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1/30/10

 

Look at the ISO 1600 image taken with my new camera phone at Burger King, where I'm a busboy.  Actually, I should own this place with the amount of money I've spent here.  I chose this shot to show you not because I thought National Geographic magazine would see it and give me a call, but because I knew it would show massive noise in the shadow areas, and smeared out textures galore, making it a good image to experiment with.

In the original shot, there is massive blue confetti in the shadows, with an overall bluish cast.  In the lightroom tweaked image below, I've removed some of that mess, along with a few other tricks.  Go to the review of the C905a, at the bottom of the page for the original shot, and see what I did to make it look better.

 

This shot would be impossible without having exposure compensation on the camera.  In this scene the camera was underexposing by two stops because it's limited to a shutter speed of 1/10s, and only wanted to go up to ISO 400, so when you raise the eV +2.00, you're actually raising the camera sensitivity, or ISO.  Attempting to bring up the shadow areas of the underexposed shot in post processing would make a mess of it with all the extra noise that procedure would produce.  If I had used the flash, it would've illuminated the table and chair in the foreground, and everything else would be too dark.  With some fancy post processing, I think you could make a decent 4x6" print at ISO 1600, which makes the C905a more useful as an everyday pocket camera.

 

I added a few more "random observations" to the review, so check 'em out again if you're thinking about buying this camera phone.

 

EXIF data for the shot below; F/2.8, 1/10s ISO 1600, eV +2.00, AWB and no flash.

 

Jan2010/cphps.jpg
C905a camera phone at ISO 1600! Click for review page

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1/28/10

 

New Toy alert!  I finally bought a new phone, and it has a pretty decent camera, which I reviewed here.  I've been buying Ericsson/Sony Ericsson phones since the late 90s, and they've always been good.  This time I picked out the C905a model, with an 8.1 megapixel camera.  It won't replace a good camera, but it is good enough to be able to make nice looking 8"x10" prints, depending on image content of course, and I cover that in the review.

 

The C905a has some real camera functions, like a real flash, exposure compensation (which is the most important setting on a camera), and a real focusing "lens" with macro mode.  In the review I have a full size comp with the Canon SD780 IS, plus a few other original size images to look at.  Also check out the regular stamp macro, ghosting and distortion samples, and some smaller size images at the bottom of the page.

 

With a little work, this phone will take very good images viewed at normal sizes.  For best results, post processing is needed in most cases.

 

Jan2010/sarcftz.jpg
Click for review page

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1/24/10

 

I forgot to mention in the last entry I moved the Camera reviews to the lens reviews page, and will no longer offer the separate page on the nav bar for camera reviews.  The last camera review I did was a fifty year old kodak Brownie Hawkeye!!  Cameras come and go all too quickly, and are usually a waste of money (believe me, I know) for taking better pictures, so only fun camera reviews from now on, like the one I'm going to start this week!

 

Also, I've had to split up the lens comparison page to try and put a stop to the ridiculously long page from getting even longer.  Now I have all the comparisons with the Sony CZ 16-35mm on a single page, and all the miscellaneous lens comps on a single page.  I'm going to start the Sony CZ 24-70mm comps soon, but I have nothing to offer right now.

 

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1/23/10

 

Check out the image below by the guy (Trey Ratcliff) running Stuckincustoms.com, scroll down the page until you see it, the site is updated daily.  This original shot is 12000x8174 or equivalent to about 98MP, and had to be downsized to be loaded on to flickr 13.5mb!  Originally it was 16,000 pixels wide, 984mb TIFF, or 124mb JPEG.  It gives you a good idea about what the future will yield in resolution.  Now I'm not a huge fan of HDR, but I find this image interesting none-the-less.  I don't know how it was pieced together, but he did a good job.  For some reason I notice some massive color fringing along the sides, where you're not supposed to look---right?  I think the camera used was the Nikon D3X and 14-24mm lens.

 

As I said, I'm not real big on HDR, though Trey has some great shots to offer and keeps me interested.  I like his general outlook, adventure chronicles, innovation, and the latest website gadgets, something I desperately lack.  Speaking of innovation, check out this really cool video he shot on a digital camera with 300fps.

 

Jan2010/trsic.jpg
Photo by Trey Ratcliff, Stuckincustoms.com

 

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1/21/10

 

Thanks to all the people that offered to help convert the Minolta Manual from MS Word to PDF.  Marc from the Netherlands jumped on it quickly, and it's up and ready to view, go to the Minolta AF lens manual page, all the way to the bottom.  This one covers the fast telephotos, like the 200mm F/2.8, 300mm F/2.8, and the huge 600mm F/4, and dates from 1989.  It also has specifications for each lens listed.  Languages include English, German, French and Japanese I think, but I see no Spanish.   Thanks again to John from the Netherlands for donating the manual.
 
I put September and October home page entries in the Home page archives, so if you saw something from those months you liked, just go to that month to check it out.  
 

Jan2010/HSAPOteleman.jpg
click for manual page

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1/18/10

 

I get quite a bit of mail from people thanking me for helping them come to a lens buying decision, and it's usually one that saved them money!   I always say you don't need an expensive lens to make great pictures.  I'd like to thank the many contributers to the site, whether they made a monetary donation or helped in other ways, like the scanned manual below.  If you're wondering about how you can help, read on!
 
I've added a new page to the Nav bar.  It's called the "help me and the community" page.  If you have one or more of the lenses listed, and would like to help the Sony/Minolta community, contact me and let's see if we can set up a review!  There are other options for helping also, the obvious is a small donation, but you can also donate the amount needed to rent a listed lens for a week or ten days (if stocked for rental) and become a "sponsor" of that particular review. 
 
Here's another way to help out; can anyone out there take the time to convert a MS word file to a PDF? Done!  A thoughtful reader, John (from the Netherlands I think) sent me a scanned copy of the owner's manual for the Minolta AF 300 F/2.8 APO , 200mm F/2.8 APO, and 600mm F/4 APO lenses in English and German.  I'd like the pages to be upright, top to bottom, easily readable, and under 3mb if possible.  Contact me if you can help.  I'm too darn busy right now and don't have the software to convert the file, so I guess I couldn't do it if I wanted to.
 

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1/12/10

 

Another lens comparison has been added to the lens comparison page.  This time the Sony 28mm F/2.8 and the Minolta AF 28mm F/2 go head to head, with the same basic tests, (but different subjects) as the Sony 28mm had in the last comp.  You'll also be able to extrapolate the differences between the Minolta 28mm F/2 and the CZ 16-35mm, based on this latest comparison.  The Minolta is much sharper in the extreme corners than the Sony 28mm, but seems no better in the centers, at least using real subjects instead of newspapers and test charts.

 

I noticed the Minolta AF 28mm F/2 performed very well when I reviewed it some time ago, and if Sony would update the coatings and slip in an aspherical element or two, it could easily be labeled a "G" or Carl Zeiss!

 

Jan2010/28comphp.jpg
click for comparison page

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1/7/10

 

The great Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 lens review is ready.  Once again I'd like to thank a kind reader, Steve from CT for making it possible for me to review the Tamron lens.  It's a good way to help me, and others in the Sony/Minolta community. 

 

The crops taken for the APS-C section in the review confirm my findings in the comparison review.  Half a dozen sharpness sets all turning out the same validates my conclusions, sorry haters.   I've had a lot of fun doing this review and the accompanying comp review.  The overwhelming response has been positive, although I think I ticked off a couple of Sony reps, (they never denied being from Sony in email correspondence) and in a threatening manner tried to get me to take down the (comp) review!!  This kind of stuff is one of the reasons why I started this site, and I relish the thought that my little site here actually matters.  Hate mail means you have credibility.  I get (by my own site stats, not alexa) about 50k visitors a month now, (with steady growth), most big photo sites get that in a day or less.  I didn't think I was all that relevant with that kind of traffic, but apparently I'm up-and-coming as they say.

 

In related news; I'm thinking of writing an article about sharpness soon---very soon seems appropriate, and other lens issues, and how it can destroy the hobby of photography.  This in itself is a shame, and I'd like to show folks that camera and lens choices are not all that important, even for people taking pictures for money.

 

So I'm reinvigorated, and ready to move on to other reviews and articles.  I think the next review will be a comparison between the Sony 28mm F/2.8, and the Minolta AF 28mm F/2.

 

Jan2010/t2875boxhp.jpg
click for review

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1/5/10 

 

Holy cow!  Some folks are actually counting the shadow width in pixels from each crop in my comp review, and drawing conclusions from the differences!!  Good Lord!  As I sit here in front of my cheap little windows computer laughing at it all, I can't help but think some people would be better off participating in photography at some basic level, instead of being perpetual observers, and developing the persona of "online expert."

 

I've had more offers this week to join "chat rooms" or "discussion groups" than all the offers combined from the last three years or more I've been doing this site.  I appreciate the offers, but someone has to actually produce material for the discussions in those chat rooms.  I'm too busy either making money taking pictures, hiking and taking pictures, or adding to this website by taking pictures.

 

I think the reason this comp review is so controversial is the expected results were not obtained.  Some people do not like unexpected results or surprises, in this case the surprise was the cheap little Tamron looked sharper than the much more expensive Sony models.  The usual gripe is that I must've bumped the tripod, or the focus wasn't right.  I can tell the difference between veiling haze and camera movement, some people can't.  I also know how to get the best sharpness out of a lens. 

 

Speaking of sharpness and all the mess it creates, here's a funny story, but sadly true; I do MLS photography quite often, which involves taking picture of homes for sale (inside and outside) for real estate agents to post in the local Multiple listing service website.  I go out and do the shoot, for inside shots I normally use a 10-15mm focal length and the A700.  I burn the full sized images and send them to the agent.  After the agent examines the images at 100% on their computer screen, sometimes they will go into a fit of rage because they think one of the shots is not sharp enough to show the 1/2 inch (12mm) high letters--usually at an angle(!) of the range brand in the kitchen, (like an expensive Viking etc.) taken from the living room 25ft away! You think that's odd, read on.  The agent will then call me and complain because they want the name to be visible in the picture so potential buyers will see the expensive upgraded appliances.  Finally, after I explain what's involved with resolution and area coverage, the agent calms down and agrees.  In the end, the full downsized images are uploaded to the MLS website, which processes the images at a maximum 400 pixels wide using massive compression!!!  Now do you think sharpness matters one bit in this situation?  I guess I'm just trying to illustrate the illogical and often damaging importance people place on sharpness.

 

Another true story; I recently sold a couple of pictures printed and framed (image size 11"x14") to some very nice folks.  Both images were taken with a 6MP point and shoot camera.  The subject in both shots was a Saguaro cacti, with mountains in the background.  The images were taken while hiking deep in the local mountains, which gave them the out-of-the-ordinary perspective that caught the buyers eye.  The buyers never asked about what type of camera I used, or how many megapixels it had, and the lens used etc.  The nice people enjoyed the pictures as presented, and bought them, that's it.

 

In the end, sharpness really doesn't matter, it's the right composition and lighting that will get you, or other people to take notice, not a fancy lens, or even a cheap lens in our recent case with the Tamron.  Take your pocket camera with you next time you take a stroll in the local park or area attraction and see what you can come up with, if you're disappointed with your results, it won't be because of sharpness, it'll probably be from poor lighting and composition.  

 

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1/3/10

 

Howdy!  2010 is here---thankfully, and this year I'll have even more controversial reviews coming up, which leads me to the newest entry below!
 
Due to recent inquiries concerning testing methods (relating to the 28-75mm comparison review below), I thought I might give concerned people some insight into my typical lens sharpness test methods to try and avoid any misunderstandings in the future.  Some folks are having a tough time dealing with the results from the latest comp review.
 
Since the last posting, I've been getting email from people wanting to know what kind of tripod I use, length of sections, what type of head, date of manufacture, weight, feet type, locking mechanism, cable release type, length of cable, insulation thickness of said cable etc.  Well, by golly I'm going to answer some of those questions, and I hope I can answer them to your satisfaction.
 
Tripod; 1950s very large studio Star D made out of cast (Reynolds) aluminum in Los Angeles, CA.  Of course I don't just put the tripod on the ground, I built a massive concrete hard-stand extending below the frost line, with heavy stainless steel brackets on top for the tripod feet to lock in to. I mount the camera directly to the tripod, (no sloppy quick release) with thin, high-tack rubber between the head and camera bottom.  Screw torque used to fasten the camera to the tripod is a nominal 1.58 ft/lbs, (2.14 joules?)
 
Temperature stabilization; I let the camera and lenses stabilize in temperature at the test site, then become familiar with the best focusing at that temperature for each lens.  With the 28-75mm comp review, I believe the temperature was a static 64.36 F or 17.97 C (with a possible calibration error of ± .1 F) during the actual lens testing procedure.
 
The shutter release process; Steady shot off.  I use mirror lock up, and allow ample time for the mirror-slap absorption gaskets to expand/contract fully before releasing the shutter, not allowing the gaskets to fully expand/contract results in inconsistent energy releases, and may cause slight sensor movement at a critical time.  Furthermore, I use a custom made (electronic type) cable release that has a dedicated support harness secured to a separate steel bracket on the concrete pad, so there is no possible camera jitter because of expansion-contraction cable movement from temperature fluctuations or wind.  The shutter release cable is approximately 60' (19m) long so I can minimize camera movement caused by my shifting weight on my feet near the concrete hard-stand/tripod area.  Most importantly, I check to make sure there are no rolling vehicles or pneumatic equipment being used in the area, as they could cause minute ground movements or sharp air pressure waves, resulting in blurry pictures and inconsistent results.  Also, though not a huge everyday concern, occasional massive solar flare-ups can cause an electrical spike in the steady-shot sensor system, (even if turned off) causing the sensor to move a little, making the image blurry.  If you follow the International Space Station on a daily basis as I do, you know when this kind of stuff happens, and what the projected problems will be, and whether or not you should be out shooting a digital camera with sensor-shift type stabilization, or a stabilized lens for that matter.
 
One last thing I do when testing any lens over 50mm in focal length is to check with the USGS and make sure there is no seismic activity (earthquakes, tremors etc) over magnitude 1.0 within 300 (480km) miles, and 1000 miles (1600km) at magnitude 3.0 at the time of testing.  I also factor in travel speed of said activity, so I can make sure the time of activity listed in the website above could not have effected the images during my test session; and yes I do compensate for the different time zones and lack of daylight savings time for southern AZ.
 
Unfortunately, I'm just scratching the surface of my lens testing procedures, and don't have time now to get to the real specifics.  I hope the information above will help you people out that have questions regarding my methods, and allow you to appreciate the high level of effort I put into testing and comparing lenses.