*** Summer Break ***

Summer break. Off to the windy Atlantic for some weeks – soul free running – watching the horizon for hours – mind relaxing, slowly traveling the coast and doing some wave tube shootings : – ) – online image ordering can be slow – I do not have regular network access, but will be in full swing again 17th of August. Finally getting back to a slower life – have an inspiring and soul recharging summer!


Parting shot from Crozon/France:SMH-crozon-20140812-2016338-0547


The AquaTech Elite Sport Housing

The AquaTech Elite sport housing – submerged and split level imaging concepts

Initial text upload: 15.11.2015 – by Sören Hese

1st update: 20.11.2015



Some comments about the AquaTech Elite sport housing that I acquired early in 2015.

This was on my list since some years but I never had the budget to do this. The situation hasnt changed much in that respect – especially since the Dollar/Euro ratio hasnt moved into the right direction to order lots of gear in the US.  After checking the market for diving houses it was obvious that I do not need a diving setup. These DSLR housings for diving are much bigger and heavier and rated for more water depth than “sports housings”. The latter are more for the near surface water sports (sailing, surfing, swimming, canoeing and so on). To go for the Aquatech housing was primarily defined by the supported lens selection. The 14-24 mm from Nikon was only supported by Aquatech as far as I was able to see online.

I used the gear for approx. 15 regatta sailing events now and also tested it for waves for 4 weeks and doing numerous shots in lakes. I can already conclude that its what you expect from a professional package and/or its elevated price point and its totally reliable.

To get a maximum of image sharpness and dynamic range I wanted my Nikon D800/D810 + Nikkor 14-24mm  combination in a housing concept – here you clearly end up with an ELITE sport housing from AquaTech.

After all its very hard to develop new perspectives in the domain of yacht and regatta photography – the split level approach isn’t new but it hasnt been used too much so far and there are lots of ways to develop new imaging ideas in this domain – from below water shots or split level shots and images that include the water as abstract art are often more appealing than shooting the yacht with the usual extreme tele lens setup. Help for reasoning is however that the housing can also be used to do more of the wave/water photography that I envisioned often when traveling the northern coasts in summer.

#Construction & Components:

So what is it? The AquaTech housings are not really designed for diving – the depth guarantee is for 10 meters. Thats not much if you are into diving. The AT housings are for waves, surfing and sailing. They are made for this transitional domain between the elements – between air and water – thats where the more graphical and more interesting stuff happens as light hasn’t been absorbed and water can play its sculpturing thing (sorry all you underwater photographer … although I found it pretty exciting to shoot in these clean lakes with lots of vegetation shadowing everything and creating a wild underwater vegetation land/sub-aquatic-scape ).

Construction is pretty much heavy duty with massive polyurethan housing construction, stainless steel controls, 10 mm acryl back-plate, durable aluminium tubes and 5 mm aryl domes, solid metal locking fasteners, interchangeable anodized metal lens ports with a knurled grip surface that makes it easy to tighten everything when mounting the ports. The grip surface is so knurled that you easily scratch everything you touch with the lens port. Overall „fit and finish“ of the housing with its snap fasteners and its big enough screws is just perfect. The setup screws together and is sealed with O-rings everywhere. Weight of the housing is 1.6 kg and the PD135 f.e. adds another 600 gr. Together with the pistol grip/pole extension and other accessories installed you easily reach 3 kg. The DSLR is mounted within the housing with an Arca Style plate that snug-fits precisely into the dove tailed Arca mount that is installed in the housing. The DSLR just moves exactly into place that way and the mechanical trigger of the housing sits exactly above the DSLR trigger. 



Figure: Arca style plate setup that keeps the camera within the housing precisely in place.

Key for the functioning is an acryl dome element that is avail for a number of popular lenses. The dome construction is superb but it has one slighty anoying drawback. The sunstar of your lens is slightly distorted and not as accurate as when shot without the dome. If you like to use the sun star reflection as part of your visual concept sometimes – than this has to be taken into account. Overall sharpness and chroma aberration of  your lens isnt changed much imo. At least I couldnt find any difference in spatial resolution with the Nikon D800 NEF files after processing in LR. There seem to be some internal color reflections but its a minor issue and not at all comparable with the well known Nikkor 14-24 color reflection/flare issue at 14mm.

Continue reading “The AquaTech Elite Sport Housing”

The Nikkor AFS 24-70 mm f2.8G – fast all-rounder

Standard zoom range at its best …  – best bokeh: the Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8G


The Nikkor AF-S 24-70mm f2.8G ED
The 24-70 wasnt on my priority purchase list for quite some time. Its focal range was just not too important for my type of regular shootings. But since I started doing circus and artistic performance events  and also occasionally dancing events – I found the 24-70 range to be a „must have” here. The 24-50 mm range is where you need to go quickly when you work directly in front of the stage. In combination with a second body and  85 f1.4 or the 70-200 f2.8 this provides lots of flexibility.
There are various comments in the net about the Nikon 24-70 and to sum the critics up: „no VR” and “edge sharpness is missing on the D800“ are the most common complaints. There is also indication that the front tubus is damaged easily when lens drops without a hood.

The 24-70 isn’t a small lens but it packs a lot of performance into the typical range of the 24-35-50-( not really 85).

Mirabaud Yacht Racing Photo Contest 2014

As the regatta photo shooting seasons comes to an end – the Mirabaud Yacht Racing Photo Contest is a wonderful way to collect the most inspiring shots of the year. A jury defined preselection is now online and

the public vote is now open. The “Hamburg” shot from my German Classics 2014 photo shooting made it into the Top70. The contest is two-fold – a public voting and a jury based selection of the best shots from this top70 is performed. So just move to


and select your favorite shots :)!  Sören


Bokeh with an old 50 mm Carl Zeiss Tessar

Looking for very cheap lenses is kind of a sport and if you look for these lenses in the second hand market of old M42 lenses then its usually easy to find something that works very well for a specific purpose.

When looking for old lenses I am usually into testing lenses for their bokeh characteristics. Its much easier to look into bokeh than it is to test a lens for sharpness or resolution. Bokeh is very subjective and therefore very difficult to parameterize.


Last week  I found a lens for 15€ from the former east German ZEISS plant “Carl Zeiss Jena” – a 50 mm Tessar f2.8 with M42 mount. These lenses were manufactured for the old Pentacon SLR  cameras and you can find them in second hand camera stores in Germany for below 20€ depending on condition etc (same with the old Meyer-Görlitz lenses).


The lens has 12 aperture blades and creates a very special smooth background rendering. But as usual its a “feature” if you like the circles of confusion as part of the imaging concept:







Zeiss Jena 50 mm f2.8 Tessar (M42) & PK13

The 700€ AFS VR 105 mm f2.8 renders the out of focus highlights in less appealing form, but usually bokeh with ring type of features (as in the CZJ 50 mm example from above) is often regarded as “bad” bokeh. However – for me the example from above looks just more special. Below the version from the Nikkor 105 VR:

105 AFS VR Nikkor
Nikkor AF-S 105 mm VR f2.8G Micro

Btw:  this Zeiss lens setup doesnt focus to infinite – its only usable for macro shots.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

“First thing first”: Kudos und Mitgefühl an die Japaner, die disziplinierte Art und Weise wie die Japaner dieses Unglück ertragen und gemeinsam zu bewältigen suchen ist beeindruckend und bewundernswert.

Als hätte nicht jeder genau gewusst das alles, was irgendwie schief gehen kann, dann auch irgendwann mal schief geht : die aktuellen Kommentare der politisch Verantwortlichen in der Bundesrepublik gehen von “veränderte Lage braucht ein Neubewertung” bis hin zu “Man muss das sagen dürfen – unsere AKWs sind sicher”. Jetzt deutet sich im Vorfeld der Wahlen sogar ein Ausstieg aus der Laufzeitverlängerung an … . Die politisch Verantwortlichen in Deutschland sehen derzeit aus wie ne Truppe Zauberlehrlinge, die fassungslos peinlich berührt vor dem Ungetüm des eigenen Handelns stehen.  Etwas kann dieses 3fache unglaubliche Unglück für das japanische Volk sogar  bringen: die Erkenntnis das nichts sicher ist! Auch dieses hervorragend auf Erdbeben vorbereitete Japan ist überrascht worden von der Wirkung der Plattentektonik an Subduktionszonen.  Die große Chance der aktuellen Situation liegt in der Neubewertung der Atomenergie bei den politisch Verantwortlichen ohne einen Einfluss der Lobbygruppen.

Wer der Firma Nikon in irgendeiner Form nahesteht, der wird wissen, dass einer der Produktionsstandorte insbesondere der professionellen Nikon Kameras sich in Sendai befindet. In diesem Werk werden auch die Pro Linien von Nikon DSLRs gefertigt (D3x/D3s/D700) und schätzungsweise werden dort derzeit auch die Nachfolgesysteme, die 2011 auf den Markt kommen sollen, vorbereitet (D800/D4). Nach einiger Ungewissheit steht jetzt aber wohl fest, dass die Tsunamiüberschwemmung wenige Km vor den Werkhallen gestoppt hat. Ein recht genaues Bild gibt das ZKI vom DLR mit aktuellen Satellitendaten. Eine Pressemitteilung gibt es inzwischen auch direkt von Nikon zu den Auswirkungen u.a. wird dort auch ein Spende angekündigt:

“Nikon Corporation would like to express its profound sympathy and condolences to the victims of the earthquake in Northern Japan, on March 11, 2011.

In response to this tragedy and to extend the immediate support to its victims and affected area, Nikon Corporation has decided to donate the following assistance: Cash donation: 100 million yen Donee: Japanese Red Cross Society.”

Near Infrared & eBooks für die Sommerpause

Bei der aktuellen Geschwindigkeit mit der die Hersteller neue digitale Kameras und Zubehör auf den Markt werfen fällt es schwer in neue digitale Kameras zu investieren. Das Bessere ist immer gleich “around the corner”. Wenn man jedoch eine solide Ausstattung hat, dann macht es Sinn sich aus dem Update-Zyklus der diversen Hersteller auszuklinken und anstatt in Kameras mal in die eigene photographische (Aus)Bildung zu investieren. Dafür bietet sich vor allem immer die Sommerpause an, wenn man mal die Seele baumeln lassen kann. Meine hauptberufliche Tätigkeit liegt ja in der wissenschaftlichen Auswertung von Bilddaten.

Bei mir ist dann mal endlich Zeit ausschließlich nicht-wissenschaftliche Lektüre zu vertilgen. I.d.R. mache ich dann immer ein Investment bei den entsprechenden Fotografen-Legenden aus den Netzwelten. Interessante Kandidaten (die immer wieder mal etwas publizieren was man lesen sollte) sind z.B.:
Joe McNally (der auch einen wunderbaren PhotoBlog führt),
John Shaw (Naturfotograf),
Thom Hogan (der Nikon Guru schlechthin),
Lloyd Chambers oder
Michael Clarke (Adventure und Sport-Fotograf).

Letztes Jahr war bei mir was von McNally dran (Hot Shoe Diaries).
Dieses Jahr ist der Workflow Primer von Clarke dran: “Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 – a Professional Photographer`s Workflow” . In der Vollständigkeit ist dieses eBook einfach klasse und ein wunderbarer “Schmöker” mit guten Workflow-Beispielen, Datensicherungskonzepten, Monitorkalibration etc.. Außerdem auf meiner Liste war der “Digital Infrared Guide” von Lloyd Chambers. Dieser Guide zur NahInfrarot-Fotografie ist zwar etwas älter (von 2007) beinhaltet jedoch einige sehr gute Tipps zum NIR-Workflow und zur Weiterverarbeitung der NIR-Bilder in Photoshop mit einigen sehr praktischen Photoshop “action”-Routinen. Außerdem gibt es einen guten Review aktueller Objektive und deren Performance mit einer NIR-konvertierten DSLR.

Dankbare Motive für NIR Aufnahmen sind historische Gebäude bei schönem Wetter mit Vegetation, da Vegetation im NIR durch die Zellstruktur sehr stark reflektiert entstehen sehr surreale Bilder. Hier die Heilandskirche in Sacrow bei Berlin.

Mosaikiertes Panorama (Nikon D1xIR mit Nikkor AF-D 10,5 mm f2.8G):

Geometrisch entzerrte Aufnahme mit dem 10,5 mm Fisheye (Nikon D1xIR):

Die Bilder kommen so natürlich nicht aus einer NIR konvertierten Kamera, sondern sehen dann erstmal eher so aus:


Ein großer Teil der RAW Bildverarbeitung passiert bei mir in Adobe Lightroom. Bei den NIR-Bildern sieht das folgendermaßen aus: der RAW File wird in LR importiert, dann werden in Photoshop die Kanäle getauscht, RGB –> BGR (das ist wichtig, da so der Himmel blau abgebildet wird und der starke Rotstich entfernt wird), in LR wird dann der Kontrast und die Whitebalance optimiert und idR. korrigiere ich auch die Geometrie durch ein jeweils angepasstes Objektivprofil, um z.B. die Verzerrung aus den Fisheye Aufnahmen zu entfernen. Das geht erstmalig direkt in LR mit der Version 3. Dabei werden auch gleich für jedes Objektiv die spezifischen chromatischen Aberrationen und ggf. die Vignettierung entfernt. Danach noch ein paar lokale Modifikationen per “Local Adjustment” oder Modifikationen der Sättigung bzw. Noise Reduction.
Thats it. Einen großen Teil kann man in einem Profil in LR abspeichern bzw. als Batchroutine in Photoshop starten und so gleich eine Vielzahl von Bildern verarbeiten.

50 mm Bokeh Contest for the Nikon F-Mount

Here comes a gear centric contribution:

From left to right: Sigma 50 mm f1.4 EX DG HSM, Nikkor AFS 50 mm f1.4 G, Nikkor AIS 50 mm f1.2, Nikkor AIS 50 mm f1.8

The 50 mm lens has been a popular choice for portraits with APS-C sensor cameras and for low light photography in general. For Nikon based photographers the AF-D version of the 50/1.4 was long overdue for an update when Nikon introduced the AF-S G type version with a fresh and new lens design.
Lets summarize: mapping the market for a 50 mm for a while the only AF alternatives for the Nikon F-mount right now are:

1. the new Nikkor 50 mm AFS f1.4G,
2. the old D-type Nikkor 50 mm AF 1.4D,
3. the D-type Nikkor 50 mm AF f1.8D and
4. the Sigma AF 50 mm f1.4 EX DG HSM.

For manual focus lenses there are more alternatives around. Usually with these low light and minimal DOF lenses you do want an AF option.

Of the 4 AF lenses 2 have an ultrasonic ring engine for focusing. So lets concentrate on these two concepts. The Sigma 50 f1.4 EX DG HSM and the Nikon AFS 50 mm f1.4G are the most recent developments. There are rumours floating around of a new Nikon f1.2 AFS version to be released soon (might never happen – but who knows).

Sigma did put some effort into redesigning the 50 mm so it will be interesting to see how the Sigma compares to the Nikon. This lens comparison will primarily focus on some often not described characteristics of these lenses: out of focus properties or often labelled “bokeh” characteristics. There are some other important aspects to consider when one decides which lens to buy. Sharpness and focus accuracy comes to mind. But my primarily concern was how the out of focus areas look like in these lens designs. The Sigma received lots of praise for its bokeh in various comments and net reviews – so this lens seems to be a clear option for portraits, weddings and child photography.

The Sigma is a huge lens compared with the usual lens size in this class. The front element is close in size to the Nikon 85 f1.4 AF-D but the hefty feeling of this lens makes the lens/camera combo just feel right – especially with larger Nikon DSLR bodies the Sigma seems to be just right in size and weight. And that should be mentioned: the lens just looks somehow good with this massive amount of glass (was just wondering why I hesitate to name it: the lens looks sexy! here we go). The lens comes with the typical Sigma surface finish. This crinkle paint seems to attract dust and dirt but the grip with this lens is perfect.

The AF with my Sigma sample was constantly back focusing on close and far range objects (could be corrected with a focus calibration enabled camera body). The Nikon sample that I used is doing much better here. AF is nearly always spot on – but the Nikon AF is much slower than the Sigma HSM AF system. If you need a fast AF than the Nikkor is not the lens for you. The AF just doesn’t “snap” to its focus point and seems slow and sluggish. The Sigma is more responsive here and the quick lock on objects makes fun. The Sigma seems however to miss the precise focus point more often.

Resolution figures are not my main interest with these lenses. If you want to know more about MFT etc. than check the DPReview pages about both lenses:

DPReview Nikkor 50 mm AFS G f1.4
DPReview Sigma 50 mm DG HSM f1.4 .

One aspect that is rarely tested is the quality of the OoF highlights and the quality of the bokeh of these two lenses. This is a property that is difficult to measure and also subjective.
The Sigma has a very two-sided character here. It renders the out of focus objects with better (smoother) bokeh than the Nikkor – the style has a painting like finish – but this is only true as long as your out of focus area has no strong highlights.

Below: Sigma 50 mm f1.4 EX DG HSM, Above: Nikkor AFS 50 mm f1.4 G

This makes the problem more obvious:

Read the full review here: