Sea of Branches

This is the first real image made with my digital view camera setup. Just went out to get familiar with the camera, do image quality evaluations and some stitching tests. But during one of those stitching tests the left side of a tree captured my imagination.

Sea of Branches

Shot with the Cambo Actus-G, Rodenstock HR Digaron-S 100mm f/4 and Canon EOS 5DS R. A little front tilt, 15mm back fall and a few millimeters of shift to the left was used. The elegance of movements still blow my mind. Focusing was done in Kuuvik Capture.

A few words about the aforementioned stitching test. If you ever dreamed about extremely high resolution images that are pin sharp from corner to corner, this rig can easily deliver wonderful 100+ megapixel files.

Kuuvik Capture 3.1 Released

Version 3.1 of my Kuuvik Capture tethering app is available on the Mac App Store. Along the usual addition of new cameras (the 77D / 9000D and 800D / Rebel T7i / Kiss X9i this time), this version brings support for movie recording on the 6D and 80D, and extends multi-point live view support to the 80D.

But there’s one more thing. Well, actually two.

The Preferences window is now tabbed to make it smaller vertically. This is needed to fit it on smaller screens (such as the 12″ MacBook).

And the app has a new function, with an accompanying preference. Synchronize date/time with the Mac will set the date, the time, and the time zone (on cameras that can handle it) of the camera to match your Mac’s each time a connection to Kuuvik Capture is made. If you were fed up with Canon’s awkward time zone naming (the same city name could refer to different time zones on different cameras), this is a remedy. The synchronization process also sets the daylight saving time flag, so there’s no need to fiddle with your cameras at the beginning and the end of daylight savings periods – just connect them to Kuuvik Capture.

The complete list of new features, changes and fixes is available in the release notes.

Version 3.1 is a free update for existing Kuuvik Capture 2.x and 3.0 users. New users can purchase the app for 84.99 USD/EUR from the Mac App Store.

My book, Kuuvik Capture Inside Out, was also updated to reflect the new features.

So, while you are downloading and trying out time synchronization, it’s time for me to open that bottle of Laphroaig Select waiting on my coffee table. Slàinte!

Rodenstock HR Digaron-S 100/4 + 5DS R Crops

If you were wondering what kind of performance the Rodenstock HR Digaron-S 100mm f/4 lens is capable of with the Canon EOS 5DS R, here are two 100% (actual pixels) crops from my test shoots for your pixel peeping pleasure.

Click the image for 100% view on non-retina displays.

While the sRGB and JPG conversion kills some of the magic the files have, you can still see the stunning resolution and lovely rendering. Both files are straight out of Capture One 10. The lens is in the same league with my high-resolution Zeisses (28 and 55 Otuses, and 135 Apo Sonnar).

Click the image for 100% view on non-retina displays.

Aperture for both shots was somewhere between f/5.6 and f/7.1. The lens and the 5DS R were mounted to my Cambo Actus-G view camera. Focusing and capture was done in Kuuvik Capture.

These crops are from the 5-10mm vicinity of the image center, but you get the same quality to the edge of the 70mm advertised image circle.

The 70mm image circle allows for 15mm shift along the longer image side and 18mm along the shorter. There’s a 12mm-ish practical shifting limitation along the shorter image side with Canon DSLRs, however (more on this in a later post).

You can shift all the way to 22mm the Actus is capable of along the longer side – going well out of the advertised image circle. But you’ll start to lose edge/corner sharpness past 17-18mm. To put it in perspective: with 22mm horizontal shift the corners are comparable to what you get at 12mm shift with the Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II. Impressive. Think about 150-180 megapixel stitches with this shifting potential.

The Digital View Camera Adventure Has Begun

I have been closely following the advancements of the technical camera marketplace for quite a few years. This is partly because of the connections I made in the industry thanks to my Mark II Artist’s Viewfinder app, and partly because of my personal interest in the topic. It’s easy to judge how much camera movements fascinate me from the sheer number of view camera books on my shelf.

Despite these, I only ventured into the world of perspective control as far as using tilt/shift lenses. Why? Cost, bulk and general immatureness of digital view camera solutions were the main factors. But recently a few products worth considering emerged, Cambo’s Actus family being my favorite.

Before anyone asks, “pancake” cameras are not my cup of tea. I prefer “monorail” cameras. My view camera must use the 5DS R as the recording device – I give medium format digital backs a few more years to evolve.

I have been thinking about buying an Actus for a while, but was hesitant because it lacked a few important features (geared shift for example). While the Actus-DB2 is spot-on, it’s digital back only (you know, the few more years to evolve).

Then I got a newsletter showing off the new Actus-GFX. It was almost perfect, so I immediately emailed Cambo asking if it’s possible to get the “almost” part out of the picture: build a customized Actus-GFX for me. The answer was a resounding yes, and within a week my camera began to took shape.

My one-lens wonder: custom Cambo Actus-G + Rodenstock HR Digaron-S 100mm f/4 + Canon EOS 5DS R.

The camera shown above has an Actus-G base – a special version of the GFX without the Fuji G mount. The monorail is borrowed from the Actus-DB2 – because it’s 22mm longer than the G’s. The AC-78E bayonet holder holds a Canon EF bayonet. When the time of a digital back comes, I just have to add the rear standard and bellows from the DB2, other parts are exactly the same. I like future-proof systems.

One of my gripes with the original Actus was that back fall, portrait camera orientation and an L bracket attached to the camera didn’t play well together. In other words I would have to remove the L bracket or live with limited fall range. But the Actus-G, with its elevated standards, is a completely different story.

The L bracket and remote release fits even at maximum back fall.

The above quick iPhone grab shows the camera at maximum fall. Well, it’s 0.3mm shy of maximum, but practically that doesn’t matter. Even the cable release fits without issues. A right-angle USB cable is required for tethering, and of course you have to lift the camera to be able to rotate it.

Speaking of movements, the front standard has 10 degree down, 9 degree up tilt and full 360 degree swing. The rear standard’s horizontal shift is +/-21mm (the scale goes to 20). For some reason the rise/fall labels are reversed (maybe they refer to the equivalent front standard movements?), but that doesn’t change the fact that you can shift 15mm down and 12mm up.

And it leads us to one sorely missing feature on the Actus-G: a rise/fall indicator. There’s a scale, but there’s no position indicator. It’s easy to fix (by gluing a 0.5mm stainless steel lip to the up/down moving part – as I did), but Cambo seriously overlooked this. The Actus-DB2 has an indicator on the other hand. Hope it will be fixed with future revisions of the camera.

The rise/fall indicator modification up close.

Tilt/swing gears are self-locking, but rise/fall/shift/focus utilize rack-and-pinion gears and separate tension/lock screws (that you can see on the image above, for example).

Let’s briefly talk about the lens and that yellow cable, as I plan to dedicate entire posts to these topics.

I wanted to start out with just one lens, avoiding wasting a huge pile of money if the system turns out something I don’t like. I turned out to be love at first use – thanks to the camera itself as well as the stunning Rodenstock HR Digaron-S 100mm f/4 lens. According to the MTF charts, this is the best of the HR Digaron range, and I expected it to approach my Zeiss Otuses and Apo Sonnar 2/135. But I wasn’t prepared for something that surpasses the 2/135 (with which I did a direct comparison). Slightly better resolution, free of vignetting, and a very flat field (unlike the 2/135), and a large enough image circle for shifting and thus high stitching potential. Absolutely stunning. Rendering is a bit different from the Zeiss-look I love so much, but quite like it.

Another reason I chose the HR-S 100 is that it has a large enough focal flange distance and short rear element to work well with the deep EF mount. Lens compatibility is a huge topic, best discussed in a later post.

I shoot tethered most of the time, and the Actus is no exception. I will have to replace my TetherPro USB cable with the right-angle connector version, though. Placing the plane of focus with Kuuvik Capture‘s multi-point live view feature is a piece of cake. The feature was designed to help the focusing process of tilt/shift lenses and view cameras taking advantage of the Scheimpflug principle. I’m putting together a demonstration of the Actus/5DS R/multi-point live view combination, so stay tuned!