October 8th, 2014

New Lens Correction Software Takes Aim at Expensive Lenses with Math

piccure_canon

The German software company Piccure+ is not one to mince words. Calling the prevailing lens making model “ignorant” the company has released lens correction software that it claims can correct lens defects without building a huge bank of profiles. The upshot, they claim, is that you can use inexpensive lenses and still create high quality images that look as if they were snapped through more expensive glass.

Piccure+ uses complex mathematical models to create a point-spread function for each image before applying a deconvolution to correct defects — much like the approach NASA took to fixing the Hubble Telescope’s optics. Among the virtues of this approach is that it can correct what lens profiles can’t, namely deviations in lens manufacturing.

Rather than work off what it thinks is wrong with the lens, Piccure+ tackles the optical defects directly in the RAW image file itself. (The software can also work with JPEG images but the company claims that the already-compressed JPEG files won’t benefit as much from its algorithmic massaging.) This means that it can also correct distortions and aberrations on images without EXIF data and for lenses that don’t have profiles in competitive software like Adobe’s Camera RAW.

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In a blog post announcing the software’s release, the company ambitiously called for a rethink of the entire lens manufacturing paradigm. Rather than invest money in building flawless lenses, the company is arguing that much of the heavy lifting can be done in software. Specifically, their software (of course). Photographers would then be liberated to use less expensive zoom lenses while lens makers could focus on driving their own costs down by relenting on quality control — an argument we have trouble believing is going to find much traction among lens manufacturers.

We’ve just started playing with the software, which you can kick around for free for 14 days. From our initial impressions, it’s clearly easy to use, with a minimalist interface with sliders for optical aberration, sharpness and denoising. However both previewing and processing images on our 2.6GHz dual-core Mac (16GB of RAM) took a fair amount of time (evidently our Mac likes doing complicated math about as much as we do). You can save settings to make your workflow go a bit faster when working in a similar batch of images or you can tell the program (via a slider) to prioritize speed over quality.

Piccure+ will cost $109 and can work as a plugin for Lightroom or as a standalone application.

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Nikon D610; 1/320 @ f/7.1 with 24-84mm Nikkor lens. Original image on left.

September 16th, 2014

Photokina 2014: Zeiss Offers New Leica M Lens

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Fast on the heels of Leica’s slew of camera unveilings, Zeiss has introduced a new prime lens for Leica M rangefinder cameras at Photokina 2014.

The Distagon T* f1/.4 35 ZM offers a 35mm focal length promising to perfectly match the view from the M’s optical viewfinder. The lens uses Zeiss’ T* coating to reduce flare and features 10 aperture blades.

The aperture can be adjusted in 1/3 increments via a ring on the lens. There’s also a focus ring on the lens’ all-metal barrel.

Zeiss says the lens will be due out before the end of the year for $2,290.

August 27th, 2013

Ricoh Introduces Prime Lenses and Weather-Sealed Flashes for Pentax Cameras

Ricoh Imaging Americas Corporation (the company formerly known as Pentax Ricoh) just announced five new prime lenses and two new weather-sealed flash units for Pentax DSLR Cameras.

Five New Prime Lenses

HD Pentax DA 70mm lens

HD Pentax DA 70mm lens

The K-mount, HD Pentax DA Limited series lenses include a 15mm f/4 ED AL, 21mm f/3.2 AL, 35mm f/2.8 macro, 50mm f/2.8 and a 70mm f/2.4. Lens barrels, hoods and caps are constructed of high-grade aluminum and the glass is treated with an HD coating to help reduce flare and ghosting. (That little red anodized marking on the front of the focus ring indicates the lens is treated with the HD coating.) Additionally, each lens is designed with a rounded diaphragm to optimize bokeh. All lenses will be available in silver or black in September.

 

 

Prices:

  • 40mm f/2.8: $550
  • 15mm f/4: $700
  • 21mm f/3.2: $700
  • 35mm f/2.8 macro: $750
  • 70mm f/2.4: $750

Two New Weather-Sealed Flashes

RESIZED Flash_backside_image

Ricoh imaging also introduced two flash units for Pentax interchangeable lens cameras: the AF540F GZ II and the AF360F GZ II. Like the Pentax medium format 645D and some Pentax DSLRs, the flash units are weather-sealed. With the addition of an LED, the flash units can produce a constant source of light for video and stills. The LED can also be used to produce catchlights and as an AF assist light (with updated firmware on the 645D as well as most K-series DSLRs). Nine custom flash functions, wireless flash and a host of other features are available on both flashes. Powered by four AA batteries, the flash units will ship in September.

Prices:

  • AF360F GZ II: $430
  • AF540F GZ II: $630

http://www.us.ricoh-imaging.com