Airnef v1.1 has been released and is available for download on the airnef homepage. Here is a quick list of new features and bug fixes:
Realtime downloads – transfers images from your camera as you shoot them
Sony camera support
Renaming engine – allows you to customize the names of directories and files for images you download
Download exec feature – optionally launch your favorite image viewing or editing application for each file downloaded
Automatically determines the IP address on cameras that support the Simple Service Discovery Protocol (SSDP), making it easier for users to get connected to their cameras without having to know the technical details of their camera’s network configuration. Canon and Sony cameras support SSDP. Nikon does not.
Automatically synchronizes the camera’s time to the system’s time each time airnefcmd is executed. This is supported on Nikon and Canon bodies.
Support for downloading from both media cards in one session (for cameras with dual-card support)
Fixed support for the Nikon J5 and Nikon P900 cameras
Introducing Airnef, my open-source utility for downloading images and movies from your WiFi-equipped Nikon camera. Airnef runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. It supports all Nikon cameras that have built-in WiFi interfaces, along with those using external Nikon WU-1a and WU-1b WiFi adapters. Airnef may also work with Nikon’s WT-4A and WT-5A wireless adapters for the D3/D4/D8x, although I don’t have any of these adapters on hand to test. Airnef supports Canon cameras as well, although Canon supplies its own excellent EOS Utility for wireless downloads. Airnef is licensed under GPL v3. For more information about Airnef including download links please visit the Airnef Homepage. For questions and support head over to the Airnef Forum. I also have an Airnef Developer Notes blog for those interested in the ongoing work behind future releases.
It’s been 2 1/2 years since I posted my DotTune video on YouTube and I’m only now getting around to posting a blog entry for it 🙂 Once I’m done with the V1.1 release of Airnef I plan to create a home page for DotTune, where I’ll post some updates and a FAQ.
If you’ve been following the online forums about the D800/D800E you may have come across a few message threads about a “Left AF point” issue. Or maybe a few hundred threads about it. In today’s blog I’m going to discuss the issue, and then present a video demonstration of the sadness on a recently-acquired D800 that is afflicted by the disease.
First, is the problem real? Yes. I’ve had two D800 bodies so far, the first I acquired soon after they became available in the states and a newer one I bought within the past few weeks. The first body had perfect AF – its left and right AF points were highly accurate and consistent across all my lenses, including the ones most sensitive to the Left AF issue, the 24G f/1.4 and 14-24G f/2.8. The second body? Not so much. The good news is the second body has highly consistent autofocus, just like the first. The bad news is it’s consistently bad, at least when focusing using its leftmost AF point. After finetuning this second body with my 24G (-5 AF tune for you geeks), the center and right AF points produce perfectly focused images at f/1.4, over a wide range of focusing distances. The left AF point? It’s a little off starting at MFD (minimum focusing distance), then gets progressively worse as the focusing distance increases. At around 4 feet and beyond the focusing error becomes unusable wide-open on my 24G.
Those few to a few hundred online threads about this issue have spanned the spectrum from “you’re imagining things” to “you’re testing it wrong” to “mine sucks too, let’s go have a beer and commiserate”. To my knowledge the first person to discover and disclose this issue was Ming Thein, a photographer who maintains a blog Here. He even went so far as to visit a Nikon service center to demonstrate the problem in front of Nikon technicians, where they cycled through several samples of the 24G and D800 bodies, not to mention other full-frame Nikon bodies like the D3. More recently Thom Hogan, a respected Nikon shooter, blogger, and author of must-have guides about Nikon bodies wrote about his experience with the issue, disclosing that he’s personally observed it on 2 bodies, out of a sample size of 12 bodies. Well I guess it’s my turn to chime in, late as always 😉
What follows is my video demonstration of the issue, as recorded from a live session with my second D800 body. I set up three siemens star charts perfectly parallel to the camera’s focusing plane, one centered on the rightmost AF point, one on the center AF point, and finally, one on the boogeyman leftmost AF point. I mounted my D800 on my sturdy-as-all-getout Benro J-3 ballhead and C-358m8 legs. The charts were illuminated with a 5000K LED lamp to produce an exposure of f/1.4 ISO 100 1/50. Not the most light possible but certainly well above the darkness threshold where the D800 starts to hunt like a blind pig. To isolate clarity issues to the AF system alone, I configured the body in 2-second exposure delay mode, which combines the mirror vibration-avoiding MLU mode with the human vibration-avoiding timer-release. This level of precision of setup isn’t really necessary; you can simply point your camera at something of interest and see if it takes a sharp photo. Expecting any less from a $3,000 body seems rather silly. But in the interest of repeatability, comparability, and most of all, flak invulnerability, I went through the trouble of setting up the most precise test I could think of.
The methodology is simple. For each of the three AF points I first enter Live View and focus on the siemens star using the ultra-precise Contrast-Detect autofocus and then snap a photo, which becomes my reference “sharp” photo. I then exit Live View and take a sequence of three photos using the camera’s Phase-Detect autofocus, racking focus in between each photo so that the camera has to work to acquire focus. After each photo I zoom to 100% in playback and then compare the photo to the reference shot focused in Live View. For my test the charts were mounted 4 1/2 feet away from the sensor plane indicator on the body. As mentioned previously, at closer focusing distances the problems are less severe, at further distances forget about it. Watch the video below for the results.
So what’s Nikon’s position on this? Nobody knows. Of the D800/D800E owners who have sent their bodies in, the early adopters reported frustration and lack of success, whereas the most recent service attempts seem to have been much more successful. I’d like to send my body in as well, except I haven’t been able to convince Nikon USA to send me a prepaid printing label that will spare me the $50+ insured shipping expense. That’s Nikon USA’s standard warranty policy/procedure. And unless and until this issue is recognized by Nikon as something beyond the normal low-percentage defect rate type of issue I suspect that policy will remain in place. When will Nikon acknowledge the issue publicly? Will they issue a recall, even a silent one?
You can download the Siemens Star chart I used in this video at Chart
There are lots of legacy lens choices for the NEX in the 35mm to 50mm range, ranging in price from $70 up to $1400. What’s the best bang for your manual-focus NEX buck? I’ve compared the following lenses on my NEX-5N:
Voigtlander 35mm Nokton f/1.2 Version I (sells for $1000 new)
Voigtlander 50mm Nokton f/1.5 (sells for $500 used)
Voigtlander 40mm Nokton f/1.4 (sells for $400 – $500 used)
Minolta 50mm MC X-Rokkor f/1.4 (sells for $70 used)
Contax Zeiss G 45mm f/2 (sells for $300 – $400 used)
The Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 I is no longer available but there is a new version that is optically very similar and slightly shorter and sells for $1,400 new.
Conclusion: The Contax Zeiss G 45mm is the sharpest of the bunch, but compared to the Minolta 50mm the Contax only holds an advantage at f/2 and mostly for contrast rather than sharpness. At f/2.8 and beyond the Contax and Minolta are basically identical. It’s pretty clear the Minolta is by far the best value of this bunch.
The following ISO chart comparisons were shot a focus distance of 5 feet for the 35mm Voigtlander, with the tripod moved back as the focal length increased for the various other lenses I compared. In other words, equal framing. All were manually focused via the EVF on either the center (center comparison) or right edge (edge comparison), shot with timer release and electronic first curtain. They were shot raw and processed in LR3 with all default settings except white-balance and some exposure adjustments to match all the images.
Click on each image for a 100% crop. After clicking once you may need to click again to get your browser to display the full 100% view (most browsers will fit the enlarged image to your browser’s width first, so you need to click again to get the 100% view).
I’ve seen a recurring question pop up on the dpreview forums: how much sharper is the IS version of the 70-200mm f/4 lens vs the non-IS version? The answer: On the 5D Mark II the difference isn’t noticeable in the center. On the 18MP crop bodies (7D/T2i/T3i/60D), the difference is noticeable, as is typically the case when evaluating different classes of lenses on higher pixel density cameras.
Here are the two lenses on the 5D Mark II, shot from about 15 feet @ 200mm f/4. Click on the image for a full-sized 100% center crop.
Here are the two lenses on the T2i, shot from the same distance. Click on the image for a full-sized 100% center crop.
All samples were manually focused in Live View, shot raw and processed with default settings in LR3. When you click through the images you may need to click a second time to get your browser to show you the full 100% view.
Nikon has added an in-camera HDR feature for the first time in their DSLR bodies with the D5100. The camera will take two photos with varying exposures; you can let the camera choose the exposure delta automatically or you can specify it yourself within a range of 1-3 EV full stops. You can also choose to let the camera automatically meter the scene for the base exposure or set the exposure manually in M mode.
Before I discuss the IQ there are a few quirks to the feature. First, the HDR option in the Shooting Menu is grayed-out if your image quality setting is RAW or RAW+JPEG; you must first choose a JPEG-only quality setting before the HDR option is available (btw, a big pet peeve of mine with the D5100 is that the camera displays a generic “This option is not available at current settings or in the camera’s current state” whenever you try to do something that is invalid for the camera’s configuration, rather than telling you what corrective action needs to be taken to make the option available). Another quirk is that the camera returns to non-HDR mode after you take a photo, so if you want to take multiple HDRs you have to return back to the shooting menu between each photo, or configure the Fn button to do this for you.
Quirks aside, how is the IQ for the HDR mode? Pretty good actually. I’m still evaluating exactly what tone mapping decisions the camera is making for different scenes but on balance the camera renders HDR how most shooters expect it should. Here’s a sample taken via a tripod. I haven’t evaluated the camera’s ability to align photos yet. I first took two raws with +0 and +3 EV, to demonstrate what the exposure is like, then took an HDR JPEG with the same exposure settings.
Many are aware of DxO’s sensor rankings and tests, particularly their dynamic range comparisons, but perhaps not everyone understands what exactly dynamic range is, how it affects your photographs, and what exposure techniques and post-processing steps are necessary to take full advantage of it. I address all of this and more in my new three-part video, which also includes an extensive comparison of the dynamic range between the Nikon and Canon crop bodies, using real photographs to demonstrate the differences in practice. For this comparison I used a Nikon D5100 and Canon T2i (550D), but the results are also applicable for a Nikon D7000 vs Canon 7D (or 60D, T3i), since each family of these bodies share identical or near-identical sensors. The Canon results can also be applied for the 5D Mark II, as it has similar dynamic range and cross-hatch banding characteristics as Canon’s 18MP crop sensor.
Part 1, Explanation of Dynamic Range and how to utilize it
Part 2, Dynamic Range comparison between the Nikon D5100 and Canon T2i
Part 3, Dynamic Range comparison between the Nikon D5100 and Canon T2i (continued)
Here are links to the full-sized 100% JPEG quality photos that were used in the videos. All photos were shot RAW and processed in LR 3.4, using neutral/faithful camera profiles and default settings unless otherwise noted.
Something I didn’t have time to cover in the videos is whether a third-party noise reduction tool like DeNoise or Dfine can do a better job with cross-hatch banding than Lightroom. Here is Photo #2 for the Canon processed with both DeNoise and Dfine on a B+W TIFF exported from Lightroom with no luminance noise reduction and then processed using the Photoshop CS5 plug-ins offered by Topaz (DeNoise) and Nik Software (Dfine 2.0).