PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux

About Me

The main thing to know is that I rant periodically about photography, the means and the purpose of it.  Most of my waken thoughts go towards a particular ideal for photography that implies a painful journey to accomplishment and mastery.

Biographical trivia include a brief stint as a mechanical engineer, a couple of years spent as a university instructor, several more years as a software engineer and now I'm a parallel processor architect.

Picking leaves, testing a Distagon = Good times.  2012.

Apple picking, 2008.

Comments (48) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Hello,

    My name is Florin, from Romania. I found your web-site some weeks ago while searching on CUDA.

    First of all, I have to say that you have a great blog, based on criterias such as technical knowledge, reasoning and nice writing style. In fact your site changed my perception on bloging.

    Secondly, although I have a Nikon d40 for just a couple of months, I took the decision to buy it after some very carefull prospecting. Even so, your info on lenses presented some great interest.

    As a side note, I would have a question. Any reason for not going for the Leica 90mm Summicron-M&-R over Zeiss 2/100 Planar T? I think there are priced the same.

    Looking forward to see even more posting!

    Kind regards,

  2. Hi Florin,

    Thanks for the kind words.

    The D40 is a good camera to start with it. Lens choices for the D40 are a bit more limited though.

    As for the price of the Summicron and the Planar… it’s possible that you can find old versions of both lenses going for similar prices, but current versions aren’t priced the same. The 90mm APO Summicron-M/R ASPH is roughly twice as expensive as the 100mm Makro-Planar T* ZF, at around $3500 USD and $1700 USD respectively.

  3. Hello Olivier,

    How are you? I see you are enjoing the new D700 🙂 It seems a very fine body.

    I know you were thinking about a new 50mm prime, for all-around duties on the full-frame sensor. I am thinking about the same, but on the APS-C format (although I am not excluding a 30mm)

    Last week I had the chance to play with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D AF. It was a great experience switching from the zoom kit, and I was definitely sold to the virtues of primes. However, even if I thought that manual focus was OK for me, it is actually very difficult to focus with such a small viewfinder. Half the pictures were miss focused at f/1.4. The quality of the lens and the quality of the picture seemed very ok to me.

    Today I had the chance to compare the sigma 50mm f/1.4. First of all, this thing is huge on my d40. It’s just to the limit. Quite heavy but balances well. The build quality is just excellent, with a very nice rubberised plastic. The front element is huge, compare to the nikkor. In fact, everything is so massive that almost spoils the feeling had with the nikkor, of a non-intrusive camera. That feeling probably worshipped by the Leica users 🙂 The soft finish compensates a bit. The autofocus is very nervous, almost feeling like shaking the camera. But it seemed quite precise (far better than my zoom), and it really shined at large apertures, even at f/1.4. Although I shot with the nikkor and the sigma in the same place, I can’t comment on the image quality. The sigma is sharper at f/1.4 but the colour presence seems to be the same. If I had more time with both lenses probably some differneces would become obvious. Looking at that massive front element I was almost expecting the same pictural presence I see in the photos shot with carl-zeiss or leica (or some of the medium format lenses). Anyway, the sigma is a very nice piece of hardware.

    Leaving the shop, one of the guys there told me to hold on to a decision until the new nikkor 50mm f/1.4G AF-S starts to ship in two weeks. This lens has auto-focus motor so I can use it with d40. I didn’t know about this lens, and camed as a surprise. Probably in January I’ll have the posibility to try this one too. The mtf charts on the nikkor site are looking even better that the old one. Is a new design, with 8 lenses, and rounded diaphragm blades. The guy on says it will trump the zeiss. I doubt it, but I’d love to see some reviews.

    Probably in the end, I’ll have to choose between the sigma, the new nikkor, and a carl-zeiss. The last one I’m sure I can’t try it before buying it simply because here we don’t have a carl-zeiss vendor. Besides that, auto-focus would be nice, although I am more interested in these “subjective” qualities of a lens, like the colour tone. Again, looking at the mtf charts for the f/1.4 carl-zeiss, I have a mixed feeling. The sigma is already better, according to the charts at . Maybe the guy at is right and the new nikkor is better. We’ll see..

    Anyhow, this is my currently “insight” on the available 50mm 1.4 lenses. I hope you’ll find it of help. I didn’t see any mention regarding the new AF-S nikkor on your site and if you missed this out, maybe it’s worth taking a look at it. Bellow you’ll find a link with a preview of the nikkor:

    Have a nice week-end!

    Best regards,

    • Hi Florin, I’m glad to hear from you again. You have lots of talking points here!

      First, I think you should really be looking at 30mm & 35mm lenses for your D40. A 50mm isn’t as generally useful on an APS-C camera, it makes for a decent portrait lens but it is too “long” for other purposes. A true normal lens (APS-C = 33mm) is a prime lens with near infinite versatility, and I think you should aim as close to that as you can.
      I briefly owned the 30mm Sigma and I liked it very much. You should read this article I wrote back when I went through my normal prime quest for APS-C. I ended up choosing the Zeiss 2/35 Distagon, and I recommend it most highly , but you need to know (be warned) that focus isn’t the only thing you would need to do manually with this lens: on a D40 you need to guess exposure manually too.

      Second, about the various 50mm options, as I see it the world of 50mm primes is basically split into two groups:
      Group A is symmetrical spherical designs, all of which are close relatives to the 100-year-old Double Gauss design/discovery made at Zeiss. This group of lenses includes for example the Canon f/1.4 & f/1.8, the Nikon (old) f/1.4D, (new) f/1.4G & f/1.8 and the Zeiss f/1.4 & f/2. These lenses all perform nearly identical to one another, which is to say that wide-open they all suck but when you stop down they eventually become unbeatable (around f/4).
      Group B is asymmetrical aspherical designs, which are all very complex original designs born in recent history. This group includes the Canon f/1.2, the Leica f/1.4 and the Sigma f/1.4. These lenses each perform differently from one another, but they all perform much better wide-open than their spherical ancestors. They tend not to perform as well stopped down however, so around f/4 the older designs start to win again.
      If you are going to shoot a lens at f/1.4 you really, really want to be getting one of the bew designs from Group B. So I haven’t written much about the new 50mm Nikon because it really doesn’t interest me at all, it’s really just a repeat of an old lens design. The new Nikon also does not outperform either the Sigma or Zeiss options, I wrote a short confusing article about it here. I am very strongly considering getting a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 for my D700, but I might be willing to wait to see if Zeiss makes a move on this front eventually (as a matter of pride for them, they have nothing in this category now).

  4. Hello Olivier,

    Thanks for your reply. Reading your answer cleared some thoughts regarding what to choose, a 30mm or a 50mm prime. From a compositional point of view, you are right, the 30mm is what I need. I was biased towards 50s because I simply had more options to choose from (including a zeiss) in this price range.

    Also, thank you for the clear categorisation of 50mm designs (symmetrical spherical and asymmetrical aspherical).

    Regarding your confusogram 🙂 I just didn’t notice that the nikkor represented there was the new one. It’s obvious now that it doesn’t bring any significant gains over the old design. And it doesn’t even touches the zeiss. I see now why you consider the sigma 50 as your only solution. (Well, you can always go for a Leica f/1.4 🙂 )

    In the end it seems that I have two options, the sigma 30mm and the 2/35 distagon. I was looking on pixelpeeper and once again I was struck by the pictural rendition of the zeiss lens. Even the most mundane and obvious photos where somehow colour enriched in a way no software can do it. The downside is the price, at 826$ being twice the price of my d40 kit.

    Looking forward to your new posts!


    • I’m certainnly not a position to advise against the Zeiss… and the colors are indeed scrumptious. ;^)

      Still, I will recommend the 30mm Sigma for four reasons: price, auto-focus, auto-exposure and f/1.4. Look at this thread to visualize what your D40 would look like with a 30mm f/1.4 on it. Note that it’s also extremely likely that Nikon will update their 35mm prime lens soon, there are rumors of that showing up early next year, so you could just wait a bit.

      Finally here’s a curveball… consider this lens, shown here on a D40. It is made at the same Cosina factory that makes the Zeiss lenses, is reportedly very sharp at all apertures, and is a more compact fit for your camera. Most importantly however, it supports auto-exposure on your camera and costs less than half the price of the Zeiss.

      At the end of the day I want to recommend the Zeiss most highly, but I also want to make recommendations that make sense for each person. A Zeiss ZF on a D40 is a bit of a mismatch, just like a kit zoom on a D3 is a mismatch. Considering the limitations, it’s probably more logical to choose of the cheaper and more functional alternatives, at least until you upgrade to a D300-level camera which can use Zeisses without penalty (if that’s already your plan, then maybe getting the Zeiss first is reasonable).

  5. Hello Olivier,

    Regarding your blog. I remember you where having a column on the right side of the page, under the blogroll with your entries categorised (sigma, leica, zeiss, nvidia, etc.). I found it very useful, do you think is it possible to put it back?

    By the way, your wordpress template seems to be made by a co-national of mine 🙂 (Lucian Marin)

  6. Thanks, Florin.

    It’s back now. I never took meant to take it away. I think it’s a side-effect of the most recent update to WordPress.

  7. Hello Olivier,

    Sorry to hear that the G1 is not exactly the long waited M8 replacement. Maybe the next generation, considering panasonic might buy leica.

    Our local dealers are having a buyback. Return my d40 and pay the difference for a 600$ D80. It seems a very good deal but I just can’t make the step right now.. (economic crisis, etc).

    The good thing is that I have a decision regarding the lens. When things will start to get back to normal, I’ll go for a buy back like this – if available, or I’ll take an Ultron 40/f2. It’s chiped and the only complain I’ve heard is regarding the bokeh. I find it interesting though.

    Of course, if I’ll get to upgrade the camera I might jump directly to the zeiss 35.

    The new nikkor 35/f1.8 is nice, but I don’t want to restrain myself to dx format. The ultron has great sharp full frame on the d3X at around f4, the zeiss 35 os even better. You are right, cameras are platforms and can be changed, but lenses should keep me as long as possible…

    Have a nice day!

  8. Dear Olivier

    The download worked after a couple of tries and I have to say, the software is great like that. Now…here come the ideas: 1. Is it possible to set the recording codec, because it seems to loose some quality during the recording. 2. Is it possible to control the camerasettings as in aperture, shutterspeed and ISO? 3. Could you add a record and stop button, instead of the caps lock trigger?
    I know those are kind of small things to implement. Unfortunatley I use C# and I’m not familiar with C++..otherwise I’d love to help create a great little app. Would it be of any help to provide some webspace to host the app?

    Best regards


  9. WingL thanks for the comment.

    1. I’m not using a CODEC. The MJPEG format is just a concatenation of JPEGs, I’m writing the exact same bits that the camera is giving me without doing anything to them. I’ve found that it is movie players that vary a lot in quality when replaying MJPEG (there are technical gotchas). For example Quicktime does a better job than MediaPlayer.

    2. It is not possible to control camera settings. Just like all the video/DSLR combos, the camera is on autopilot when it is doing this.

    3. I am not going to modify the application any further.

    Thanks for the offer to help, but I’m not planning to spend any more time on this right now.



  10. Hi Olivier

    Thanks for the quick answer. Are you willing to supply the source code then? Please contact me via e-mail

    Best regards

  11. Hello Olivier,

    It has been a while from our last chat on primes. Unfourtunately I didn’t had the chance to actualy buy one.

    However I was preety sure that whatever I would buy (nikon, sigma, zeiss or voigtlander) it must have a motor on it as with d40 there is no chance in manualy focusing a prime at large apertures constantly.

    This meant that only the sigma lenses and the latest primes from nikon stayed in the race.

    Now, I have the chance to test the 40mm Ultron, and that Zeiss quality starts to bug me again so I have a question: Do you have any experience with focus screens? Do you think I could get away with a focus screen on D40 and overcome the lack of autofocus?

    Looking forward to hearing from you!

    All the best,

    • Hi Florin! I’m glad to hear from you again.

      1) Yes, I have had recent experience with focusing screens and I hated them. They did improve my ability to focus on inanimate objects, but they seriously reduced my ability to focus on people in dark/unlit situations. At the end of the day I prefer to use the electronic rangefinder of the Nikon camera (the green dot) to focus manually. Over time I’ve become quite accurate and fast at doing this.

      2) I think the new Nikon 35mm f/1.8G is for you. It is a very high quality lens (near the Zeiss for sharpness) at a ridiculously lower price, and it comes with automatic-everything. If this lens had existed 18-months ago I would probably have never bought Zeisses and wouldn’t have been any worse, I’ll admit.

      My advice: between the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 and the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G, I would pick the Nikon and keep the extra $200 to pay rent or to spend later on a Nikon 60mm f/2.8G Micro.


  12. Hi Olivier, my name is Andrey, i’m from Russia.
    ( Sorry my English, it is not perfect, hope my message will be readable 🙂

    I found your blog ( Mutable Conclusions ) when seeking any information about Pierre Angenieux lenses.
    Actually Pierre Angenieux 6×12.5 / f2.2-22 lens interesting me. That lens was used by NASA during Apollo 15-17 projects (for TV camera).

    In this connection i have two questions to you:

    1) Can you help me to find “scheme” of that lens, or any other thecnical information ? ( Ideally will by anything about distortion ( barrel / pincushion ) at various focal lenght, and chromatic aberration )

    2) Also i seeking relativity simple software for simmulation lens characteristics ( distortion / chromatic aberration ). Something like “ZEMAX” but not so complex and expensive. May be you know any examples?

    PS: I`m not “technical” man ( actually computer artist ), but now i need to look into lens design 🙂 I found this very interesting, especially photography is my favourite hobby..

    Thanks. Andrey.

    • Hello Andrey,

      The owner company of the Angenieux brand of lenses doesn’t have a very big footprint on the Internet… I don’t know of a good place to look. You could try simply emailing them for the information you need, at Often corporations like this are happy to share data from their glorious past history, they probably have one of these lenses in a corporate museum.

      Simulating lenses will take some technical commitment from you, no matter what. You’ll need precise information to start from, more than just a diagram with dimensions, you’ll need glass properties too. You can start with OSLO, there is a free version here but it might be too limited. I think you can get a full version from them if you convince them you are using it for educational purposes.

      Good luck,


  13. Thanks a lot for advice, Olivier. I will try to contact with “Thales group”.. And for the link to OSLO software. It seems that i looking for.


  14. Hello Olivier,

    First of all, I’d like to say that I’m writing this here because I couldn’t find a direct contact link so I figured that you’re using this page for this purpose.

    Also, I couldn’t find the exact info, but I guess you’re from Quebec (the apple and all, that seems like a scene from the Laurentides or Estrie or something) I’m from Montreal myself.


    I’d like to thank you for that wonderful nkvid.exe you made. Only problem, I couldn’t make it to work, I also wrote on that page…

    I usually learn how to use softwares in few minutes, even more complex ones, so I thought yours wouldn’t be a problem as it’s so simple, but even if my camera was on, fully charged, plugged, I couldn’t run your application. Neither on Windows XP, Vista or 7.

    I’d like to use it with my D300, I need a video feature and I’m waiting for a possible D700x, so I’d like to use my D300 for now, even if the resolution is really low.

    Could it be possible that the problem lies with my camera? I’m asking this because I remember trying to use Dragon Stop Motion for OS X, and I couldn’t get my D300 to work even if it’s supported.

    Thanks for your support, I’d like to use your software for a video project, I’m studying at Concordia.

    • Nvm It works now.

      And I’d like to thank you this amazing tool, are you thinking about adding more options to customize the exposure?

      • Hi JBL,

        I am indeed from Quebec, I did both my undergrad and graduate degrees at McGill. The picture was from an orchard in the Mont-St-Hilaire area.

        I’m glad you got the tool to work and that you like it, but I am not planning any enhancements right now. I might add sound recording in the future, but I can’t commit to a date or even whether I’ll do it at all.



  15. Hi Olivier,

    Do you know if the Zeiss ZF 100/2 Planar-T can be used at all with Nikon’s teleconverters on a D700, i.e., if they would at least fit mechanically?

    I’m contemplating to buy the new Nikkor 70-200 VRII, together with a TC-17E, and it would be useful to know how much the IQ does degenerate if I also used the TC with the Zeiss ZF 100/2. If all of that does’t really work well enough, then I might want to bite the bullet and buy the Nikkor 200/2.0 instead. My main interests are travel, people and low (available) light nature photos, and macro (plants, flowers).

    Any help or advice in this matter would be greatly appreciated.



    My current equipment:
    Olympus OM-1, OM2N, Sony DSC F828, Nikon D700, Nikkor 24-70 f2.8G, Zeiss ZF 100/2

    • Jan-Dieter,

      The 2/100 ZF doesn’t take teleconverters because the rear rectangular baffle gets in the way of the teleconverter elements. The Nikon TCs all intrude into the mating lens and they can’t intrude into the 2/100 ZF. There are other brands of teleconverters that might work however, possibly the inexpensive Kenko ones.

      The 200mm f/2 VR… in my opinion is a special-purpose lens with limited appeal for the rational side of the brain. It is so colossal and heavy that even if we ignore its price, to justify it the extra 1 stop has to mean life or death. Runway fashion photographers probably need it. Basketball photos maybe. I can’t think of another example right now.

      The 70-200mm VRII looks promising. It is also big and heavy but it’s kind of a swiss army knife for telephotos. Also this one is easy to re-sell if you decide it’s too massive for your tastes. I had the old version and sold it because I stopped using it after getting a 2/100 ZF.

      For myself I am likely to wait for a 200mm f/2.8 prime lens to show up.



      • Olivier,

        Thank you so much for your speedy and thoughtful reply. Clearly, if there is going to be a 200mm f2.8 prime lens out there soon, either from Nikon (AF, with VR) or from Zeiss (manual), that would be worth waiting for (at least for a little while) in either case.

        When asked, the Zeiss people in Germany are all mum about the subject of a ZF 200mm lens, even if you write to them about this matter in polite German . . .

        In terms of weight, that is what was so wonderful about those early OMs, they literally fit into your hand and didn’t strain your neck, even with a 135mm f2.8 lens on it. Therefore, staying away from the 200mm f/2 Nikkor may very well be the right thing to do, independent of what Bjørn Rørslett says about all the wonderful optical qualities of this monster, for example.

        I have no intention to stretch your patience with me, but – do you have any firm opinions about the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G vs. any Zeiss primes on a D700?



      • Jan-Dieter,

        I’m a big fan of the 21mm Distagon ZF. You can read my review of it on this site.

        I’m not making the argument that it is better than the 14-24mm, which is a difficult technical thing to get into. Rather I’ll say that the 21mm Distagon is basically perfect and if given the choice I will choose the one that gives me T* signature contrast and color.


  16. I have a question unrelated to photography. Where did your wife get the baby bunny suit? I’d like one for our daughter! Thank you so much and I enjoy reading your material.

  17. Bonjour, Olivier.

    Thanks a lot for nkvid, its awesome, but i’ve just faced that its impossible to run it over windows 7 x64. Do you know, if it works correct on this configuration?

    And what do you think about tokina 20-35/2.8. Is it a good alternate for Nikon 20-35? Any wide-zoom fast and cheap lens suggestions?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Hi Tim,

      Nkvid works correctly under 64-bit Windows, that’s where I developed it originally even though it is a 32-bit executable. There must be another factor in play for you.

      I’m afraid I’m drawing blanks on the combination of cheap, fast and wide-angle. These words just don’t go together very much – pick any two of the three and there are choices. I would try and find the Nikon personally, I’ve heard good things about it.



  18. Hi Olivier,

    I really need a copy of Nkvid to shoot some quick videos, but the download link no longer works. I’ve searched all over the web for it, but wasn’t able to find it hosted anywhere else. Is there any way that you can make it available for download again?


  19. Hi Olivier, Stumbled upon your site – love the work you do here! About to be a Zeiss lens owner (i think) and your reviews here help make the decision easier – now it’s down to finances. Keep up the great work!


    Kok Leong

    • Hi Kok,

      The Zeiss lenses are pretty amazing, I’m sure you’ll love them.

      The best ones, the ones worth really spending for are these: 2.8/21, 2/35, 2/50 and 2/100. The other lenses in the line-up aren’t “bad” but they aren’t as special as these four.



      • Thx for your reply! Am considering the 50 f2 but having read about ugly bokeh at bjorn’s site and your comment that the bokeh looks fixed from f2.8.. makes me think twice. I have a 50 G which I hardly use – it does not have the X factor to me (maybe it’s my eyes that need fixing). I really like the 60 AFS and 70-200 VR II though, both lenses of which have the “X” factor, in my view.



  20. Thx! Yes, you are quite right. I am thinking of swapping my 50G for the Zeiss.

    Btw, do you use any special focussing screens on your D700?

    very seriously looking at the 35 f2. Also considering an ZM (m mount) 35 f2 Zeiss Biogon for my Sony NEX.
    Thanks again


    • I don’t use a special screen. I bought one, installed it and then removed it. I use the focus indicators on the lower-left, a feature which the D700 implements better than all oher cameras on the market (other than the D3) because of the arrows.

      The 35mm Distagon is what got me hooked to Zeiss, and made me realize that there existed a whole other level of image quality I did not know about.

      I’m not sure the M mount lenses will really shine on the NEX. The problem is that it doesn’t have offset micro-lenses, so the borders and corners will not be very good with M lenses.

      • Thx for the tip on the microlenses. Am watching closely what MPK2010 is doing with his leica+NEX combo (see

        As for me, am reasonably happy with the Alpha adaptor and a very old minolta 50mm

        Have ditched the kit pancake for the moment.

        • I took a look at MPK2010’s work. It looks good. It’s easy to wound up in the technical details. Many images don’t really depend on border/corner performance, especially at web resolutions. Still I think it’s more of a toy solution — if you’re doing this then you have Leica lenses obviously, and if you do then you might as well get a Leica camera (even an M8, which are much cheaper now).

          An adapted Minolta lens doesn’t need offset microlenses because it’s already designed to put the exit pupil far away from the sensor plane. When you do this from an optical-path perspective you’ve got the same properties as an SLR.

  21. Hi Olivier,
    Do you have an email I can send to to show you some flare examples from my 50 MP? Wondering if i have a defective lens. thx


  22. Chèr Olivier,

    I hope you have time to answer with some brief advice. I’m using Distagons 18 (possibly 15 soon), 21 & 2/35 + Planar 50 and am just facing the choice of adding either the new 2/25 or the (older) 2/28. I wonder, if you had the chance, to give the 2/25 a try and what you think about it, or better which one you would recommend for street life respectively. Most I read about the new WA wonder 2/25 is hype, people selling their 21’s in their dozens. On the other hand the hype reduced down to matter-of-facts it shows on MTF charts, that it is hardly any better than it’s predecessor, the 2.8/25. Unhappily I don’t have the chance to test the 2/25 before buying. So what to do?

    Thanks for helping.

    • Hi Vincent,

      You should probably pay the fee for DAP at and find out.

      I’m not sure you want to hear my actual advice… I don’t see a need for so many Distagons so close to each other. In my opinion it suffices to own one “1X”mm lens, one “2X”mm lens and one 35mm lens so you’re just covered great already, just shoot with ’em. I would have advised against the 18+21 duo though, I’d say trade one with something else to get a better spread.

      Lastly, my hunch is the 2/25 is better than the 2/28.


  23. Mill thanks, Olivier. That IS exactly the advice, I wanted to hear. 🙂 I started with 21 / 35 / 50 and had the chance to overtake a very special 18 for a bargain, so I took it, but all the time hoping, that Zeiss would add a ZF 15 to their range, already offering their famed M 15. And now they did. So I will change the 18 as soon as possible against the 15. And I think, that makes for a nicely spreaded lineup.

    I was only considering the 25, because I have an offer I couldn’t resist, as they say in Sicily. I wouldn’t consider the purchase for the regular price. But still. As you said. It doesn’t make much sense, as I also have the PC-E 24, which makes for an excellent MF prime too, closing the gap between 21 and 35.

    Your thoughts were very helpful, Olivier. Thank you so much again. You don’t need to publish my response, if you don’t want, as it might not be of great help for other readers.

    All the best to you and your work.


  24. Dear Olivier,

    I’m seeking for a solution to record video by D300. And i have found nkvid. Then, i searched video which record by nkvid and the user comment. I think it’s very impressive. But the link to download is no longer working. So,I can not have it. Could you mind telling me about how to get your nkvid?

    Thank you for advance


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