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Wednesday, 01 March 2017


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A number of popular TV shows have switched hosts, presumably because the hosts who made the shows popular in the first place have wanted more money (?), and I can't think of a single case where this has worked.

Haven't seen any of the movies nominated for awards for years now. Don't go out to see them, and don't stay home long enough to do much 'streaming.'

Anyway, getting back to photography...
Re: "...this must be the most highly corrected lens ever made for photography."
The key words there are "for photography." Have you ever seen some of the industrial lens designs, such as lenses for photolithography? Here's one example: http://www.marcocavina.com/articoli_fotografici/Schuster_0,75_litografia_uv/01.gif

[Oh yes. When my father was a Director of NASA the satellite program fell under his purview. The lenses they used for satellite photographs cost $240,000 each and that was during the Ford Administration.

I think the most highly spec'd lenses made today are stepper lenses. But then I don't know what they're currently using in spy satallites. --Mike]

I don't know if this film was nominated in the Oscars but I feel compelled to recommend Hell Or Highwater. It's about bank robbers in modern day Texas so not exactly high concept. However, the storyline is taut and interesting. I couldn't work out how it was going to play out. Great cinematography and performances. Plus, there's a bit of depth to it. A bit.

BTW, Faye Dunaway's greatest performance was in that Terry O'Neil photo the morning after she won her Oscar.

Alfa > Fiat ..... Lexus > Toyota
Unreliability ..... Reliability

Casey Afleck may be a great actor but some women have made disturbing allegations against him, which puts him in the same company as Conman in Chief Voldemort.

I guess it's been a while since I checked the price of Leica lenses. $8000 for a 50mm Summicron? Oh my God. That makes the $3-5000 range Leica lenses used to be in seem reasonable. I guess someone at Leica finally asked the question, "What would happen if we just keep increasing the price?" The answer, apparently, is that you make more money.

Regarding perfectly corrected lenses producing better bokeh, I was always under the impression that a bit of spherical aberration produces better bokeh. No? In any event, I can't wait to see images from Olympus's crazy new lens. It'll be interesting to see what 19 elements in such a lens gets you, besides a heavier bag.

I would love to see this compared to a low cost FF 50mm. It would be interesting to see pics of an inexpensive FF 50 at f2.5 vs 1.2 on the m43 lens. I'm betting the difference is small.

There was a photo snafu at the Oscars, too, when deceased costume designer (and four-time nominee) Janet Patterson was mistakenly represented by a photo of her still-living friend and collaborator Jan Chapman.


Amazon Prime: also has cloud storage, and additional perks for Kindle owners.

Netflix has more depth and breadth of streaming content, IMO, but streaming's all you get, and if you're willing to pay extra for Amazon Video's premium "channels" (another Prime perk, I think), the difference narrows.

Hulu's "killer" content, for me, was The Criterion Collection, but they left hulu and started their own streaming service, the awfully-named Filmstruck.

I've always been an Alfa fan, and owned a gorgeous 156 back in 2000 which I owned for 5 years. It had a few issues - poor front damper control (fixed with a set of Koni gas dampers and uprated springs) soggy rear-link bushes (uprated with nylon versions) and an exhaust clip that fell off.

Other than that, not a single unscheduled trip to the shop. I used to rev it out occasionally just to hear the snarl as the two stage cams switched to scary mode.

OK, so a lot of the interior trim was wonky, the A/C was asthmatic, you couldn't see the speedo at the legal limit without ducking, and there was no interior storage. But sitting in those Momo leather seats and giving it the beans on a good road was the highlight of my early '40s.

Just like the Fuji Xpro1, wrong on many levels but glorious when it all came together.

There is an original version of Top Gear from the BBC which tops all other attempts. The version running in recent years always seemed to consist of nothing more than pointless stunts to excite spotty faced teenage males.
The original "Top Gear" series was designed for an adult audience and featured motoring news and developments. It was hosted by Raymond Baxter with a style and panache sadly missing in more recent versions of the TG franchise.
Like many TV series or movies, re-makes usually fall well short of the original.
Am I getting old or something?

A lotta women not to happy with the Best Actor pick- he would've done well addressing them.

From Nikon's recent travails to the cell phone onslaught to plunging sales of traditional SLRs and compact cameras it seems clear the world of photography as we've known it is rapidly approaching some kind of inflection point.
Which makes it ironic that so many really fabulous lenses are being released. This Olympus lens looks incredible. Canon's crazy high tech 35 mm f:1.4 is absurdly good. I surrendered to asymptotism and bought Sigma's 85 mm f:1.4 as well as their 50 mm f:1.4, and they're...well, just insanely good, if comically large and heavy. The only excuse for poor photographs is my own ineptitude.
I almost wonder if it's like brilliant autumn leaves before winter, a last flourish before something bleaker.

I understand the upcoming season of the new "Top Gear" is much better. That's a good thing as the first series of the reboot lost my interest after 1.5 installments.

As for "The Grand Tour," there's a bit of a "the inmates are running the asylum" feel, but I still enjoy it. It's also shot in 4K video and is pretty stunning on my 4K TV.

I'm sure you have your reasons for not owning a TV, Mike, and I certainly won't make any judgement. But you are missing out on some things without one. And even 4K sets aren't that expensive amymore.

Also: Faye Dunaway. I'm sure she doesn't think she looks 30. But remember that she came of age in an era when actresses had to look young or would begin to lose more and more work as time went by. That's still true in some ways today but perhaps not quite as much. A good thing, yes? But we must be careful not to apply modern sensibilities to someone whose career began 50 years ago.

Re: lenses. Well-corrected or not, I don't buy any that cost more than $1000. The same with camera bodies.

And, finally, the Alfa Q: I owned a 1970 GTV 2-liter and simply loved it. I could see leasing a base version of the new Giulia as a bucket-list item. The only complication is that the car would have to be my daily driver. I'll have to see what real-world reliability is like. I can deal with a few trips to the dealer if the car is under warranty. But I'm not going to accept being stranded.

A question for someone; if the f stop is a function of lens diameter relative to focal length, regardless of the number of elements, what sort of light transmission do you get with so many elements, and does it matter?

So that basically [has DOF wide open similar to that of] a [FF] 50mm ƒ/2.4? That's rather unimpressive in terms of possible DOF manipulation...I'd like to see how it fares against the new Sony STF lens.

[Nobody understands DOF. If you only evaluate bokeh by "more is better," an exceedingly poor standard for judgement in my opinion, then focus distance and focal length both have more effect than maximum aperture. I could get "more" out-of-focus blur with my Panasonic Leica 45mm ƒ/2.8 (15.24 cm close-focusing distance) than with the 25mm ƒ/1.2 (30 cm), I'm guessing. Both Micro 4/3. --Mike]

My wife and I watched the Oscars for a change. We hung the digital antenna from a basement door and I changed the source to DTV and low and behold we could actually tune in ABC crystal clear.

We had just seen Moonlight the night before and loved it, and my wife did not like La La Land at all (I admired it more than liked it) so we were happy to see Moonlight pick up a couple awards. When they announced that La La Land took best picture we shut it off and went to bed. Only later, via iPad, did we learn what we had missed. Yay Moonlight!

Another movie we had just watched was nominated for best documentary, also great, I Am Not Your Negro. Very different sort of documentary, no talking heads, all told through the words of James Baldwin (via Samuel Jackson).

The best car shows (in my not so humble opinion) aren't on TV at all; they're podcasts. Check out Jay Leno's Garage (https://www.youtube.com/user/JayLenosGarage), and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com/). Though the latter is less about cars than the guests, the cars "co-star," and Seinfeld clearly loves them.

I appreciate your sensitivity about Casey Affleck but we should keep in mind that these allegations were raised in 2010, Affleck disputed the allegations, and they were resolved with both sides agreeing to not discuss the matter further.

This is worlds away from bragging about sexually assaulting women, as Trump did.

[Where such issues are concerned, a writer like me can't win. Anything I was to say would be either too little or too much, or both but to different people. Suffice to say that we don't know enough about it to put it into strictly accurate perspective. --Mike]

Given the choice I'd take the Alpha over the surgery. Was that the choice?

The old Top Gear and the new Grand Tour are as much about automobiles as Gunsmoke was about horses. They're really about burning up tires and spending BBC/Bezos money. Very entertaining.

The old Top Gear had some great video editing and I'm glad to see that Grand Tour does as well. Nothing wrong with spending hours setting up a shot and using about a half second of it in the final edit.

Back in 2010 in Europe, the best looking car I saw on the whole trip was a new Alfa Romeo. No other car looked anywhere near as pretty as that Alfa.

Honest to god truth. I asked my parents for a "used" 1958 Ferrari Berlinetta (I think I have the model right) for my birthday as a teenager. They were "cheap" then. I got a present all right - a lecture :-)

As a long-time, multi-Ferrari owner, I disagree with everything that's in that MT piece. First, the premise. Why would anyone entertain owning a Ferrari-like sedan? A sedan is for everyday use, hauling family, groceries, dogs. It needs to be reliable, dependable, comfortable, and reasonably economical to maintain. Ferraris, Maseratis and -- I have no doubt -- Alphas are none of the above. There is a reason why 4-door Ferraris never sell. Hot Italians are for weekend blasts for one (max two), not weekday commutes and errands. Now look at the details for the Alpha, as narrated. An "obscenely quick steering ratio"? You don't even want that in a sport car, never mind a family sedan. One of the most criticized aspects of the 458 when it came out was its obscenely quick steering ratio. You sneeze, you die. That alone should disqualify the Giulia as a family sedan. As to handling and ride, Ferraris, while not harsh like some AMGs and Japanese fast models, are never known to "shrug off jumps, bumps, surface changes, and camber swaps." Matter of fact, you feel every road imperfection, every bit of loose gravel -- as any serious sports car should. You want a fun, sporty sedan with well-sorted ride and handling? Go with a German or a Ford. Sorry, but the writer does not know what he is talking about. Don't fall for it.

I had an Alfa dealer near me, and was moved to buy a Giulietta about 18 months ago. Then about 5 months ago they closed the dealership - now I have to take it 40-odd miles away to get it serviced. Still like the car though. Maybe not perfect but, compared to a Golf, it's a lot less... grey.

I wasn't expecting prejudicious judgments about Alfa Romeo's reliability. They might have been true thirty years ago, thanks to the powerful but finicky boxer engines and their double carburetors, but that was all in a distant past.
Italians do know how to make reliable engines. Anyone who watches Formula One knows Ferrari power units are the most reliable. This prejudice stopped making sense several decades ago.
Now for the Giulia Quadrifoglio: it's insane. This car has over 500 HP and has recently broken the Nordschleife (or Nürburgring, or 'The Green Hell', if you prefer) record for production cars. And, unlike all Japanese and German cars, it's beautiful. If only I could get my hands on one of these!

There is another Top Gear derivative out there, not sure which (if any) streaming service has it, but it was "Top Gear USA". Produced by the BBC, some similar format but with three American hosts.

In general, not as good as its BBC clone, but it did have some episodes that were extremely fun. They made 4, maybe 5 series of it. Ran on the history channel.

The recent one that BBC launched with Matt Lablanc (sp?) and Chris ??? (the loud Brit) was unwatchable, IMO.

Grand Tour is not as good as the best Top Gear episodes, but its worst episodes were way better than the Top Gear w/o them.

While we were visiting the rather posh Italian ski resort of Courmayeur my son was offered a test drive in a Giulia.

Being a piston head he did not think twice to accept. He told me it was a fantastic car to drive. He told me that he had total control even driving over snow.

From what I saw, in these upmarket resorts there are several reps who will let you try out high end Jaguars, Maserati’s and Alfas.

I have to make do with a Giulietta which in the mountains in sport mode is great fun to drive.

The new cars from Alfa are developed with top constructors from BMW. These constructors were offered a job at a secret plant in Tunisia with the goal to build Alfa Romeo’s with the same reliability as a BMW. Resulting in the 4C, Mito, Giulietta and Giula. The new Alfa’s are very reliable. Just like my X-Pro1.

I once owned a Alfa Romeo GTV6 (1984). So many things failed on it at various times I lost count but it never failed to get me home. It was a marvellous drive though.

I don't get the whole thing about spending absurd amounts of money for a lens that has bokeh when all you have to do for that is slap a clear lens filter on your lens and apply a judicious amount of Vaseline around the edges. I prefer to spend my money on film and home made chemistry! Or, of course another old camera.

For an interesting fifteen minutes, look at the many You Tube videos of the new hot Tesla drag-racing Ferraris. The Ferraris always win the quarter-mile ((I think -- I haven't looked at all the videos) but the Tesla rules in 0-60.

Maybe the Alfa will be in my price range in ten years or so. Or maybe I will start making a lot more money. We shall see.

Regarding Faye Dunaway, she surely must be one of the most beautiful women of all time. I really hate seeing women resort to absurd measures to try to stay young looking. It rarely works out well.

Clarkson is a douchebag.

It's hard to take Hollywood seriously these days. Talk about the ultimate in "do as we say, not as we do"!

GKFroelich's comment, the first in the section, that starts "A number of popular TV shows..." has a period (e.g. whatever.gif. <- see the period?)at the end of the link to the lens diagram. Remove it and you will see the diagram which is pretty amazing.

When I lived in Boston, one of the 2 dozen or so ALFAs I owned had the vanity plate "Y ALFA"
That was the question I was always asked. The answer was "I know how to fix them and I have a garage full of parts!"

I cannot stand all the older actresses getting plastic surgery. The actressses complain that Hollywood producers say you won't get cast because (god forbid) you look your age. It is definitely sexist as you don't see men complaining that they have to have it to get caste. However I still feel like it is also the personality that Hollywood attracts. Famous actors cannot accept being out of the spotlight and so they must do whatever it takes to be cast in movies. As the Simpsons once said, "Get some confidence, stupid!"

FX keeps playing ads for a new show starring Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon (as Joan Crawford and Bette Davis). Two great actresses but Jessica Lange looks like a clown from the plastic surgery. It doesn't help that I see the ads while watching Baskets, a show about a clown.

My wife believes the wrong envelope at the Oscars was on purpose. It fits with the current zeitgeist of no publicity is bad publicity. I think she's right and man oh man did it work because when was the last time someone brought up Oscars to you? It's been many years in my case.

It did happen once before. Sammie Davis Jr. Was handed the wrong envelope. http://www.avclub.com/article/sammy-davis-jr-handled-his-oscar-flub-boss-1964-251222

Lets see...yep, TWENTY EIGHT air to glass interfaces! Their multi coating better be better than great! Wonder what the T stop is.

Speaking of the legendary reliability of Alfa,cough, cough. I was the proud second owner of one of the original Alfa Duetto, the boat tail "Graduate" model. I was stationed in Austin, Texas and got orders to Vietnam. I intended to drive it to my family home in central California. I drove 30 minutes and then returned to Austin for a small, unremembered problem. Next day I got as far as El Paso and met the local Alfa dealer there. Then it was to Scottsdale AZ to give money to the Alfa dealer there. My final stop on Alfa dealer Grand tour was in Pasadena? Santa Monica? It's been a long time. Then finally to home.

All those unscheduled stops didn't affect my love for that car. When I came back from Vietnam, my Mom had it waiting for me. And it was pretty reliable from that point on!

1. Ferrari did do a four-door concept car. Just one copy.


2. But can that Olympus "draw" as nicely as some old four element designs can?

3. I'm not sure what the price of movie tickets in Ithaca is, but compared to the scandalous levels they have reached in New York City, even renting a streaming movie on Amazon is a bargain.

Faye Dunaway played a photographer in the excellent Three Days of the Condor, and again in The Eyes of Laura Mars. Condor is really an essential movie of the 70s, and holds up well even today.

As for her surgery, well, the only person who has to be happy about it is Faye, she certainly wasn't doing it for my benefit (or likely anyone on this site). I say if it makes her happy, more power to her.

[Okay, fair enough, I'll go along with that. --Mike]


Regarding Casey Affleck: Whatever happened to the liberal notion of justice based on "innocent until proven guilty"? Especially given our litigious society where an opportunistic accuser (and her team of contingency lawyers) can exploit a falsehood or exaggeration for fame and fortune.

I second the Leno and Seinfeld recommendation above. I also recommend Roadkill on Motor Trend's YouTube channel.

It features two gearheads (Freiburger and Finnegan) doing dumb stuff with cheap cars. Both of these guys were once Editor's at Hot Rod Magazine and they can be quite entertaining in a ridiculous kinda way.


The question on my mind since I read this piece today is this: The new Alfa convertible is a rebadged Miata, is the sedan a rebadged something else?

[It's certainly a fair question. In my opinion rebadging is a disastrous idea for reputation--it sows doubt in the minds of consumers about the integrity of the company and its products. It was many years before I got over the suspicion that maybe Hondas weren't all Hondas, after it rebadged an Isuzu in the early days of the SUV. It made me suspicious of all Hondas for ten years--I could never remember the details, I just remembered that some Hondas weren't real Hondas.

It's curious, because our attachment to ideas of corporate integrity are irrational to start with--but we do cherish those ideas, and of course companies work hard to perpetuate the illusion.

Of course, the new Spider is not an *Alfa* convertible--it's a Fiat. Maybe the powers that be at Fiat realized that rebadging a Miata as an Alfa would not be good for Alfa's reputation. --Mike]

I test drove the Alfa Giulia last week. No, not the 505hp Quadrifoglio, the 280hp standard version. The dealer encouraged me to open it up and it did not disappoint. Plenty of power, very sharp handling, looks great and would absolutely make a fine daily driver. The interior is not finished quite as nicely as the Germans, but still very good. There's a dealer one block from my office. Uh oh. Car purchases should not be merely rational. I had a '78 GTV -- man, I loved that thing, warts and all.

Completely agree with the comments about plastic surgery. I don't care for resto-mods when it comes to cars or human beings.

Mike, you really should see Moonlight.

I was interested in a Pen F and waited for the (in that time) rumored 25/1,2 lens.

It's excellent for what I read but it's huge ! Specially on a Pen F which should be a camera to have always with you!


I realize that no one else would agree, but rather than the techno fetish of the 25mm f/1.2 I'd far rather have that slower 4 element lens.

A classic Tessar 25/2.8 pancake lens and a Pen F? To me that would be a dream come true with the classic sharp in the center but softening to edges like my Zeiss did once upon a time. 50/2.8

The concerns about Affleck and the implications about its possible influence on whether he should receive an award for his acting interest me.Some years ago in England there was quite a furore about Eric Gill in a similar context.
As many will know Gill was an accomplished sculptor, draftsman and calligrapher in England at the turn of the 19th to 20th century. He was also a quite atrocious human being in many ways - few women within 50 yards were safe from uninvited sexual attack and he was in long term incestuous relationships with his daughters from their teen years.

When this became more widely known in (I think) the 1980's there were widespread calls for his work to be removed from public view - initially this related to a 'Stations of the Cross' series in the Catholic Westminster Cathedral in London which does complicate the matter but it became a more general concern particularly for feminists activists at the time.

Personally I like quite a lot of Gill's sculpture and often reference it in my own work and normally use his font 'Gill Sans' for preference.
I abhor his sexual behaviour and have no time for his naive political and social concepts.
Having thought about that apparent dichotomy I have come to believe that private behaviour should be completely irrelevant to assessment of artistic achievement. Caravaggio probably would not be anyone's first choice as son-in-law and many of the great works of christian art were created by artists of luke warm 'belief' and sometimes total agnosticism.

There is perhaps a greater difficulty in a celebrity obsessed culture where 'stars' may attract irrational adulation and copy-cat behaviour I suppose but is that not a different social and moral problem about the media treatment of such people ?

I am always amused by our love/hate relationship with cars, especially us Americans and our "foreign" cars. I had a '71/'72 MGB that I (and then my children) drove and tinkered with for many years. It was great fun to drive here in the Northeast on a nice day and a paperweight in any kind of other weather. All the many years that we all drove it,the license plate read BLIVIT - a fairly apt description that the DMV never caught on to. At least I learned how to tune SU carbs because the mechanics that knew how disappeared over the years over the years.

Back in the late '60's or early '70's a buddy of mine had an Alfa fastback (Guiletta?) that was beautiful, fun to drive and required an in-house mechanic. The new car is beautiful - my son rode in one and was very impressed.

On the other hand, I was treated to a 0-80 ride in a Tesla. I wasn't fully back in the seat when we took off and got pushed back with an awful lot of force. That thing is really impressive.

The 'best' car shows are on youtube right now. Mighty car mods, dirt every day, Jay Leno's garage, Roadkill etc etc. What was good about TG was the humor and the road trips/challenges. 1 blown up celebrity is fun, 2 is a repeat, 3 is dull. TG v2.0 was warned even before they started shooting, nobody liked Evans to take over. There was so much back lash about him on the interwebs, but I guess he had a tight contract and they had to stick with him. Almost everything predicted what would go wrong with it/him did. 1-0 for the pessimists.

It's too bad you can't include an affiliate link for the Alfa! ;)

[Look at the bright side. If I got affiliate perks for cars, this would be a car blog. No coffee, no pool, no cameras, no photography.... :-) --Mike]

Here you are innocent until proven guilty. It is quite shocking that increasingly commonly the opposite is assumed.
Of course if found guilty that is a totally different matter

[We're not determining guilt or innocence. All I said was that there were allegations; and that is true, there were allegations.


There have also been cases where people got themselves into trouble, learned their lesson, and reformed. Maybe Affleck is one of those. I'm still going to see "Manchester by the Sea." --Mike]

The only issue I have with the better M43 lenses is their own lesser stablemates. The 42.5 Panasonic, is awesome, but the little f1.7 also is brilliant regardless of the price and I have a 25 Olympus I will swear by that cost $399. Great followed by better, no incentive for the cash strapped.

Everything comes around. Enzo Ferrari got his start running Alfa Romeo's pre-WWII racing team.
The new Alfas are not re-badged Mazdas. AR punted that collaboration and it came to the market as the new Fiat Spyder.
Having owned 5 Alfas, I found them to be the most road fun for the money ever made. They now need to bring in the Guilietta Sprint (seen at the Paris Auto Show) at an intro price to attract new young buyers.
I would immediately buy one, at age 62 I want to be young again too!

Hi Dave,
Alfas (or alphas) have not been hot Italians for the last fifty years, at least. The last hot alfa, if so, was the Montreal (monster not withstanding). They have been sexy, if so (the last alfa I liked was the prestyling 156). Ford has had more exotics and hot cars in this period than alfa. The best good alfa as an overall package was the 75, which was not bad. Was as reliable as the rest of euro family sedans.

I don't see the point of a car being harsh or not. A sportscar or hot car on the street has to have a certain progressive nature. On competition, you have to slide and control the mass balance and dance if you want to stand a chance.

A fast steering allows for a less efforting drive.

Jason Cammisa also has a great name for the rebadged Miata: the Fiata.

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