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12/31/10

 

While I was busy bad-mouthing the Sony A33, I forgot to mention I made some money off it before I sent it back! 

 

A Realtor called me one day last month and asked if I could get a good shot of an empty lot that was up for sale.  It just so happened that It was a week-end, I had the A33 with me, and I was close to that location, so I drove over to check the lot out.  It was mostly cloudy, but I figured I'd give it a try.  As I walked the lot, I quickly came to the conclusion the lot itself was nothing to look at, and very steep with almost no vegetation.  There was no value in photographing an ugly lot, so I decided on another angle.  About that time there was a break in the clouds, allowing the sun to shine through, which was just before sunset.  I started shooting, and decided on a panorama of the Santa Catalina Mountain range as viewed from the potential house site.  A minute later the sun was gone, and the shot below was the only one that had any "pop" in my opinion.

 

The Realtor thought the picture was great, which is the most important thing.  I charged $125 for the panorama image and another unrelated business shot.  The full size image shows some problems with the in-camera pan stitching, and some softness from the sides of where each individual shot would be, most likely caused from the CZ 16-80mm being used at 80mm and all the way open at F/4.5.  I think the picture looks good when viewed small, but it wouldn't pass my standards if enlarged.  Next time I'll do the pan stitching manually, and take a tripod.  This image shows none of the color fringing issue I talked about here, but I would still rather use the A700/A900 for all paying work.

 

December2010/OVpanhp2.jpg
Click for larger version

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12/29/10

 

I hope everyone had a peaceful Christmas weekend, I did, and the fact that It was about 70° (21°c) and sunny in Tucson this weekend made it even better.  Unfortunately, many of you are still digging yourselves out of a massive snowstorm(!)  On the bright side, that makes for some great picture taking...right?

 

I'm waiting on a Sony A580 (without kit lens), unfortunately, they're on back-order, so I'm going to hold off on my tests as mentioned in the last update below until I get one.

 

This site has a high ISO comparison between the Sony A580 and Nikon 7000.  At first glance it looks like the Sony is a little bit behind the curve, but reality suggests a different outcome.  More importantly, and more noticeable is the exposure levels are not the same.  Cameralabs say they compensated by using -0.3eV, but it looks like they should have pulled back almost a full stop on the Nikon.  That's odd, if the Sony is not taking in as much light as the Nikon, the noise levels will predictably be higher in actual shooting.  Most likely the lens aperture openings are not quite the same, or the sensitivity is not the same between the cameras, although they do hint at that issue in their ISO 3200 paragraph.  They also tested the trick multi-frame high ISO on the Sony, the link to that page is here.  Based on my quick test of that feature on the A33, you could get the same basic results by shooting in RAW and doing some of your own noise reduction processing in dedicated noise software, such as Neat Image, (which I use).

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12/22/10

 

I'll be taking a break for the next few days, so nothing new will get posted until I get back. I hope everyone has a great Christmas weekend!!

 

Here's what I have planned for the end of December, and January;

 

....A focusing accuracy comparison between the A580 (maybe), A700-A900, and the accuracy of the AF micro adjustment feature on the A900 with the new firmware update.

 

....Flash use for interior shooting with Radio poppers, and what Sony/Minolta flashes will work properly.

 

....Real Estate photography hints and pointers.  If you want to get paid for practicing photography, this is a good way to go.

 

....Finally, many people want to know what I use, or "what's in your camera bag" etc.  Well, the image below shows mostly what's in my working bag, but I'll go into more detail in the next couple of weeks.  I obviously use a lot of flashes, but some things get used more than others.  What I use may not be suitable for others, so I'm showing you this just for fun, and because people ask.

 

December2010/P1090079a.jpg
Stuff in my bag

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12/16/10

 

Check out this surfing video from photographer Dave Black.  The guy uses eight (8x450=$3600!!) Nikon SB900s and a Nikon 200-400mm lens ($6000) to flash shoot surfers at Ocean Beach pier in San Diego, CA.  It's a super expensive way to go, but the results are worth it, (especially if a company is paying you).  The first 6 minutes are techno babble, but after that it shows the images he captures, and flash, no flash differences. It's available in 720 HD, so pre-load it while you're doing something else, and watch it full screen. 

 

This guy, kenrockwell.com (mentioned below) is now reviewing Sony camera stuff, and I'm not too impressed with the two new lens reviews.  He says the Sony 18-55mm kit lens is basically junk, as is the 18-250mm.  It's clear Rockwell isn't interested in doing a comparison review, because that might expose the Nikon 18-55mm kit lens (in which he callls "perfect" and "a winner") as being in the same category as the Sony 18-55mm, which it is because I've tested both.  The Sony 18-250mm is substantially cheaper than the Nikon 18-200mm, but apparently that's of no importance.  His two Sony lens reviews probably took an hour to write up, and an hour to test, it shows it too.  Oh well, I still like his other stuff.

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12/15/10

 

Apparently, Kenrockwell.com has the same general opinion of the Sony "translucent" mirror cameras as I do, Which is "not yet ready for the big time, but maybe the next generation."  Rockwell has a few likes, and quite a few dislikes about the new cameras, and only mentions noticeable color fringing in passing, and that he'd prefer a good DSLR instead.  He also goes on a tangent about the word "translucent," claiming Sony marketing people are morons and that if it were translucent, you would get a blank picture.   That's not my understanding of the word, but then again, I'm not against "colorful language" on occasion.

 

Well, I think I've covered about as much as I'd like on the problems with the Sony A33/55.  I'd rather use a good DSLR, that's just me, some people will enjoy the convenience of the new cameras over some color fringing.  Time will tell about what is causing the issue, and what the fix is. 

 

I have a new primary email form for everyone to use, which should be used if you want your question to potentially be posted on the Reader's digest page, or have a general question.  I'm going to use the old address at the bottom of the page for people that do not want to have their thoughts on the Reader's digest page, or have some personal info they may not want to share.  So use the white form for most stuff, and the old address for privacy. 

 

Last, but not least, some people have written to me within the last couple of days and left only a draft stamp, but no message.  I'll need more than that to give a response.   

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12/13/10

 

I posted a couple of pdf files with good explanations of MTF curves, and how to read the charts.  They're located in blue text on the lens reviews page, and are courtesy of Zeiss.com.  The second file is a little more interesting in my opinion.  It's good reading even if you aren't concerned about that kind of stuff.

 

Also, thanks to Eric, I have a manual and application chart for the old Minolta close-up lenses, which are still available and cheap on eBay.  Go here and scroll to the bottom of the page for the links to both pdf files. 

 

One last item, a few people wrote in and said the comparometer from imaging-resource.com didn't show the same difference of noise in their A33/ A900 comps as my A33 and A700 comparison page did.  That's because the comparometer is using jpegs, and are not derived from RAW files.

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12/11/10

 

As expected, some people (even though they were warned) went ahead and looked at the page linked below, and now they're mad.  This dude says it's all invalid in an email rant, (question 10014).  Many people wrote to say either; "I don't see that much stuff in my shots," or "I looked at imaging-resource's A33 comparometer page, and nothing out of the ordinary shows up."  They were probably checking out the A33 against regular mirror cameras.  I decided to check out that site page too, and I will agree, there isn't much color fringing showing up, although all the images in the compare page were taken in the studio, including the house picture, which is just a poster on the wall.  Also, please keep in mind I put up the photos on my comp page to show the severity of issue, and the mountain scene crops from the entry below are extreme examples.  Depending on the light, lens and composition, you may not ever see quite that amount in your shots.  

 

I checked Dpreview's Sony A55 real sample images, and many shots, (including the four below) confirm some of my own results, although they didn't go out of their way to highlight the issues like I did, because after all, they're in the business of selling cameras and equipment.  I won't hot-link to the original full size photos, so go to the links and click "original" below the sample.

 

DSC00962   Look on the right side along the tree tops, big magenta fringing.

DSC00041  Look on the lower right, by the hand rail and pipe, more magenta fringing and what looks to be a mirror ghost on the top of the handrail.

DSC02483  massive magenta/cyan fringing along the last two light poles on the lower right.

DSC00070  I see very little color fringing at all, which adds to the dilemma.

 

It appears to me the problem is with bright light coming at a certain angle to the lens, where the translucent mirror may be causing some additional color fringing.  Some lenses are better than others at CF control, so part of the problem comes from the lens, although that's no different with a regular DSLR camera.  If you look very carefully at the highlights around the center of the image in a couple of the shots above, you can see some magenta fringing, which is the same as what you see in the image below, but that shot makes use of an over-abundance of specular highlights.  Also, my above selection of Dpreview's shots are between F/5-F/13, and most of the color fringing has cleared up in the centers at those apertures, and that reflects my findings too.  I'm still not sure why the studio shots don't show much if any difference; another mystery to solve.  With that said, I think my comp page is an accurate reflection of the issues, even though I went out of my way to show the problems at their worst, and it's unlikely I received two bad A33s.

 

There are ways to correct this color fringing issue right now, although they involve some intermediate level photo editing software unless you have plenty of time on your hands, in which case just use the standard heal and clone tool.  If you take a great picture, and decide you want a big enlargement made for the living room, just download a trial version of a good photo editing program, fix your shot, and go from there, it's not a big deal.  I think folks should just keep using the SLT cameras if color fringing doesn't bother them; it's a good camera in all other respects IMHO. The mirror ghosting in the comp is not something I'd worry about, it's easy to correct in Post processing, again, using the heal and clone tool.  Color fringing bothers me, but distortion, light fall-off and build quality are things I don't worry about much.  Light fall-off really ticks some people off, but I never give it much thought.  It all depends on what's important to you in an image.

 

It's probably clear by now I'd rather use the Sony A900 at ISO 1600, than the A33 at ISO 200, but that's just me.  I like the professional features of both the A700/900, so much so, that I'm not willing to compromise on a lesser camera.  I had two different copies of the A33, but I can't live with the image quality, although I really like the rotating LCD, and the fact that it's small and lightweight.  I bought the A33 as a backup for my other cameras, and for hiking.  I sent both A33s back for a refund.  I may try an A560/580 in the future.

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12/9/10

 

If you've purchased one of Sony's new translucent mirror cameras recently, and have wondered about how it really compares to a traditional DSLR as far as image quality is concerned, and if there is such a thing as a "penalty" resulting from a mirror that doesn't flip up and out of the way to fully expose the camera sensor, then you may find some interesting comparisons in what I'm calling the Sony translucent mirror A33 and Sony A700 comparison page.   The link will be permanently posted in the "lens reviews" page under "camera reviews and articles relating to lenses."

 

Warning; if you are happy with your Sony A33/55, please don't view this page.  The new cameras are very handy and capable, so just enjoy going out, taking pictures and having fun, don't worry about my fussy issues and examples on the page.

 

December2010/a33overhp.jpg
Notice anything odd about this image? Click for comp page

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12/5/10

 

Landscape and interior shooters, now is your time!   For all you landscape/interior shooters that are on a tight budget, and looking for a high resolution, cost effective, great performing camera outfit to buy today, look no further than the Sony full-frame A850, which is priced to sell (for $1899-$1999) at all legit outfits including my favorite; B&H photo.  If you've been thinking of jumping to a Sony full-frame, now is the time.  Don't wait for a 30+mp camera that's still on the drawing board, and might (or might not) be available in a year or two; the Sony A900/850 will be considered high-tech and formidable for several more years.  Whenever I get out my (now two year old) A900 for a shoot, I'm still amazed at the resolution and overall image quality, especially when using a really good lens.  Don't worry about trivial things like "better" high ISO noise reduction, movie mode, HDR or any number of other foolish gimmicks, if you want a straight-forward camera, with great image quality, at a great price, the Sony A900/850 full-frame cameras fill that niche perfectly.  

 

Another morsel of truth; unfortunately most people don't realize it, but the (over three year old) A700 is still a very good camera, offering professional features and build quality that even the latest and greatest Sony DSLRs don't have, and is still superior to the new a33/55 translucent mirror cameras in image quality, I'll prove that to you in a few days with a comparison page.

 

Sony A850, now $1899 at B&H Photo and other places.

 

Low cost, but great performing lenses for Sony full-frame:

 

Sony 20mm F/2.8  $600  Great super wide-angle, but trim your focus at small apertures for best results.

Minolta AF 28mm F/2  $450-550 used.  Great in daylight stopped down, but has strong coma with a wide aperture.

Minolta AF 35mm F/2  $500-600 used.  Has same qualities as the 28mm F/2.

Sony 50mm F/1.4  $370  Very sharp across the frame from F/8-11, strong coma wide open.

Sony 85mm F/2.8 SAM  $225  Very sharp across the image frame at F/8, but color fringing along the sides.

 

The lenses above have high quality optics, and are exceptional performers stopped down.  They'll make a very good match for a 25mp sensor.   All are relatively inexpensive, and the Sony 20mm and 50mm can be purchased used, with a Minolta name, at sometimes half the cost of a new Sony!

 

If you're on an extremely tight budget, look carefully at the Sony A850 and excellent Tamron AF 28-75mm F/2.8 zoom lens, (check price here), get both for around $2400.

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12/2/10

 

Check out the new "Reader's digest page," yes, it's a total rip-off of this, but it fits so well I had to use it.  The new page (now located on the nav bar on the left side of the site below lens comparison page) will have questions and answers from website reader's starting with the newest entries at the topI've already posted a few answers from the first "batch" of questions, and if you wrote and don't see your question, it's probably because I haven't had time to post it yet, or it's similar to another question.  I appreciate the people that take the time to write.

 

Sony full framers beware!  A new firmware update is available for your A850/900.  It's mostly exposure compensation, now ±5! and "release without lens."  If you really like the way your camera works now, you may want to wait for other people to download it and see if anything gets screwed up by the new firmware, like Canon did with the 5DII update.

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12/1/10

 

I'm going to put up a constantly running page with questions from my visitors, and try and answer them to the best of my ability; (please don't confuse "ability" with knowledge or accuracy).  There are a lot of good questions from visitors, and other readers might benefit from the dialog and different threads that will inevitably result.  I'm still hesitant to put up a normal "forum" or "discussion page", for fear of it getting out of control and the name calling etc gets going.  If anyone's going to spew hate, it should be me; well, not really, but you know what I'm talking about.

 

Wanna do it?  Here's how it will work; you send in the questionYou can use a fake name and location if you're shy, or if you want to opt out, just let me know and I won't post your question, as sometimes private information is included.  No email or last names will be used so you won't fear embarrassment from a dumb question, although I may give a dumb answer from lack of knowledge, but I won't be embarrassed.  I'll answer all questions that I think are pertinent to Sony, cameras, lenses, general photography, etc, and post them once a week or so, depending on how many questions I get, and my spare time.  Let's get started on the first batch of questions, so send your mail here!