Thursday, December 31, 2015

Lens adapters and converters

There are clip-on and screw-on converters to make the image wider, longer, add distortion, and more.  Most are incredibly cheap and lately, there are focal reducers, which adapt lenses and make them work as though they're made for lower light than they can do natively.

I've never really been comfortable with optical tricks.  I want high quality lenses that work well from the start, not those that require firmware in the camera to adjust the image.

I resisted micro Four-Thirds for quite a while because of all the fixes that the camera does instead of making really good lenses.  Panasonic bodies fix Panasonic problems and Olympus bodies fix Olympus problems but it doesn't always work is when you mix companies.  I have bodies and lenses from both companies.

Now, you'd think that I was new to adapters and converters at this point, but that isn't quite so.

Back around 1999, my Olympus OM-1N died and I replaced it with an Olympus IS-20DLX.  The IS-series was a set of SLR (single lens reflex) cameras with a fixed zoom lens.  It was a bold gamble that Olympus took, to create the ZLR (zoom lens reflex).  The IS-20DLX has approximately a 3x zoom lens, as I recall it was roughly 35-105mm--no conversion is necessary since it uses 135 Format film.  In order to reach further there was a 1.9x teleconverter that screwed onto the front of the lens in the filter threads.  It was meant to be used at the longest focal length possible; otherwise, it would not work correctly, showing more in the frame than image you were trying to capture.  Sounds a bit like those fisheye photos you've seen, yes?

The next year, I bought an Olympus C-2500L, another ZLR, but this time a digital model--the first with a TruePIC processor.  There was also a 1.4x teleconverter for it, since the lens was fixed to the body.

Both teleconverters worked well, as long as I photographed by the warnings.  They were rather expensive, which isn't surprising, although neither were labeled Zuiko, but only Olympus.

A couple of months ago, I bought a fisheye converter for a buddy who got a Pentax K-50 I bought for him.  Naturally, for US$35, you can't expect too much.  Being that it fit the 52mm filter threads of the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit zoom, it was enough for what he wanted, and being able to zoom was an additional positive point.  It was easy to find a point where you couldn't see just the frame, but a surrounding field of black.  It was good enough.

At skate parks, there are many of these adapters because "everyone" wants a fisheye lens.  They first thing people ask me is "Is that a fisheye?" and I want to reply "No, it's a camera lens."  I'm usually the only one who actually has one, although I've seen one person with a Rokinon/Samyang fisheye lens.  At US$299, they're a popular manual lens but US$35 is much more affordable to someone who is more concerned with buying equipment to ride.

 This last week, I was looking at some suggestions provided by and there was a converter.  I clicked on the link and started thinking.

I ended up buying a 2.2x teleconverter for 58mm threads for two lenses and a 0.42x wide angle/macro converter that separates and apparently has internal threads to work with several different sizes of filter adapters.  The combined converter requires 46mm threads, which works with two (Leica/Panasonic 15mm f/1.7 and Panasonic 25mm f/1.7) lenses I have and you can use the the macro part by itself.

While I was playing with the bits and pieces, I got the Olympus teleconverter for comparison.  It uses 52mm threads and I have a Four-Thirds macro lens that it fits.  The sad thing is that I've had the Olympus teleconverter since about 2000 and the 50mm macro lens since 2005.  I could have used the combination for a while.  However the 50mm f/2.0 macro lens is my least-used lens ever.  Even after I bought the extension tube for it, I didn't use it much.  The auto focus for it is miserable (not surprising for a macro lens) and the extension tube makes it even more difficult to gain a focus lock.  It seems to work better through the adapter to be used on micro Four-Thirds Panasonic bodies.  Using the teleconverter on the lens will give it a 95mm focal length.

Olympus 1.9x teleconverter, Neewer 0.42x wide/macro, Altura 2.2x teleconverter

The 2.2x teleconverter is Altura brand, if that matters.  I would imagine that it's a generic product that is sold under a number of brand names.  It generally seems a magnifying glass with some blue fringing.  There is a definite rattle, as though the lens elements are loose.  It has a similar look to Canon products.  You can use 72mm filters.  For US$30, it's not bad.  It should be interesting to see how it works on two of my expensive micro Four-Thirds lenses, the Panasonic 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100mm f/2.8.  It will also work on the K-50's kit lens, probably on any APS-C dSLR's kit lens.  The 12-35mm will be equivalent to 26.4-77mm and the 35-100mm lens will be 77-220mm.

The 0.42x wide angle/macro adapter is Neewer brand.  It seems well made, especially for US$20.  There are no loose lens elements, thankfully.  Looking through it, there doesn't seem to be any color fringing.  There is a fisheye effect, and the macro bit by itself works at a very, very close distance, similar to the Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 with the 25mm extension tube.  It works well with the 25mm f/1.7 lens, but doesn't fill the frame with the 15mm f/1.7, similar to the fisheye adapters I see so often.  The 15mm should be equivalent to 6.3mm and the 25mm should be equivalent to 10.5mm.  (Phase One Capture One Pro is reporting the focal length as 15mm, which would make the adapter 0.6x, wouldn't it?)  Since the 25mm lens works well with the adapter, it should be interesting to see if it can provide good enough image quality to be an substitute ultra wide lens.  It would only be slightly less wide than the Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens that I already have.

Normal lens with 0.42x wide converter

Normal, Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 lens

Panorama from GX8 with 25mm, wide converter

Update 2015.12.27: The company behind the Altura brand teleconverter sent me an e-mail late Christmas Day, hoping for good feedback.  I sent a reply within two hours, only to get an automated reply stating that they weren't open.  Today, I got a reply that they are preparing a replacement.  I replied to ask them to shake the thing to see if it would rattle.  Surely, they would take precautions to not waste money.

Update 2015.12.31: Three days ago, I went to San Francisco.  I tried being the tourist and went to as many less than typical locations as possible.  I attached the wide/macro converter to the Panasonic normal lens and only removed it once, just to get a comparison photo.

It did okay, and considering that it was US$20, it was amazing.  There is a little fisheye distortion, but the colors are definitely distorted where straight lines become curved lines.  I could have pulled out the fisheye lens, if I wanted good color and real fisheye distortion, but that isn't the point.  We know what expensive lenses will get us.

I will continue to update as I try the other converters, and hopefully, as it becomes warmer.

Update 2016.01.01: Got the replacement teleconverter.  I'm confused as to when there was mail delivery on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day.

The replacement makes less of a rattle, thankfully, but it isn't gone completely.  Given the price point, I can't really complain, but the wide/macro adapter is quite tight.  As we're having some extra cold days, I'm not out much.  Sunny California isn't always having summer weather.  I'd trade 37 degrees F for 37 degrees C any day.  I miss living in Central Florida where 50 degrees F was the minimum for a typical winter day.

Update 2016.01.18: Tried the 2.2x teleconverter with two of Panasonic's finest lenses for micro Four-Thirds: 35-100mm f/2.8 and 12-35mm f/2.8, even though I knew the latter wouldn't be suitable.

35mm without 2.2x converter

35mm with 2.2x converter

100mm without 2.2x converter

100mm with 2.2x converter

12mm with 2.2x converter
In a pinch, I could live with the results versus not getting the detail at all when I didn't have the appropriate lens with me.  Obviously, there are serious problems but the teleconverter works, as did the wide/macro converter.  I see plenty of equipment like this at skate parks and people have to decide what their goal is and how much they can spend.

Getting a 220mm lens for micro Four-Thirds isn't easy.  I have my Four-Thirds Olympus ZD 50-200mm f2.8-3.5, which is an excellent lens, but it is now a lot to carry and my bag has to be reconfigured to hold it, unless I want to carry a bag of dSLR equipment also.  I'm not exactly sure whether I should trust the MMF-3 adapter with much weight.  It doesn't seem that strong.

I don't plan to buy the Panasonic/Leica 100-400mm f/4.0-5.6 lens that has been announced as I don't shoot much in telephoto range these days.

Update 2016.05.15: The other day I tried the Olympus 1.9x teleconverter for the IS-series, along with the ZD 50mm f/2.0 lens.  It seemed to do an excellent job with zero drawbacks.

Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 + 1.9x teleconverter

Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0

Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 + 1.9x teleconverter

Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0

Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0 + 1.9x teleconverter

Olympus ZD 50mm f/2.0

Saturday, December 26, 2015

I'm really beginning to hate Apple and their Mac App Store

I've been an Apple Macintosh user since 1993.  I'd been using various Atari computers and played with a IBM L40SX laptop computer for about two years when the PS/2 mouse port died.  At that point, the US$6000 laptop computer that I bought for roughly $1500 was too expensive to repair and the contract required a solution.  They gave me $1000 and asked me to give them the computer.  I agreed.  Windows 3.1 had been a royal pain and DOS, more of a pain.

I eagerly went to OfficeMax and bought a Mac Performa something or other.  In any case, it's been a long time and several machines.

Before the PowerPC years, they were stuck because Motorola couldn't deliver a more powerful processor than the 68040.  The System 7 operating system because Mac OS 8 after they couldn't figure out what they were doing and scrapped the real Mac OS 8.  Mac OS 8.5 was a substantial difference, as were 9.0, 9.1, and 9.2.  Unfortunately, the MultiFinder architecture for cooperative multi-tasking was ancient.  Steve Jobs' return with NeXTStep made a difference.  Thanks go to Ellen Hancock.

It has been a horribly bumpy road and as Mac OS X hit 10.3.4, it became good enough to forget dual-booting into Mac OS 9.2.2 forever.  Unfortunately, 10.4.10 was probably the last full quality release.  Sadly, Windows of the time wasn't good and Linux was only usable by people who enjoyed frustration.

As of Mac OS X 10.7, Apple started to bring the frustration and Windows 7 started to bring ease-of-use.  The whole Mac App Store and downloading the operating system was messed up and still is.  It's amazing how I can download system software smoothly but the applications from the Mac App Store are usually problematic in downloads.  Apple doesn't test for real life, apparently.  When I had contacted the Mac App Store support, it was a problem with two or three applications, with other applications working fine in the downloads between the problematic ones.  I was told that whatever problems I was having was my problem, not theirs.

My latest mid-2012 MacBook Pro is working on 10.9.5, even though it started on 10.7.  It wasn't easy to get there.  I was going to drop off my machine at the Apple Store to be updated to 10.10.5 but I waited a bit too long and they removed the option.

Unfortunately, all this mess with the Mac App Store has left me in a mess that I found today.  I can't open my spreadsheet files that the current version of Numbers has been updating.  Somehow, the files were somehow upgraded to a newer version than what I have, in a failed download from the Mac App Store just after I updated to 10.9.5.

I was trying to update my spreadsheet with serial numbers.  Now, I only have a .pdf version of it.  As well, my Pages files complained but they worked.

Now, I have a machine I don't trust much.  I'm wondering if anything else has gone wrong.  Thankfully (and hopefully), I'm limited to Apple's applications and their ridiculous application store.

Given that I recently picked up a Windows 10 machine, I'm thinking that Apple could lose my business.  I'm betting that Corel wants my money for office software, as well as, creative software.  Phase One already has Windows versions and besides, the newest version for Mac doesn't run on anything but the latest 10.11.x operating system.  I think my Apple Care plan has been finished, so I don't have any easy way to upgrade the operating system.

I'm not saying that the US$750 machine could replace my US$2300 machine for speed but functionality probably isn't a problem.

I never thought that I would say that any version of Windows was smoother than Mac OS X but it's pretty much the truth.  Windows 7 proved that Microsoft could make Windows get out of the way when you just wanted to work.  It wasn't foolproof but it was much better than all of the previous versions.

Windows 10 seems to greatly improve on that.  The Windows App Store works brilliantly well.  Being able to use touch-enabled displays is interesting and it works but it doesn't seem great yet.  Folding the laptop computer into different shapes works well enough, but it doesn't automatically switch enough automagically.  They'll probably get there.  They want the desktop back.  I might be willing after all these years.

Update 2015.12.30: I was trying to download Evernote several times--at least, 6, from the Purchases pages, since it wouldn't work from the Update page and I noticed a problem with Numbers--from last year after my computer was updated to 10.9.5.  It never completed while inside of the Apple Store on their network.

Having been at the car dealership for service today, I used their network, which isn't any faster than my mobile hotspot to update everything but it worked.  I know that I shouldn't trust open networks, but it worked, rather than my safe mobile hotspot.  I can access my spreadsheets again.  Apple needs to test in real-life situations, not just the best, easiest situations.

There are several versions of the iWork applications since then, and they show up in Incompatible Updates, along with the latest version (4.0.0) of Twitter.  How is it that they could be incompatible when they shouldn't be tied so closely to the operating system?  I'm remembering how Microsoft Office was using hidden APIs to make it faster than the competition and yet, the DoJ under George W Bush ignored this kind of thing and wanted to watch their accounting practices instead.

Apple seems to be just as back-handed some days.  Why should Safari updates require a restart when Chrome and Firefox updates don't.

In any case, the road is smoother but it will become bumpy again, I'm sure.

Update 2016.01.27: Since upgrading to 10.11.3, the Mac App Store seems somewhat better.  I'll wait to see how it handles non-Apple applications before saying that it's running smoothly, but I have hopes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 for Nikon D7200, with samples

Since July 5th I've had the Nikon D7200 and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 and it's been okay but it sits a lot.  That doesn't sound quite right, does it?

For 2015, the D7200 is slightly better than adequate.  I chose it over the D5500 for two reasons:

  • 1/8000th of a second maximum shutter speed
  • weather-sealed body

My reason for choosing a camera body with APS-C sized sensor is that I wanted an easier ability to take wide-angle photos.  The sensor is different enough from micro Four-Thirds sensors that it should help when I need a landscape.  Unfortunately, the Sigma 18-35mm isn't very wide, an effective 135 Format range of 27-52.5mm.

Given that Olympus recently introduced the 7-14mm f/2.8 lens, I considered it for my Olympus and Panasonic bodies.  That would give an effective 135 Format range of 14-28mm.  It is plenty wide and fast enough until twilight with the E-M1's inbuilt image stabilization.

The only problem is the US$1299.99 cost.  I could buy the lens, but it's a niche lens for me.  The 12-40mm f/2.8 lens from Olympus or 12-35mm f/2.35 lens from Panasonic is what I usually use.  I photograph at skate parks regularly, and I rarely do a landscape.

I've been looking at a few wide lenses for the Nikon, after all, the sensor helps, and getting lenses that don't have to be extremely wide might lessen the cost.

It seemed as the Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 was a very good choice, even though the range is extremely limited.  An effective 135 Format range of 16.5-24mm is useful, but it makes the lens rather a special purpose lens, don't you think?

At US$359.00 (US$120 off), it didn't take much prodding to get me to buy it.  It's obviously not weather-sealed but like the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8, that might be okay if the image quality is better than good.  It's not likely that I'm going to do rainy landscapes.  If that was important to me, I'd have saved going to Nikon and just bought the Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 ultra wide angle lens.

In any case, I'm waiting for the package to arrive.

2015.12.17: Got the package at a little before 2 p.m. and I unpacked the lens, re-packed my backpack, and headed out the door.  I went to a point in the foothills above the San Francisco Bay Area near Fremont to get some photos.  Haven't had a chance to copy anything to the computer yet.  Should update with samples soon.

Lens works smoothly.  Manual focus is actuated by pulling the focus ring toward the camera body, just like my Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 lens.  That's so easy to remember that I didn't think about it.

Manual Focus engaged with the focus ring back

Auto Focus engaged with the focus ring forward

Lens has a 77mm filter size, which is slightly larger than the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 (72mm filter) but the lens doesn't seem huge at all.  I suspect having a focal length range of only 5mm has a lot to do with that.  Once again, I bought the D7200 because of the wide angle possibilities that were more difficult with micro Four-Thirds.

All my 77mm filter sized lenses

Tokina at 11mm f/9.0

Tokina at 16mm f/9.0

Tokina at 11mm f/9.0

Tokina at 11mm f/9.0

Tokina at 16mm f/4.0
Sigma at 18mm f/9.0

Sigma at 18mm f/9.0

Sigma at 18mm f/9.0

Sigma at 19mm f/9.0
Sigma 18-35mm and Tokina 11-16mm

I used the Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye as a reference to the wide end.  It has a 135 Format equivalent focal length of 16mm while the wide end of the Tokina is roughly 16.5mm.  The D7200 photos were taken at DX crop (rather than 1.3x, which would have given the D7200 a focal length multiplier like the Olympus E-M1 that was also used) and at 14-bit depth for better dynamic range.  D-Lighting was not used.

Olympus 8mm at f/6.3

Olympus 8mm at f/9.0
Olympus 8mm fisheye and Tokina 11-16mm

All of the lenses used provided good flare resistance with the sun in frame but were not perfect.  Obviously, the lens hoods weren't of much use when the lenses were directly pointed toward the sun.  The raw files of the photos were imported into Phase One Capture One Pro 8, without any further adjustment and output at 25% of the original size.

Update 2015.12.18: In two years, the lens must have changed a bit.  Lens Tip seems to agree with my opinion more often than not, but this review seems to say that the 11-16mm is a bit more problematic than I have seen.  Oh, looking at Tokina's page on the lens fixed everything.  The Nikon got a focusing motor for all those low-end bodies (D40, D60, etc.) that didn't have a focusing motor in the body.  The lens for Canon didn't get any update, so it apparently still has the old style motor that is noisy.

To me, every lens should have a focusing motor instead of depending on the camera body having it.  Then again, I don't want to use 30 year old lenses.  I want to use lenses with modern optics and coatings.  That's another reason I chose Olympus' Four-Thirds system in 2004.

Update 2016.01.24: Shots from the Tokina 11-16mm from the other day at a different location.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Bose CineMate 120 sound bar and subwoofer

Ever since I was moving to California, I was getting rid of my 900+ watt, 7.1 audio system, and thinking about what I could get for an apartment.  I was banging my head against the wall because there are so many products that aren't much more than TV-quality sound.  Why pay an extra US$200-$300 for equally bad sound?

Then again, you could get high end sound bars for over US$2000.  Yamaha had some great choices that were somewhat economical, and I have been a Yamaha amplifier/receiver user since 1977.  I didn't like their consumer-oriented speakers because they were too flat (in sound) for homes.  Japanese homes are more sparse and probably won't absorb the sound so well.

I had a demonstration of Bose's CineMate 1SR, and I was positively surprised.  Years ago, I was asked to go to a presentation of the Acoustimass surround system before most people had seen them.  They were awful, and I was a Bose 901 Series VI user at the time, and I couldn't imagine why they would bother.  However, there are 400 sq. ft. apartments and people needed an audio system that would fit.

I'm not sure that there is a full Acoustimass system these days, but I didn't want one.

While I found the CineMate 1SR good, the main speaker was too big.  That's the same problem I have with the Yamaha YSP-series.  Bose had the CineMate 10, then the 15, and they didn't seem enough.  Then, they introduced a replacement for the 1SR with the CineMate 130 and introduced a smaller version, the CineMate 120.

The CineMate 120 has 4 HDMI inputs, which helps a lot.  My LG 4K TV has three general purpose HDMI inputs, and the fourth for portable MHL-compatible devices.

At US$799.99, it wasn't a difficult choice.  It was replaced a while back with the SoundTouch 120.  I couldn't see a difference, except that the latter comes with a wireless module.  The Best Buy location was selling the current item for a sale price of US$999.99, which seems a lot for a ~US$50.00 wireless module.  (I looked at a lot of other brands that are owned by Harman International--Jamo, JBL, etc. which were being sold around US$599.99 and they didn't please me.  I certainly didn't want to spend US$399.99 for sound that was barely different than that of the TV itself.)

Setup wasn't difficult but confusing.  For a product that sold for US$1199.99 and has a full HDMI switcher, it is annoying that they don't have an On Screen Display for setup.  The TV kept telling me that there was no signal, and there was no audio, so I thought that the product was defective.  However, I turned on the Sony Blu-Ray player and the TV told me that it was available, even though it was no longer directly connected but there was nothing connected to the HDMI port that it specified.

The physical setup is simple--even a company executive could do it without his assistants.  The speakers have distinctive, unique connectors that cannot be inserted into the wrong ports.  The subwoofer is wireless, unless there is a problem--there is a wired connection that is not included but the ports are there.

Looking at the little, one line display on the front of the console is annoying when I have a 4K TV that they could be using.  After all, they're passing input from various TV-compatible products.

Thankfully, there wasn't much to do with it but if I want to change the bass level, I have to look at the tiny display.

The AdaptIQ (Bose uses all uppercase letters but they pronounce it more like this) setup was automated, for 5 sitting locations.  I felt like an idiot wearing a sort of headset that wouldn't stay well, but it includes a microphone (or two) to check where you sit, and calculate the audio trajectories.  Having used Direct/Reflecting speakers from Bose (the 901 Series VI and 601 Series IV), I've been more concerned with experience than sheer numbers.  For those who live and die by numbers, you're missing something.  As an example, it's like when a 4 cylinder-powered Lotus vehicle could cross the country much faster than an 8 cylinder-powered Corvette simply because the Lotus car didn't waste as much time re-fueling.  It's not the end-all-be-all for everyone.  If I wasn't living in an apartment, I probably wouldn't be using it.

After everything was set, it sounds great and the video looks great.

Even at a very low volume I'm able to understand much better than hearing the same from the TV itself at any volume.

Update 2015.12.09: I'm pleased with the system.  Sound from every point where I have been in the trouble is good.  Whether it could be considered excellent or not is up to your ears.  My previous 900+ watt 7.1 system with 5 speakers was amazing at most louder volumes.  This system is very clear at lower volume, and the subwoofer definitely brings more emotional impact.  The center "speaker" is very good at delivering speech.

I tested a 3D movie tonight and that worked fine.  I'm not really sure about the 4K upscaling making it through the console.  Color actually looks better than it had been, possibly because it's going through the ARC-capable HDMI port.

I set up my Sony Blu-Ray and 4th generation Apple TV to work with the Bose remote and that seemed to go just fine.  The latest DirecTV Genie remote is not compatible with anything else, unfortunately.

Update 2015.12.16: I've lowered the volume of the subwoofer significantly to be a good neighbor.  The subwoofer is strangely, unexpectedly powerful.  Remembering the original Acoustimass demo, I didn't think any of it was good, but that was around 25 years ago, if I remember correctly.  They've apparently researched port shape very carefully and made things work well.

Update 2016.02.19: There have been minor issues.

When starting, it sometimes has a huge echo.  It seems as though it has a stadium mode, that is otherwise inaccessible.  Having had Yamaha DSP-capable equipment, I would like to enable various soundfields.

It sometimes does not see the Blu-Ray or DirecTV box.  Other times, it does seem to connect to the TV, leaving the TV to tell me that there is no input signal.  Powering off and on again is useful.

Considering the price compared to discrete components and speakers, the performance is reasonable, including the quirks.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Nikon has bought (a license to) Samsung's NX technology?

This is a strange rumor, which could explain Samsung's quick exit from several markets.

After years of producing half-baked, mediocre photographic equipment, Samsung has produced desirable equipment, precisely, the NX1.

It has a 28 MP sensor, which is a new density for APS-C, which has been held to 24 MP for a while, equivalent to the 16 MP for (micro) Four-Thirds.  Apparently, the image quality has been impressive and the video is equally impressive, using H.265, rather than H.264.

I don't care for Samsung.  For years, they have produced products that were not complete.  They left buggy firmware in place while introducing products to replace those unfinished products.  This NX1 wasn't so different.  They introduced the body in almost a beta test state.  Almost daily, they were providing firmware updates and now, it's very, very good--desirable.

Unfortunately, the rest of the NX-system is not worthy, which is why this rumor is so interesting.

Obviously, Nikon has a great APS-C presence in the industry.  I even bought a D7200 recently.  What if the emotional successor to the D300 could be based on the technology of the NX1?  I keep seeing the D400 pop up in rumors but no body.

If Nikon called for third parties to supply lenses for APS-C mirror-less bodies, they could certainly move the market more than FujiFilm, even though FujiFilm is very dedicated.  Sony barely has had an impact and Samsung seemed to drag down the market.

What would be even more interesting is a 135 Format/FX sized sensor based on Samsung's technology.  Could the D810 suddenly be supplanted?  Could Sony be removed as a sensor supplier to Nikon?

I wonder if the sensor technology is a one-hit-wonder type of success.  If it moves Nikon into the mirror-less market, it could really change the market and scare the stuffing out of Canon.

Update 2015.12.04: The denial from Samsung tends to dismiss a full sale but seems to suggest that a cooperative use of the technology is possible.  I still don't believe that Samsung's NX mount would be used, even though this would provide a few lenses.  It is more likely that Nikon would want to create a mount, so that they can control everything about it.  Obviously, if they're interesting in APS-C, they've run out of room between CX and DX but they're likely more interested in pushing Sony out of the market than handling the markets of micro Four-Thirds or FujiFilm.

I'm thinking that this move is similar to the move where Apple meant to split their relationship with Samsung, as they didn't trust Samsung not to use their processor design enhancements and went to TSMC for manufacturing.

2015.12.13: You have to wonder if the D610 could be the first to be replaced and there is no D300/D300s replacement at all, but a Sony A7 Mk II-type 135 Format body.

Got the Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 for US$99.00

Recently, Adorama and others had offered the Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 lens at a huge US$150.00 discount.  This is a lens that is priced at US$249.00 normally, which is already US$100 cheaper than the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 lens and quite a bit cheaper than the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f/1.4 lens and less than 25% of the Four-Thirds Leica-designed 25mm f/1.4 lens.  The box is about the same size as that Four-Thirds 25mm f/1.4 lens.
25mm f/1.7 box with Four-Thirds 25mm f/1.4

25mm f/1.7 is much smaller than Four-Thirds 25mm f/1.4

Curiously, there is a decoration ring included, somewhat like the Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7 lens.  Unlike that lens, there is only one front lens cap, but you must remove the decoration ring to use the lens hood.  The lens hood is reversible, so you can store it on the lens.  The build is typically plastic but it doesn't feel so cheap.  The metal mount is a good thing.

I first mounted the lens to my Olympus E-M1 with firmware version 4.0 and it didn't seem happy with the lens.  It was slow to focus and take a shot, not so different from the way the Panasonic 35-100mm f/2.8 lens works on the E-M1.  The 10 frames per second burst mode seems more like 3 fps with each lens.

Mounting it to the Panasonic GX8, it seems quick and fully functional.

I need to get it outside to determine color and sharpness but I hope it's better than a US$99.00 lens should be, even though I don't expect a lot.  At this price, it's fine.  I wonder if I would have been happy with it at US$249.00.

If I need a sharper 25mm lens, I can use my Four-Thirds Leica/Panasonic lens, which is amazing any day.  Using the adapter, it is possibly faster on the E-M1 than it is on the Olympus E-5, which is not always the case with many of my Four-Thirds lenses on the E-M1.

The Panasonic 25mm f/1.7 and Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4
Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7 and Leica/Panasonic 25mm f/1.4

Update 2015.12.04: My first outdoor experience using the lens was at a skate park after dark.  While the skate park has lights and seems to be well lit, the camera doesn't see it that way.

Looking closely, barely any of this is in focus

I used the Panasonic/Leica 15mm f/1.7 for quite a while and it seemed fine.  We went to eat and on return, I took the 25mm f/1.7 and mounted it to the GX8.  It was responsive but practically nothing was in focus.  Without using it side-by-side with the 15mm f/1.7, I'll guess that the extra darkness played with the ability to focus, even though the GX8's AF works down to EV -4.  I took a couple of very still (no movement whatsoever) shots at the end and was disappointed.  Time will tell.  (Using it on the GX8 might not be fair since it's so new also but the GX8 is much better with other lenses.)

Update 2015.12.05: Using the lens on the Olympus E-M1 gave quite different results but this is, naturally, inconclusive.  More experience is necessary to see how the lens behaves.

100% magnification of the lamp

It looks good enough, very different from the previous evening at about the same time.  As I try it more, I hope it will justify its purchase.

Available light only, it did quite well

Update 2015.12.10: I got more photos out in the dark on the 6th and it seemed okay.  Everything was handheld with the Olympus E-M1.  I need to try it again with the Panasonic GX8 and for the first time with the GH4--without any image stabilization to see the results.

I've noticed something odd.  This is the only lens I've used with Phase One Capture One Pro that doesn't always report its characteristics such as focal length.

Update 2016.01.02: I used the lens with a wide angle/macro converter and it worked well enough.  Capture One Pro reported the combination as 15mm, which is an easy, inexpensive way to get a bit of a wide angle, if you're willing to put up with somewhat significant distortion.

25mm and wide angle converter

25mm f/1.7 by itself

GX8 panorama with 25mm and wide angle converter

For people who like tiny photographic equipment, it should be good with Olympus' 5-axis image stabilization.  The GX8's inbuilt image stabilization doesn't seem quite ready but I have steady hands.  I'm not sure why, but the IS indicator showed that there was no IS with the 25mm f/1.7.  (Yes, I know that the 25mm f/1.7 lens has no OIS.)  As with the lack of information in Capture One Pro, it seems as though the 25mm lens may need a firmware update or two.

25mm f/1.7 on GX8

Olympus 8mm f/1.8 fisheye on E-M1

Update 2016.02.17: I was surprised at how well the lens did yesterday during sunset.  I mounted the 25mm on the GX8 and also used the Olympus E-M1 with the 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens.  If there was any lens flare, the GX8 must have extinguished it in firmware.

Update 2016.07.04: I was waiting for someone, and walking around a little town taking a few photos with the 25mm f/1.7 and Panasonic GM5.  It seemed okay but not quite as resistant to some ugly results.

Update 2016.07.30: I keep finding odd situations where the 25mm just will not focus properly with Panasonic bodies--I have three of them.  It still seems fine with the E-M1.  I'm not sure why the GX8, GM5, or GH4 would have problems with it.  It seems less of a problem with the GH4.  Could this be shutter shock, not a focusing problem when everything looks steady?

Update 2016.09.29: The new Olympus 25mm f/1.2 has been announced.  There are arguments all over the place, from the usual "it's an f/2.4 lens" to "it's too big and expensive for micro Four-Thirds.

Having the Leica-designed Four-Thirds f/1.4 lens, I don't feel much of a need.  It would be great to have a weather-resistant lens but it's not imperative to have, unless California's drought goes away soon.

There is a Panasonic/Leica 12mm f/1.4 that is weather-resistant and seems to fill a need for a wider lens.  At US$1299.99 (US$100 more than the 25mm f/1.2), it's somewhat expensive but fills a need for someone who can't use a zoom lens at night because of the f/2.8 maximum aperture.

For most micro Four-Thirds users, it seems as though economical lenses make sense.  In my case, I've spent my money on fixed maximum aperture zoom lenses with an exception here or there.  They do a good job, until sunset passes.  The few fixed focal length lenses I have sometimes help but in sports, I find them too inflexible, as I just can't get closer to the scene.

Anyway, there are so many native 25mm lenses available for micro Four-Thirds that anyone should be happy.  Add to those a few with a passive mount and you're set for normal view shooting.