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10/31/11

 

Fall is here, and soon the holiday season! or (!)

 

I've been busy working on photo jobs, and trying to finalize the new website design, so that's why I haven't been posting much lately.  Everything seems to be on schedule for a roll-out at the end of the year, so hold tight folks.  Thanks to all the people that wrote in asking if I was ok, (yes, I'm ok, just busy), or if I decided to quite posting new stuff to this site!! 
 
From now until the end of the year I'll be periodically updating things here, starting soon with a list of things you might like to get yourself for Christmas if you want to take better pictures.  I'm going to recommend camera accessories mostly, like flashes and filters etc.  Right now, it looks like the only Sony cameras worth buying are the NEX-C3/5N, A35/55 and A580.  If you already have a modern digital camera such as the Konica Minolta 5D or Sony A100, you probably don't need a new camera to make better images, you need more knowledge about composition and lighting, and that's the primary motivation of my new website.
 
I may have a couple of reviews coming up before the end of the year, such as a flash head or lens, no promises though!
 
The colorful fall picture (same as X-mas colors) below was taken with the Panasonic FX-100 pocket camera, in the mountains north of Tucson, AZ.
 

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10/20/11

 

Accurate focusing is crucial for sharp shots using fast, telephoto lenses.

 

I added the images and text below to the Minolta AF 135mm F/2.8 review, not because this lens is different from other telephoto fast lenses, but to show people how critical it is to focus correctly for the sharpest shots.  The cropped images below were all taken at F/2.8, ISO 100, -0.70eV and 3200sec.

 

Accurate focusing is crucial for telephoto lenses when set to wide apertures, such as the 135mm F/2.8 here.  In the top crop, the camera focused slightly behind the house, you can see this by looking at the background foliage above the house, it's sharper than the other two crops.

 

The middle crop was focused slightly in front of the subject, although this shots appears better because of the lack of magenta color fringing, it's really not quite as sharp as it could be.

 

The bottom crop is focused correctly on the house, you can see the foliage out front and the metal window guard on the left is sharper here.

 

The range of perfect focus is super slim, and the differences in focusing accuracy in these crops highlights the limits of the camera's AF system.  I used the Sony A580 for this test, but even using the A900 with micro adjustments enabled still isn't perfect all the time.  The camera's AF system chose the focus for the above crops, each time slightly different.  The best way to see if you have your subject in perfect focus is to use live view, focus check and magnified to the max.  At smaller apertures, focusing isn't so critical, that's why cheap cameras come bundled (kit) with slow lenses, it's not just the lower cost, it's mostly because the AF system doesn't have to be very good to produce sharp shots.

 

This lens focused correctly when set to the infinity hard-stop, but if you're at shorter distances, you'll want to do a focus check to be sure of getting the sharpest shots.  The above 100% crops were taken almost 200 yards (200m) away from the camera, so infinity for this lens at F/2.8 is somewhere beyond that distance.

 

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Focused slightly behind the subject
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Focused slightly in front of the subject
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Focused correctly

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10/18/11

 

Minolta AF 135mm F/2.8 review finally done!

 

Ok, no more nasty mail about why I haven't completed the Minolta 135/2.8 review that I started about six months ago!  Note to self; don't mention inventory and plans until time permits!

 

The relatively small and light-weight Minolta AF 135mm F/2.8 turned in a very good performance for a twenty-plus year old lens.  Getting a good copy for under $300 would be a steal, and a nice addition to a prime lovers bag of goodies.  On an APS-C camera, this lens is similar to a 200mm F/2.8 lens for full frame.

 

Look for the mini-comp I did with the Sony 70-400mm using the Sony A580.

 

Earning high marks are: distortion control; it's flat on full frame and APS-C; center sharpness, where F/2.8 shows a surprising amount of detail, (although there is some veiling haze and color fringing), and light fall-off: very little on full frame at F/2.8.

 

Check out the full review here.

 

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Click for full review

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10/10/11

 

Feedback and thoughts.

 

The new website idea received a very large and positive response, so it's going to happen!  Thanks to everyone for the messages of encouragement.  Hopefully I can find someone to build a good initial site to get started on, with maybe an integrated wordpress front page for social interaction, along with a few features I'm missing on this site, like mouse over image replacement for before and after shots etc.  I'm not sure of the time-line, but I'd like to have something up and running before the end of the year.
 
In the mean time, my plans are to try and finish the Minolta AF 135/2.8 review, (yes it's taking a long time) and review the new lenses from Sony as they become available.  As I've said in the last post, I'm not sure about future camera reviews, right now I don't anticipate having enough time to work up something that's useful, and that wouldn't be fair to the people that let me play with the cameras for a month or two.  All I can say right now is if you already have an APS-C or full frame sensor equipped camera, your pictures are not likely to get better by buying a new camera; you're going to be far better off checking out some books or websites on composition and lighting, and broadening your photo editing skills.

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10/3/11

 

Jottings, and possible new website.

 

I haven't been posting much lately as I've been busy with several projects, but hope to update when time permits. 
 
People are writing to ask about when I'm going to review more lenses for Sony cameras, including the NEX system.  I'm going to review all Sony "α" and "E" mount lenses as I get them, and aftermarket lenses as I get time.  So far, I've reviewed all Sony lenses except the brand new 16-50mm and the 2 NEX lenses out now, (in most areas).
 
It looks like Sony is only going to come out with 3-4 lenses per year tops, and maybe a few accessories like a flash or adapter etc.  New cameras don't hold much interest for me---or others based on page views for my camera reviews, and they take a lot of time, so it's not likely I'll be doing many more camera reviews.   I've reviewed most of the interesting aftermarket Sony "α" mount lenses from Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Rokinon,and Vivitar, with only a few more that  I want to do.
 
I believe this website is extremely useful for Sony users, especially people considering a lens purchase for their Sony camera, and how to best use the features of a particular lens.  Unfortunately, I didn't know anything about websites when I started this site in the summer of 2006, so I went with an easy to use, internet based, point and click website platform, and all the content here will no longer be editable if I copy it to a new portable platform for a new site.  The point and click kind of site also takes a long time to build a review, and I don't have that much time anymore.  With that said, I'll continue to update this site with lens reviews and a few other things thrown in from time-to-time, but I'm not going to spend a lot of time building more content that I won't be able to edit later on with a new site.
 
My real interest, and business, is photographing (mainly) interiors, not reviewing gear, although I do enjoy that on a limited scale.  I'm thinking of starting a new website that will help others that want to do the same type of work, either professionally or simply for personal satisfaction.  It will focus on interior/exterior photography with a heavy emphasis on off-camera flash use, using mostly Sony equipment. 
 
The new site will of course allow comments so I (or others) can try and respond to comments and answer questions from readers.  I'm also thinking that readers could send in their related photo work to be posted for review by me, and visitors, to help them with problems they may be having, or just a general critique.   Is anyone interested in this?  If so, please contact me with a simple "yes, I'm interested in interior photography" so I'll be able to gauge the interest and go from there, thanks, Kurt.