elise. Last week I was in one for the first time and this is EXACTLY what I am looking for. It’s the car equivalent of shooting film in an all manual camera. Nothing is done for you. The Lotus is a massively visceral experience. I am blown away how much in love I am with an Elise. I found one that is in show room mint condition, with less than 9,000 miles on it. There isn’t so much as a scratch on the body. The previous owner hardly drove it. That isnt me. I am going to put thousands of miles on this car every year. I cannot wait to get started. And it cost nearly USD $20k less than the M2 I was looking at.

    • Haha, I agree about the special part – the M5 is missing that somehow. The M2 is a bit pedestrian inside, but the drive makes up for it – and 14,000km later, I don’t regret it one single bit. I also searched for an Elise recently, but abandoned that after the back accident…not possible for me to get into the car without significant pain. But I fully agree about it being something very special to drive. Get one with the newer (open gate) gearbox if you can, the shift action is significantly more precise and feelsome than the previous box.

      • Sorry to hear about your back accident. You are spot on correct, even with a perfect back getting into an Elise is quite an acrobatic process. Getting out is even worse. I would take an M2 over an M5 any day of the week, but then again, I really enjoy smaller cars. I have no need for luxury gadgets….just more stuff to break down. The M2 has a very powerful, yet subtle look to it. It’s really a well designed car. If the Elise does not work out, I may end up in an M2 yet.

        • I’m not very large, so it was okay (though not exactly dignified) before. Much easier without the roof, but then you have to put it back on unless you want to get burnt to a crisp or drowned in a tropical monsoon here. Agreed on the breaking down part: some new tech is nice to have, some is a bit more essential (like a bluetooth connection for phone/ music) and some stuff is just unnecessary (gesture control…?)

          My 2c, having looked at the same choices as you: get the M2.

          • L. Ron Hubbard says:

            The M2 is a distinctly second choice for me. I want a car that is 100% a visceral experience. One that demands that you drive it, one that never lets you forget that you are in an all out sports car. A Lotus Elise does that. It offers nothing to distract you. It does nothing for you (maybe it has ABS brakes, I’m not sure yet). It is 100% out of the ordinary. I see BMW’s every single day. It’s been 2 years since I have seen a Lotus on the road. THAT is special. A Lotus hardly depreciates. If I get this car, I’ll pay $38K USD for it. In 5 years, if it’s in reasonable condition, I’ll get over $30K for it. A BMW M2 will lose far more in value.

            That said, I still think the M2 is a great car and it’s my second choice if I can’t manage buying a Lotus. There’s only 2 for sale within 150 miles of my house. That’s rare!

            • I had a Lotus Elise from about 1997 or 98 (can’t remember), so one of the first generation Series 1 cars with the round headlights. First time the girlfriend looked at it she hated it. Always remember her first words: “Eww! It has no carpets???!”. Then there was the pantomime of her getting into it with her high heels and dress. Once we pulled up outside the Italian restaurant we were going to that evening there was a queue of waiters rushing out the restaurant to be photographed with the car. From that moment on the girlfriend wanted to drive the car all the time. I could hardly get the keys back from her.

            • You might want to try a Caterham… 😉

              I agree about what makes the Lotus special, but it’s also what makes it unusable as a daily driver or point A to point B car – it’s really a point A to point A car, and for that it’s pretty much then best thing you can buy (unless you have a back injury like mine).

          • L. Ron Hubbard says:

            By the way, your M5 photographs are most excellent. Well done.

  2. Richard N says:

    What a great read Ming! I’ve read many reviews on he F90 as I’ve had one for 10 months now. Your assessment of the car and the way it makes you feel is spot on (it’s still awesome after 10,000 by the way). To come to those conclusions after such a relatively short drive is very impressive. When combined with a lovely writing style, it is very entertaining. You may not be able to drive like Chris Harris but you can really write (as well as take fantastic pics). Well done and keep enjoying that M2.

    • Thanks Richard – you’re far better positioned to comment than I! I had the benefit of a variety of roads and situations but sadly no track time. That said, I’m curious if you find the seats work for you…?

  3. If you moved towards evaluating other non-photography items in your manner I think you’d find a broad and supportive audience. You’re an engaging writer once you veer off track and your personal story is admirable. I’d also love to hear your opinions on books, culture, history, politics, economics, especially from a Westernized Asian perspective. Especially here in the USA our media is homogenized and censored by journalists themselves ~ I much prefer first-person accounts than the filtered rubbish emitting from our corporate media.

    • Thanks. The personalised angle is probably what makes it interesting; I’m not sure the posts would be the same without the added flavour of context.

      Politics…let’s not go there. The other stuff, let me think about it 😉

  4. All I can say is – I suspect you could do a review of a pencil and I would still find it a thoroughly enjoyable read. Thanks.

  5. Hello Ming: Do you have an option to buy the Nikon Z7 profiles only? I don’t own a 850, but a Z6 only. Thank you!

  6. I’m always amazed at the stupid numbering system of most car manufacturers. Unless you’re a real aficionado, you have no idea which model you’re talking about. Seems like the camera manufacturers are going the same route! I miss the good old days of Nikon nomenclature……F, F2, F3, F4, F5, etc. I realize that manufacturers have “sub” class cameras but I’m sure an intelligent mathematician could come up with an easier system ( maybe you Ming! ).
    As far as cars go, I’m still using my 1984 Ferrari 308 QV ( bought new ) and enjoying it all the more. Don’t get rid of the M2…..you will regret it in 30 years! I still miss my 1963 Jaguar XKE and my 1970 BMW 2002Tii ! Might be tough to get fuel in 30 years!

    • I’m starting to think the same: internal combustion days are numbered, but moreso – the days of a good balance between performance/handling/tactile qualities, usability/enjoyability at relatively (low) legal speeds and reliability have probably peaked and gone, especially if one is considering something for longer term enjoyment when the future has gone purely electric. The M2 is probably a bit too electronic-dependent; a Lotus might be about the right mix but my back won’t tolerate them. Perhaps an early(ish) BMW or Porsche is the way to go…That 2002Tii must have been something back in the day!

      Naming: not so easy, as it turns out. We tried with the watches but production plans threw out our carefully considered system of (case series by year).(watch number) so we released 19.01 after 17.01 in 2017 and then 17.03 in 2018…best laid plans, and all that. 😛

  7. I love your writing and your photos as always. I can spot that you’re not entirely a crazy car enthusiast, yet you still spin an interesting review. I completely agree with your thoughts on modern cars and electronics. Funny thing that… I own a little hatchback from 2017 that I’ve modified and made a little faster. It really isn’t bad except for that time the ABS system got disabled because of a sensor failure.

    That’s okay right? I can drive without ABS no problem. The cool thing is that when the wheel sensors go in my car, you can’t use the rear camera for parking. You also can’t open the boot when the car is running. Yay! Modern technology!

    • Thanks. Crazy enough to go through more cars than a rational person, but not at the point where you’re chasing the last fractions of a percent as I have done in photography (and there’s a few orders of magnitude in affordability, too!)

      I can drive without the driver aids just fine (and in some cases, it’s much more enjoyable that way) – but as you say, I can’t if the car has gone dead because one of the interior bulbs has blown and there’s a dirty rain sensor somewhere. True story from a friend; a few years back his 2007 Audi did just that – three minor faults of any kind on the OBC and you’re in limp mode. The M2 is about as electronic as I’m comfortable with; my 7 series had a number of electronic glitches in the first year (entire display system etc. would reset when using some apps and the iPhone connected, and displays include the instruments; sunroof refusing to close; surround cameras failing etc) and if you extrapolate that another few years – the potential repair bills become really quite scary.

      In the quest for driving tactility, I’m about to add something older and more mechanical to the garage (manual, NA, minimal electronics, no adaptive anything, hydraulic steering etc) having found one of the rare examples in surprisingly good condition in this country. And no, it’s not a Miata. 😛

      • Is it a Honda? I’m very partial to a nice Honda, my dream garage is a DC2R and a Lotus Elise with a K20 swap. I used to own an Integra Type R and wow, they’re an amazing car. Now that I can drive a little better, I believe I can drive a DC2R faster than most weekend warriors in their luxury sports cars with 400kw.

        • It certainly feels faster because there’s more sensory feedback – I also recently tried the FD2R Civic, but to be honest – it just wasn’t fast enough.

          • Most stock Honda Type R’s are slow in a straight line, but take them to a twisty back road and they will really shine.

            If it’s not a Honda or MX5… considering your garage so far, perhaps an older M3? 😉

            • Didn’t get the chance, unfortunately – the dealers weren’t allowing anything more than a short run on urban roads, where they honestly did not shine at all. That said, the S660 I also recently drove was something else – very much at home in an urban setting, very fun, very precise, but probably regrettable in the long run given the price (and lack of any comforts beyond a go kart).

              Another interesting recent drive: the 987.2 Boxster, manual gearbox of course…

  8. Excellent read. Reminds me of Road & Track in the 1960s, ‘70s when enthusiasm for the subject was genuine. If I were younger your narrative would inflame a tinge of lust for the unobtainable but now I see only the catastrophic cost of repair if needed. In the US the only option that makes sense (if any) would be leasing for a period shorter than the warranty. My only BMW was a new 1980 320i. Great fun, but I had to sell it after a year or so because of its rear end instability. Auto writers at the time referred to its tendency to break traction and jog to the right as “the BMW twitch” — framing a defect as an adorable quirk. Ah, those were the days.

    • I worry about the repair costs too; even though the modern stuff is likely more reliable than the Porsches and Ferraris of the 80s and 90s, it’s probably also binary in that anything that breaks is replacement (and electronic), not repair. You also need everything to work for the whole car to work, as opposed to degrees of wear. And who knows what components are still going to be available in ten years (or more).

      I’ve driven that generation of 3 series but could never get it to break traction – was there really that much power? In all other aspects a wonderfully analog experience compared to stuff today though.

      At least there’s the lease option in the US – again, thanks to our taxes it’s a 10 year mortgage here (against a 5 year warranty)!

      • Michael says:

        Yes, the four cylinder engine in that generation was a bit of a hot rod. The “twitch” effect was prominent on damp pavement. Leave work after a day inside an office building, vaguely note that it must have rained an hour or more earlier, then ZIP…that start as the light turns green causes the tail end to hop to the right. No aggressive driving required. More important, driving on twisting, hilly back roads shaded by overhanging trees could be an adventure. Looking back, I think a set of tires different from what it was delivered with might have made a difference. Too bad I wasn’t aware at the time.

  9. Hi Ming!
    Congratulations to the experience! I remember my days with BMW: Long years I drove only cheapish, smalish cars. I was convinced that driving a car is only about getting from A to B. Then, one day, we needed a new one and were looking at some Skodas with four wheel drive in a car shopping part of the city near our home. I thought, my wife had an aversion against “boss cars” like Daimler, BMW etc. Nearby was BMW garage with some X3s on sale, so I said as a joke “those are nice”. Surprisingly, she conceded. So we tried it and kept it a couple of years. It was Freude am Fahren, exactly as the BMW slogan says. Now I have to drive VW California, which is no BMW. But it has lots of space and one can sleep in it and get up early for the first light. Still, I miss our BMW…Btw: I like your images very well, it is always a feast for the eye and soul!
    Keep well and best regards!

  10. hdeyong says:

    There are a fair number of people who buy a nice new Leica not because they enjoy that particular shooting experience or appreciate the extremely fine lenses. They buy one to hang over their shoulder in a casual way to impress those around them that they can afford a $10,000 camera. They take the odd snapshot and leave it on their hard drive.
    Their are also a good number of people who will buy this car for exactly the same reason. Once in a while, with a few friends in the car, they’ll accelerate like mad for several seconds on a straight bit of road, until they scare themselves and their friends witless, and then go back to driving along at moderate speeds, talking about what the car will do, and probably never using their signal lights.
    Six hundred horsepower is patently useless on 95% of the world’s roads. It will never be a classic because nine or ten years from now all the electronics will start to go, leaving it not worth, (or impossible), to repair.
    So you have a car that’s fantastically expensive, impossible to use anywhere near it’s available capabilities 95% of the time, and in nine or ten years will be worth about $65 per ton. Sounds a bit odd to me, and I have been a car lover, and am involved in racing.

    • That’s pretty much true of anything made today (and the average skill level of their operators). That said, I’d take one at $65 per kg if the annual maintenance wasn’t also similar…

  11. Odd that there’s ninja-bokeh in the fourth picture, as the lens is an MMJ … I’ve never experienced that with the 50 1.7 and 35-70 I once owned. Anyway, the 135 2.8 is not often highly praised, and mostly considered as being average (within the Zeiss Contax line), which has kept me from giving it a try despite the low prices for which they can be obtained. Are you happy with it ?

    • I think it’s very underrated, and has a tremendously good weight/price-performance ratio.

    • My MMJ 135/2.8 has no ninja stars; only my AE Contax lenses (50/1.4, 45/2.8, 100/2.8 macro) have them.

      The 135/2.8 is a lens that is characterized by not-such-biting-sharpness (and longitudinal CA wide open) but the way it transitions in and out of focus is perfection. And as Ming says the size is pleasantly small, and the price is right. A wonderful complement to the 85/2.8 and the 180/2.8.

      • I have some of the CA, but sharpness is surprisingly good – perhaps sample variation?

        • I think that was my impression from back when I used it on a crop sensor; the longitudinal CA is more intrusive when magnified more.

          But looking at the shots from using it on full frame, it’s certainly sharp. I should use it more; the focus throw makes it a joy to use.

          • Agreed on focus throw – the tactility of those old focus rings is pretty much gone except for some of the manual focus Zeisses. I do wish the 135 focused a bit closer, though.

            • That’s why I like the 180/2.8; it focuses down to 1.4 meters despite the longer focal length.

              You already have the Apo-Lanthar 180 though, which focuses even closer on top of being presumably significantly better optically. (The Contax 180 has lateral CA when stopped down)

              • Makes sense. Yes, the 180 APO is pretty special, but to be honest – I’m starting to like the 70-400/4 VR better for regular use as it focuses down to 0.9m, has very nearly as little CA as the 180, and VR. But alas the size is relatively enormous! Too bad the new Nikon 70-200/2.8 S for the Z system isn’t a tiny collapsible thing like the Canon RF…

  12. Ming,

    You’ve got a second career as a motoring journalist.

  13. I am newish to your blog and I was surprise to see a car, well not a full on review but impression piece. But I suspect there is some overlap between people interesting in photography and people interested in cars. I – for one – am interested in both.

    Looking back at your previous posts you seem to be keen on BMWs. I’ve had a few in the past… all competent cars, two of them really good cars (an E39 530i… silky straight six and everything in harmony / well balanced and E38 728i… kinda underpowered, but a smooth comfortable cruiser). I few years ago I made the mistake of buying an F10 530d… fast in a straight line, but far too heavy and handled like a sack of potatoes as a result… it lasted 3 weeks and was sold!

    I believe that you have the measure of this M5. It is a two trick pony: 1) comfortable / fairly luxurious / toys and 2) very swift particularly in a straight line. But the Achilles’ heel is that it is far, far too heavy (like my old 530d). As a result all the other car components – brakes, suspension, tyres, steering – struggle to keep up. In fact their fail to keep up. As a result it ends up quite boring to drive. And it is expensive new, and depreciates faster than a Sony A7. Of all the current batch of BMWs I think you already own the best* with the M2, unless you count special edition CSL type models. And they are kinda impractical in Europe let alone the SE Asia.

    * And unless we include BMW Motorcycles… but that opens up another far larger can of worms! And trust me… you don’t want to go there, especially if you are married!!!

    • I’ve always liked cars but never had the budget or contacts to indulge; worse in Malaysia as our wonderful import taxes mean that the aforementioned M5 would be close to US$270,000; never mind affordability being nil due to the average wages. It’s probably 1.5-2x your average CEO pretax salary here, as opposed to being 1x mid-level management in Europe or the US.

      I agree on the M2, but then again, I am biased (and have to be to avoid massive buyer’s remorse…)

  14. I’m not a car person so most of the technical stuff flew right over my head, but a parallel with photography occurred to me. In Japan the speed limit on the highways is typically 80-100 kilometres per hour, which is kind of…slow. So people with powerful cars (like the subject of this article appears to be) can’t really push them very hard without risking encounters with the law. This seems to be like having a 100MP medium format camera and only being allowed to post thumbnails on social media. How is it where you mainly drive (presumably Kuala Lumpur and environs?). If you wanted to really see what the car could do, would you (or could you) hire, find or somehow get access to a private road, track, etc? Or do you just get to know where the speed traps are? 🙂 I know that there’s more to a car than its top speed, but as I say I haven’t driven in over a decade and when I did it was purely practical in nature : A to B.

  15. The M5 is a F90 code not G90 as you mentioned.

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