Pure Unobtanium


I get 120 megapixel scans from my RB67, which makes huge 6cm x 7cm Velvia negatives. The files are 750MB each. Let that sink in for a minute. Twenty frames will consume fifteen gigabytes of space on your CF card and subsequent hard drive. And they are getting this from a 1.3x crop sized sensor? At 9.5 frames per second? There’s no way a CF card can keep up with that. And the noise from all those unbelievably small pixels must be atrocious.

I call meadow muffins on this one. Even if it turns out to be true, it’s crazy.


The Last Roll

Mama Took My Kodachrome Away

It’s sad to see the end of such an important and iconic era. I’m very pleased to see it celebrated rather than just fading into the night. And Steve McCurry is a good choice to have shoot the last roll.

Why not celebrate along?

The Kodachrome Project

“Kodachrome” by Paul Simon

A Tribute to Kodachrome by Kodak

Kodachrome on Wikipedia

I for one hope film never does die out. Digital is great, but film is still great and no one makes a digital sensor as big as the 60mm x 70mm negative I get from an old Mamiya RB67.

The Color Of A Lens

Do lenses render color differently? They sure do!


Zeiss 35mm f/2.0 Distagon T* ZF.2 @ f/5.6, SB900 flash bounced off near wall to the right.


Nikon 16-35mm f/4N VR, 35mm @ f/5.6, SB900 flash bounced off near wall to the right.

I notice no discernible difference in sharpness here. The Zeiss has a bit better bokeh, but that’s subjective anyway. No, the biggest difference I see is the color. Both look fine by themselves, but compared side-by-side, the Zeiss renders a bit cool and the Nikon a bit warm. Which is better? Again, that’s subjective, and probably changes by subject.

The glass in a lens can influence the color of the image. This includes when shooting raw in a digital camera – it’s affecting the light that the sensor receives. Is this a deal-breaker for one lens over another? Probably not, unless you’re shooting fine-art landscapes or high-fashion portraits in JPG. It is, however, information that any discerning photographer should be aware of. If you want to get a print of your image, and have it look exactly like you saw it, you should know how your lens affects the rendering of that image.

Very Impressive Ball Head

If you would have asked me last week, “Which ball head should I get for serious landscape photography?”, I would tell you to get the Really Right Stuff BH-55.

That may have just changed.

I noticed a very interesting ball head in an article on luminous-landscape.com, (yeah, the Optimus Prime -looking thing looks cool, but I mean the little one near the end, the Markins look-alike) so I checked it out and was impressed enough to place an order and try it. I had a hard time finding a distributor, but I found one and placed my order.

I received my Photo Clam PC-33NS ball head today, and I’m beyond impressed. Every movement is smoother than the BH-55, and the tension on the ball seems smoother and easier to adjust.

Here’s the skinny:

The BH-55 weights 1.86 pounds(843g), but the PC-33NS weighs 10.9 ounces (310g).

The BH-55 is rated for 50 pounds (23kg), but the PC-33NS is rated for 66 pounds (30kg).

The BH-55 is $415, but the PC-33NS is $179.

Much lighter, much stronger, much smoother, and much much lower cost – what’s not to like? I haven’t gotten it out into the field yet, but so far it’s not looking good for the BH-55. Yeah, I know, I’m shocked too. I could go order the PC-54NS and have a similar-sized replacement, but have a much stronger and smoother ball head for about $80 less. Anyone want to buy a BH-55 with the Pro-II clamp? 🙂 For crying out loud, you could mount the Hubble Telescope on the PC-74NS!!  It’s rated for 220 lbs (100kg) for the same price as the BH-55.

What I don’t get is the 33mm ball vs. the 55mm ball. Shouldn’t a larger ball be stronger and smoother?

Anyway, go order one from Kerry right now, and tell him I sent you. I have yet to deal with a nicer photo gear supplier.

You know, I don’t really mean for this blog to become a gear review site, but I’m posting most of my images on my 365 project site lately. I’ll write something better soon, I promise.

Final Review of Nikon 16-35mm f/4 VR

I shot some comparison shots, to be the final part of my evaluation of my 16-35. I’m keeping it, and the 14-24 is up for sale.

I shot these shots all from the same spot, on the same tripod, using the same D700 body with the same settings (auto WB, Aperture Priority, 0 Exposure Compensation). All images received the same Lightroom sharpening settings of 35 sharpening, 15 detail, 90 masking. All comparison shots are 100% zoom comparisons produced as screenshots of Lightroom.

You can click the images for the full-size versions. Sorry for the long post, but I wanted to show what I’m seeing, which seems to be in stark contrast to what others think of the 16-35.

This is the overall scene that all the test shots are based on:

16-35 vs. 14-24 shot at 16mm f/4:


lower left:

16-35 vs. 14-24 shot at 16mm f/11:


upper left:

16-35 vs. 14-24 shot at 20mm f/4:


upper right:

16-35 vs. 14-24 shot at 20mm f/16:


lower left:

16-35 vs. 14-24 shot at 24mm f/4:


upper right:

16-35 vs. 24-70 shot at 24mm f/4:


upper right:

16-35 vs. 14-24 shot at 24mm f/11:


lower left:

16-35 vs. 24-70 shot at 24mm f/11:


lower left:

16-35 vs. 24-70 shot at 28mm f/4:


lower left:

16-35 vs.
24-70 shot at 28mm f/11:


upper right:

16-35 vs. 24-70 shot at 35mm f/4:


upper left:

16-35 vs. 24-70 shot at 35mm f/11:


upper left:


The 16-35 has some light falloff in the corners when shooting wide open, but not much. The 16-35 is soft in the corners when shooting wide open, but not much. It does have some barrel distortion, more that either the 14-24 or 24-70.

The 16-35 is consistently as sharp if not sharper than both the 14-24 and 24-70 when shooting @ f/8, f/11, and f/16. In some cases, it is sharper in the corners @ f/4 than the 14-24, which is surprising because the 14-24 is stopped down by 1 f-stop and should have sharper corners than if it were wide open.

The 14-24 seems to consistently over-expose a bit, at least by comparison.

I shot a 17-35/2.8 for a bit. I found it to be in the same league as the 24-70 in image quality, weight, and cost. The 16-35 is cheaper and lighter than the 17-35 and image quality is at least as good, so I can’t see buying a 17-35 over a 16-35. If you’ve already got the 17-35, I don’t know if you’d have a reason to switch, unless you think you need VR (I don’t think you do).

In the real world, all are excellent, and no one should feel bad about choosing any of these excellent wide-angle zooms. For me, for landscape shooting, the 14-24 is the worst choice due to a lack of usable filters (there are exceptions, but not many). For other uses, such as night/concert/indoor shooting or architecture, the 14-24 might suit you better. Given the lower cost and weight of the 16-35, it seems to me Nikon has a new “holy trinity” of 16-35, 24-70, 70-200 v2.

P.S. A local pro, about 30 miles from me, also finds this lens to be awesome. Other reviews are whole-heartedly unimpressed by this lens. Could there be a sample variation problem? Tough to say. All I can say is you should seriously consider this lens before paying more for one of the 2.8 lenses.

Unofficial Review – Nikon 16-35mm f/4N VR

** Update ** new post with much better comparison images here.


The lens is light and somewhat slender, but long. The rear element moves in and out quite a long distance with the zoom. The front element moves in a similar fashion to the 17-35, with a middle slider moving in and out.

I made some images at home with a D700 on Aperture Priority @ f/8, ISO 200, WB Auto, mounted on a very sturdy tripod. Sharpness is good, colors are good, barrel distortion @ 16mm is fairly strong, overall brightness is a bit less than the f/2.8 lenses I compared to. No surprises as far as I’m concerned.

The MTF chart for this lens indicates some improvements in sharpness and contrast vs. the venerable 14-24mm f/2.8N, except in the corners. I really wanted to get a feeling of whether that is true or not.


I compared 16mm, 20mm, and 24mm vs. the Nikon 14-24/2.8N at same focal lengths. The 16-35 might be a bit softer in the corners and a bit softer in the center but a bit sharper 1/2 way from center to corner. Very tough to tell. I bet this lens is razor sharp corner-to-corner on a crop-sensor (DX) camera body, but I don’t have one to tell for sure.

I compared 24mm, 28mm, and 35mm vs. the Nikon 24-70/2.8N at same focal lengths. The 16-35 was sharper @ 24 and 28, a bit softer @ 35.

See the photos below for some examples from this lens.

Light falloff (vignette) seems pretty well controlled, didn’t notice much until I mounted a fairly thick filter. I can’t say I noticed any when no filters were installed, and very little when just a basic circular polarizer was installed.


These are RAW (NEF) images, zero adjustments except for spot removals from sensor spots, exported from Lightroom 3 Beta. You can click through to slightly higher resolution versions.

(Not great images, I know. I just got the lens and haven’t had a chance to go out for some “real photography”. 🙂


16mm, f/4.0, 1/4000th


35mm, f/11, 1/500th


16mm, f/16, 1/250th


16mm, f/22, 1/125th


28mm, f/11, 1/200th


28mm, f/11, 1/250th


The construction durability is yet to be proven out, but the IQ is very, very, very good. My simple tests tell me this lens might be just about as good as the 14-24 for sharpness, and I love that it can mount filters. This lens is quite a match for the older 17-35/2.8D AFS, which is faster but more expensive and an older design.

This is not an official review, this is just my observations and very limited experiences with this copy of this lens.

Canon G11

This is not an official or thorough review, just a note to say how much I enjoy the Canon G11 as a companion compact camera.

It’s not very pocketable, and its lens isn’t super wide or fast. The zoom/shutter button feels a bit small and fragile.


On the positive side, the controls are great, the flexibility and RAW shooting is great, and the image quality is great.


I’ve added a ReallyRightStuff L-Plate and a Lensmate lens hood/filter adapter, making this G11 compact a very good landscape camera.