Category Archives: Sony A7R

Peony

Peony

“Dusk on the Flower
Of the white peony
That embraces the moon.”
Gyodai – Haiku from the Edo period (1603 – 1868)

This image was inspired by Chinese/Japanese art where paintings of peonies proliferate. In this culture, it is not only the symbol of wealth and status but can also be a metaphor for female beauty. In Western culture the flower was named after the Greek God Paeon. The root of the white peony like many other plants is used for medicinal purposes.

As a photographer the beauty of this flower captivates and inspires me.

Since there is no direct translation of my name into Chinese, I had to create my own “chop” – an an S and a V.

Also posted in Composite, Flowers, Mirrorless, Photography Tagged |

Peak Design – SLIDE – an awesome camera strap

_DSC6901This is part one of a three-part review of three camera straps made by the kick starter company called Peak Design. I had heard about these from a number of sources including my friends at TWiP (This Week in Photography).  Peak Design were kind enough to send me the Slide and the Clutch and I ended up getting the Cuff. After this bit of testing I should consider getting the leash too as you will see from my review.

_DSC6902Let’s start with the Slide which is the most versatile strap in this family of straps. The strap is made of materials similar to those found in automobile seat belts. The two ends of the strap terminate with a unique attachment system made off a spring loaded slide-in connector that connects to a Kevlar loop clip system. The strap is actually two belts fused together in the central area that would typically wrap around your neck or across your shoulder. The fused area has a slight padding with one side same as the belt while the other side has silicone striping to provide enough friction to prevent it from slipping off the shoulder. I find this double-sided arrangement very convenient.  It is so easy to switch between the surfaces for those times you want to use the strap as a slide or have it in it’s nonslip mode across your shoulder. To maintain uniformity there are two adjustment loops at either end. An anodized aluminum metal handle mechanism allows you to extend or retract the length of the strap but you must do on both ends to keep the padded area in the middle.

The Slide strap kit comes with the strap, four Anchor Link connectors, one square Arca Swiss compatible camera plate, an allen wrench on a ring, a carrying pouch and a user manual. These are all nicely packaged in a well-designed box.

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I attached two Anchor Links to either end of my camera where you would typically attach your OEM camera strap. I attached a third Anchor Link to the loop connector of my existing Really Right Stuff extendable camera plate. With three connectors I am able to use the strap in various configurations. The most convenient is across the shoulder where I can easily bring the camera into shooting position with my hand on the grip and index finger on the shutter release with no obstruction. If I need to Carry the camera around my neck, I can easily detach the connector from the base plate and attach it to the free connector at the top. For the various ways you can sling slide I found carrying the camera on one shoulder to be the least secure and also not very comfortable.

Slide - Attached to one side of the camera body

Slide – Attached to one side of the camera body

Slide - Attached for around the neck use

Slide – Attached to both ends for around the neck use

Slide - Attached to one side of the camera body and the RRS camera plate

Slide – Attached to one side of the camera body and the RRS camera plate

For hand holding the camera the I attach the Clutch (more on this in Part 2) by attaching it to the two Anchor Links attached to the side of the camera body top and bottom (RRS Plate).

Specifications (from the Peak Design product page)

  • Weight: 171 g (281 g as packed)
  • Strap length: adjustable from 99 cm (39 in) to 137 cm (54 in)
  • Strap width: 45 mm (1.8 in)
  • Strength rating: Vectran®-corded Anchors can withstand over 200 lbs (90 kg), making Slide safe for use with the largest of professional cameras

Build quality

Of all the straps that I have used in the past and currently, I find the Peak Design Slide to have been made exceptionally well. Every component is beautifully constructed, all the stitching is truly well executed. The adjusters, the loops and the tripod plate are all of the highest standards.

I use the slide mounted to a Canon 6D and on my Sony A7R for about 10 days now and am very happy with the performance. I always like to remove my camera strap when I mount the camera on my tripod so as to prevent any shake as straps tend to act like mini sails in windy conditions. This requires constant disconnecting and connecting Anchor Links. So far, they have all performed extremely well and it appears these will not give or come loose for a long time..

My final assessment

I am very happy with the performance and comfort of this strap the Slide. It is really designed for any camera but my preference would be to use the Slide for heavier DSLRs and mirrorless camera bodies. A slimmer version but with the same wide shoulder padding would be ideal for the smaller minimalist mirrorless bodies.  The Peak Design Leash comes close but does not have the comfort padding.

I would not hesitate to recommend the Slide and give it 4 1/2 star rating out of a possible 5. The street price is about $60. Keep in mind that a small Arca Swiss camera plate will cost you a minimum of $20 – here one is included. This to me is a great bonus.

To get any Peak Design product click on the logo below for a 10% discount.Logo_Peak-Design_Dark

 

Also posted in Accessories, Mirrorless, Photography, Product Reviews

Testing Affinity from Serif

Have not had a lot time to test the 2nd Beta release of Affinity but gave it a good shot yesterday.  Still a lot to learn, but on the whole, I like it a lot.  Has some great features built in, the filters are great but not sure I like the fact that it creates an intermediate file.  The following is an image processed entirely using Affinity (Sony Raw to a TIFF export).

Kristina (70 South Gallery - Workshop) - Sony A7R, Zeiss Touit 500mm f/2.8, Exposure triad - ISO 100, f/11, 1/125 sec.  Lastolite Trigrip Gold reflector.

Kristina (70 South Gallery – Workshop) – Sony A7R, Zeiss Touit 500mm f/2.8, Exposure triad – ISO 100, f/11, 1/125 sec. Lastolite Trigrip Gold reflector for the key light.

Also posted in Lens, Lighting, Mirrorless, Photographs, Photography, Portraits, Product Reviews, Workshops Tagged , , , |

ZEISS announces 2 Full-Frame Autofocus Lenses for Sony A7 Cameras

batisZEISS Batis 2/25 and ZEISS Batis 1.8/85 – Designed for Sony A7 camera series

The ZEISS Batis 2/25 and ZEISS Batis 1.8/85 are the first full-frame autofocus lenses for Sony’s E-mount cameras to be exclusively developed and distributed by ZEISS. This new family of lenses is particularly suited for the use with Sony’s alpha range of mirrorless full-frame system cameras. The two new lenses will be shipping in July 2015.

The new ZEISS Batis 2/25 and 1.8/85 lenses are the first full-frame autofocus lenses with an OLED display for the mirrorless Sony α series and therefore the pioneers of a new era. As professional tools, they enable outstanding image performance, impressive contrast and maximum resolution down to the very last detail.

The innovative OLED display shows the distance of the focal plane from the camera system and the depth of field, ideally supporting creative image composition. Of significance is the fact that you will be able to see the readout in low light conditions.  The display is powered through the camera. The OLED display is an absolute highlight – an innovation that is currently unparalleled in camera lenses.

The Batis 2/25 is a Sonnar lens while the 1.8/85 is a Distagon lens

Batis 25mm f/2.0

Batis 25mm f/2.0

 

Batis 85mm, f/1.8

Batis 85mm, f/1.8

Available this summer – The ZEISS Batis 2/25 and 1.8/85 lenses will be available for purchase in April and start shipping in July 2015. The recommended retail prices are $1,299 for the ZEISS Batis 2/25 and $1,199 for the ZEISS Batis 1.8/85.

Click here for more information

Also posted in Lens, Mirrorless, News, Photography Tagged , |

No Aurora but the Milky Way

March 28, 2015 – Alaska Geo. Inst. forecasts a Kp index of 5 for the Aurora.  Kp 5 means – if the Aurora occurs you should be able to see it low on the horizon in Massachusetts.  Sounds awesome so we decide against going for the CamNats (Massachusetts Camera Naturalists) and head to Maine.  Acadia is always a great spot so we head to the loop road. WRONG most of the roads are closed.  A nice cop gives us direction on how to get to Sand Beach – so it is about midnight and we find our way to the parking lot.  Poor visibility forces us out of there and heading further towards Otter Cliffs.  The road is closed at the turnoff to Otter Cliff road. We pull over into a small clearing at one of the entrances to a parking lot and wait for the Aurora – nothing.  Well the Milky Way rises over the cliffs so we wait.  3:15 and the Milky Way shows its full arc.  It is cold, the wind does not help. I mounted the Rokinon 14mm on the Sony A7R to get this image.  The foreground trees were light painted during the exposure.

Please click on the image for a larger presentation.

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Milky Way – Acadia NP. Sony A7R, Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 at f/2.8, 25 sec at ISO 1600.

 

A subsequent 7 image pano yielded the arc but the 14mm lend distortion is apparent.

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Milky Way – Full Arc – Acadia NP – 7 image panorama.

 

Also posted in ISO 3200, Mirrorless, Night Photography, Noise Reduction, Photography Tagged , , , , , , |

Wine and Cheese

As the cold and snow continues, photographing indoors is always a good choice.  This is another image created using light painting.  Equipment: Sony A7R, Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8, Maglight (non LED) flashlight, Surefire LED flashlight.  Exposure triad f/16, 30 sec, ISO 400. 5 image composite.

Please click on the image for a larger rendition.

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Also posted in Accessories, Lens, Lighting, Mirrorless, Photographs, Photography Tagged , , , |

Light Painting – Still Life

Pears on Brass

Pears on Brass

With all the snow and not many places to go, a little light painting seemed to be the thing to do yesterday. This also gave me the opportunity to test out the Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 lens.  Mounted on the Sony A7R in crop sensor mode the lens performed flawlessly.  There was a fair amount of ambient light at 4:30 in the afternoon so I stopped down the lens to f/16 at ISO 50 that allowed an 8 second exposure.  Individual portions were light painted and three images combined to create this final composite.

Please click on the image for a larger rendition.

Also posted in Composite, Lens, Lighting, Photography Tagged , , |

Flash Sync Speed Limitation – a question from a subscriber

Question: “One thing I am curious about is the shutter with regards to off camera flash. Is there still a physical shutter that limits me to a max synch speed of around 1/200 of a second? Or have they moved to an electronic shutter that would allow much faster synch times?”

In order to appropriately respond to the question lets first understand how mirrorless camera sensors operate. Most mirorless cameras use CMOS sensors that contain light sensitive pixels arranged in rows. These sensors are always live as long as the camera is powered on and booted up.

Panasonic LUMIX FL580L Flash: Hybrid Flash System with Built-in Video LED

Panasonic LUMIX FL580L Flash: Hybrid Flash System with Built-in Video LED

In the mirrorless world, the sensor information is being constantly fed to the LCD and/or the electronic viewfinder. When you press the shutter the following sequence takes place: a) the sensor is wiped clean electronically; b) next the sensor is turned on and receives light while the pixels record the information; c) now the computer in the camera reads the data collected by the sensor pixels to generate the image. This data is finally recorded to the memory card.

We know that the sensor is sensitive to light and always receiving information. In order to capture a good image, the sensor should be restricted from receiving light while it is being wiped clean and then again when it is reading the data captured during exposure. As the sensor data is being read you do not want the pixel information changing with any new light that may fall on the pixels. So, for both these events, mirrorless cameras use electronic or mechanical shutters or a combination of the two.

The electronic shutter works by first erasing all the pixel data on a row-by-row basis. Then new image information is gathered and the data is read by the computer on a row-by-row basis very similar to how a television picture is generated. All of this takes time, albeit just a fraction. The greater the number of pixels the more the rows of information and the slower the process. This limits the cameras from achieving high shutter speeds. For proper exposure these rows of pixels gather the same amount of light but do so a row at a time. The data is read at the same rate. The collective time determines the fastest achievable electronic shutter speed.

We are aware that to expose properly for flash photography all the pixels must be “alive” and ready to receive data while the flash is on. If the row by row read process starts too early then you will get areas of dark under exposure. In order to properly expose for flash, the computer in the camera has to wait before it can start reading the data collected by the sensor. This wait time determines the highest sync speed for flash photography.

As an adjunct to this, in order to achieve higher shutter speeds mirrorless cameras use mechanical second curtains. The curtain can rapidly close all light from entering the sensor while the computer reads the information. On the Sony A7 that has a 24 MP sensor, there are 4000 rows of pixels. The only way to attain shutter speeds of 1/8000 sec. is possible using a mechanical rear-curtain. On the 36 MP A7r however, there are 4912 rows of pixels. To attain speeds of 1/8000 sec. this camera needs both a front-curtain and a rear-curtain shutter. The MFT cameras like the Panasonic GH4 and the Olympus OM-D series have 16 MP sensors that have only 3456 rows and can achieve 1/8000 sec. electronic shutter speeds without the need for mechanical shutters..

The Sony A7 has an optional mechanical front-curtain that must be deployed when using lenses of longer focal lengths at high shutter speeds.

Unlike DSLR’s, the mechanical shutter on mirrorless cameras remains in an open state in both the powered off and powered on modes, allowing for live view data to be collected and displayed continuously.

The highest flash sync speed is currently 1/320 sec on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 , 1/250 sec on the Panasonic GH4 and under 1/200 sec for most of the Sony cameras.

Hope this explains why the current mirrorless technology is limited and high flash sync speeds are not feasible.  If you have other photography related questions, please do not hesitate to ask and I will do my best to get you answers.

Also posted in Accessories, Educational, Mirrorless, Panasonic GH4, Photography, Tips Tagged , |

Shopping for a Mirrorless Camera?

Panasonic Lumix GH4 (image courtesy Panasonic)

Panasonic Lumix GH4 (image courtesy Panasonic)

Here is a question that I have been asked many times.  Why did you switch to the  “mirror-less” camera system?   My answer is quite simple, its all about not compromising the image quality and reducing camera size and weight. As these cameras do not have flip-up mirrors the distance from the lens to the sensor is greatly reduced resulting in lenses that have a smaller form factor and are also lighter. As a result, I can carry all my gear in a much smaller bag or carry-on and not have to worry about checked luggage during my travels.

The next set of questions typically revolve around the quality of images; the focusing speed; noise because of the smaller sensor; battery performance; etc.

Let’s address some of these concerns.

Before the advent of mirrorless cameras, DSLR’s were based on the same design as film cameras.  The film was replaced with an electronic light capturing device called the sensor.  Computers, memory cards and batteries were added to complete the image capture process.  All else however, remained the same.  A mechanical mirror that is used to reflect light up and through a pentaprism into an optical viewfinder remained as the standard.  Each time you press the shutter the mirror flips up and the sensor is exposed to light and captures the image.  With the advancement of technology and innovation this flip-up mirror and mirror box is no longer required.  The sensor has a clear view of the image as projected through the lens and the electronics used to capture the image are used to display the image onto the LCD screen. Optionally the image is displayed in the electronic view finder (EVF) that is like a miniature LCD screen. No more flip-up mirrors.  Now DSLR’s have incorporated some of this technology in what is termed as “Live View Mode”  but unfortunately, some manufacturers have not taken this concept to the next level.

Mirrorless cameras can be categorized the same way as DSLR’s where you have APS-C sized sensors, Full Frame sensors, etc.  The mirrorless world for comparison purposes, has three sensor sizes that have gained acceptance as replacements for DSLR’s.  The smallest are the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) cameras made by Panasonic and Olympus, APS-C sensor cameras made by Fuji, Samsung, Sony and others and the Full Frame cameras made by Sony.  The sensor size of these cameras have the same crop factor considerations as do DSLR’s.  The APS-C crop factor remains at 1.5 and the MFT sensor has a crop factor of 2.  Based on the crop factor, higher depth of field is achieved with the smaller crop factor and results in less bokeh. Based on your style of photography and the subject matter, the range of full frame to a MFT sensor size body gives you all the choices you had with DSLR’s.

As to focusing performance, DSLRs have some advantages. The dedicated phase-detect AF systems are very good at tracking subjects that are moving toward or away from the camera. In addition they also have an advantage focusing in low light situations.  Conversely mirrorless cameras are excellent at lateral tracking. As the sensor in the mirrorless camera is always live it is capable of analyzing the subject and and tracking it as it moves across the frame. With the introduction of Panasonic’s “Depth From Defocus” technology depth tracking has been greatly improved.

Sony A7R (image courtesy Sony)

Sony A7R (image courtesy Sony)

What about quality?  On the high end the Sony A7R has a 36.4 MP full frame sensor.  The Nikon D810 utilizes a 36.4 MP sensor made by Sony.  Image quality is exceptional.  The elimination of the Anti-aliasing filter allows the camera to capture exceptional detail and clarity.  The APS-C form factor has been popular with a majority of the prosumer range of DSLR’s on the market and has been the choice of many pro photographers too.  The MFT cameras and that sensor size is new in comparison but the images from the MFT cameras are at par with the APS-C format cameras.

ISO Sensitivity.  If there is any doubt, all one needs to look at is the sensitivity of the Sony A7S with a max ISO of 409600.  The camera can practically see in the dark.  It is important to remember that ISO sensitivity has no bearing on the type of camera, DSLR or Mirrorless.  The size of the sensor and the size of the pixels make the difference in light gathering capability and noise generation during image capture.

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons for mirrorless cameras.

PROs

  • The ability to view the image in the viewfinder and the LCD screen in realtime.
  • The ability to view all or select any of the camera settings live.
  • The ability to view any changes to camera settings without having to take your eye away from the viewfinder.
  • Focus peaking and zebra stripes.  Focus peaking allows you to see the areas within your image that are in focus. This can be displayed using selectable colors.  Zebra stripes show you in realtime areas that are going to be exposed with loss of detail in the highlights.
  • The ability to use most DSLR and Film camera lenses with adaptors.  You do not have to get rid of all your great glass.  You may not have the ability to maintain electronic communication with the lens but they will work perfectly well in manual mode.  With focus peaking, the process of obtaining good focus is simplified.
  • The ability to shoot high resolution video and harvest the ideal frame.  (Currently this is available on the Panasonic GH4)
  • Electronic shutter – low to no sound when capturing images.  A feature so important for nature, wildlife and street photography.
  • No mirror, hence no mirror slap and vibration during image capture.

CON’s

  • Battery life –  with the exception of the Panasonic GH4 most other cameras have a very low battery life. These cameras are constantly drawing power feeding the LCD, electronic viewfinder or both.  Due to the size of the mirrorless bodies, the batteries have been downsized too and hence have lower capacity.
  • Long focal length lenses.  With the exception of Olympus and Panasonic we have yet to see lenses with focal lengths greater than 200mm
  • Electronic viewfinder and LCD refresh performance is limiting particularly in low light scenarios.
  • Focusing speed of mirrorless cameras had been an issue but most manufacturers have addressed this with firmware and focusing system enhancements.

So which camera do you get?  It all depends on your style and budget.  I can say that having used mirrorless systems for about a year now my choices are:

  • For general purpose, nature/wildlife and people photography – the Panasonic Lumix GH4 is superb with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 a close second.
  • For detail and landscape photography – the Sony A7R is my choice.  The A7 II, though I have not tested it appears to be a more forgiving camera and adds in camera image stabilization.
  • For low-light photography – the Sony A7S is hard to beat.
  • For video – the Panasonic Lumix GH4 is a hands down winner.  The Sony A7S is very good but does not shoot 4K video to the camera.

I own or have used the following: Panasonic GH4, Olympus OM-D E-M1, Fuji XT1, Sony A7R and Sony A7.  My comments on the Sony A7S and the A7 II are based or reviews and video samples captured by photographers’ whose opinion I value.  The greatest lens selection is available from Panasonic and Olympus while Sony is still limited to 7 full frame E mount lenses.  Panasonic and Leica have jointly produced some exceptional lenses as have Sony and Zeiss with their collaboration.

By no means is this post meant to be a full review but a quick personal impression.  Please do look at various reviews available on the internet for a more thorough analysis. However, I hope this helps you make your holiday shopping a little less confusing.  Camera Labs is one of my preferred sites for honest in-depth reviews.

CLICK on the chart to enlarge

Mirrorless Chart

 

 

CLICK HERE FOR THE SAME CHART AS A PDF DOCUMENT

Also posted in Mirrorless, Panasonic GH4, Photography Tagged , , , , , , , |

Processing with Capture One

For the past few weeks I have been processing my raw files using Capture One Pro rather than Adobe Camera Raw.  I am finding the RAW processing engine in Capture One to be exceptional.  Mark you, I have not upgraded to Version 8 and am still using Version 7.2.3

In brief I love the way the the software handles skin-tones.  The amount of detail it can draw out of dull highlights and shadows is great.  The HDR sliders make it possible to bring out natural looking HDR tonal ranges from a single RAW file – exceptional.

Now I just need to get more familiar with all the features and then upgrade to Version 8.

Here is an example of an image processed using Capture One Pro.  The image was captured in Iceland during my workshop this past September.  Please do click on the image to see a larger version.

VESTRAHORN

VESTRAHORN

 

Also posted in Photography, Software, Workshops Tagged , , , |