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16 Oct

New high-end Cybershot RX10 from Sony

In Blog,Gear,Reviews by Greg / October 16, 2013 / 0 Comments

SonyRX10_1

With the announcement of the a7 and a7r, hopefully the RX10 announcement will not be overshadowed.  This is possibly the most high tech Cybershot Sony has yet produced.  Sony revived the R “series” (I place series in quotes because until recently there was only the original R1 released in 2005) at just the right time last year with the RX100 and RX1, now they are looking to fill in the line-up.  As you may know, the Sony R1 was a legendary camera, the first fixed lens camera with an APSC sensor, giving it incredible performance and capability for its day.  I used to own one, and even when compared to my much more modern DSLR’s, it fared quite well and at times I would love to use one again.  The new RX10 uses the same 1″ sensor format as the RX100, which has already proven to be quite good, a good compromise between large size sensors while being small enough to allow a much larger zoom range on the fixed lens.  The RX10 wields a lens with a 24-200mm equivalent focal and and constant 2.8 aperture.  Don’t be fooled when comparing this to other long zoom fix lens cameras with much larger zoom ranges yet the same or similar aperture range.  The small sensor on other cameras are what enables the long zoom range, but at the cost of much smaller equivalent apertures, which affects image quality in certain ways significantly.  There is one huge drawback to this camera, at a $1299 price tag its hard to think that very many people will be buying one, if Sony can get the price down that story could change.

DP Review has released a nice preview write up on the RX10, its certainly worth reading.

16 Oct

Sony announces the first mirrorless full-frame cameras!

In Blog,Gear,Reviews by Greg / October 16, 2013 / 0 Comments

Sony-a7_1
First, well done Sony! I have been hoping for Sony to produce high-end FF E-mount cameras since the release of the NEX-5 back in 2010, now they’ve finally done it, and I am glad they waited. The technology is just right now for cameras like these to succeed, as on-sensor AF tech has gotten successively better over the last few generations.

I kind of like the unusual look of the cameras, they combine the look of some of the classic high-end Cybershot’s, like the V3 – which was a great camera for its day. They also incorporate some of the styling from the NEX-7 and RX1, and as DPreview put it, resemble some European film cameras from the past. In any case, the looks are not a reason to buy a camera, whether for or against.

I think Sony has hit a home run with these designs, though I am a little unsure of the choice to provide the 36MP version without hybrid AF (I know they claim it has something to do with the AA filter). For me personally, I would not be an early adopter of EF lenses so it won’t affect me either way. This is mostly because I have a nice A-mount line up that I am mostly happy with. So I would probably need an LA-EA4 if I were to get either of these. I can see how lack of hybrid AF on the A7r would be a turn off for anyone wanting to use the shiny new EF lenses to their full potential as they slowly trickle out. It will be interesting to see how the cameras fare in performance testing, particularly I want to know how those sensors do on low light.

One of the big interests I have in these cameras will be the ability to use them with classic lenses, which I have put together a small collection of Minolta Rokkor lenses over the last 6 years. These lenses have been great on my NEX-5, it will be great to see what they can do on full frame.

For more info and detailed specs highly recommend reading DP Reviews first impressions of the a7 and a7r.

23 Oct

The 2.8’s Part 1: The Sigma 50-150mm f2.8

In Reviews,Technical by Greg / October 23, 2011 / 2 Comments

50-150

The Sigma APO EX DC HSM II 50-150mm is one of the most difficult lenses to find right now in the Sony mount. This is because Sigma discontinued it in February 2011 and announced its replacement, the new optically stabilized version. The new version not only negates one of the big selling points of the earlier model (which I will get to in a moment), it also cannot be purchased anywhere yet. So for those who wanted a nice compact lens that gives a similar (actually longer) focal range than a 70-200/2.8 on a fullframe camera good luck finding this lens, but if you can find it – buy it, and if you have it – don’t sell it.

The 50-150 occupies a focal range that currently has not become popular among other manufacturers. Tokina did produce a 50-135/2.8 but it was never offered in the Sony mount. The 50-150 is designed to give APSC format cameras the same focal range that a 70-200 lens gives on a fullframe camera. In my opinion, this is something manufacturers need to continue expanding on, offering more fullframe equivalent focal ranges for popular lenses. The crop factor can be handy at times when you need that extra bit of reach, but at other times you need that original focus range and working distances that a 70-200 was intended to give you. I know many a time while shooting with the Tamron 70-200 I’ve needed to take a few steps back but if I’d had the Sigma 50-150 it would have been perfect for what I was trying to do.

So, what was the other big selling point I mentioned before? The size of the lens, the 50-150 is incredibly compact. It is about the same size as your average 70-300 kit zoom lens, or the Minolta 70-210 beercan. Optically the lens is nearly as good as you should expect – its plenty sharp at 2.8 and most focal lengths and it gives really nice subject isolation at 2.8 with a very acceptable bouquet. For more information on the performance characteristics on this lens, I highly recommend reading the Photozone.de review (see links below). Here is a comparison showing the size of the 50-150 to the beercan (left) and the Tamron 70-200 (right):

Comparison

The new optically stabilized version of this lens is much larger, in fact it is over 2 inches longer making it almost as big as your average 70-200 f/2.8 lens. This makes the new version of the lens far less useful, and all it adds it optical stabilization – which in many cases is great to have, but for that much of an increase in size it is not worth it. Not to mention the fact that OS is useless for Sony users since the camera has built in stabilization. So that is my appeal to Sigma – please reconsider offering the non-OS version of this lens because the compact size is one thing that makes this lens really great.

For more infomation on this lens:
Review of the original version on Photozone.de
Lens specs and user reviews on Dyxum
Sigma 50-150 group on Flickr

22 Oct

The 2.8’s Overview: Constant 2.8 Zoom Lenses

In Reviews,Technical by Greg / October 22, 2011 / 0 Comments

The 2.8's by Greg Kemp
The 2.8’s, a photo by Greg Kemp on Flickr.

Constant aperture fast zoom lenses are incredibly important for the way I shoot. Often I find myself needing to shoot in low light scenarios where even at f/2.8 I am shooting at ISO 3200 in order to get an acceptable shutter speed. Without 2.8 zoom lenses this would often be impossible. Sure I can get even better low light performance with prime lenses, but those are too limiting as I usually don’t have time to move around to get wider or narrower shots, so zoom lenses are a necessity for me more often than not.

Another thing that makes 2.8 lenses great is it seems to be the magic number for aperture to get ideal subject isolation with most types of shots. Once you go to F/4 the out of focus areas tend to be much less pronounced, and less depth of field available with faster prime lenses is usually only good for certain types of shots.

As many Nikon and Canon users are quick to point out, Sony makes great camera bodies but the lens options are too limited. This is indeed something Sony really needs to step up their game on to fill in those lens gaps faster, as well as updating old models which are still essentially relabeled Minolta designs. When you add in the third party options you can certainly get what you need for Sony mount, but it would definitely be nice to have the much wider selection available to Nikon and Canon users (which include even more third party options).

That being said I have spent a great deal of time researching different f/2.8 constant aperture zoom lenses for Sony to decide which ones would work best. I’ve read reviews from both average users to the major review sites to find out about each lens before buying. I now have a pretty nice set and though I may sell one or two of them, I am pretty sure I am going to stick with what I have for the long run. There are a couple of additional lenses I would like to try in the future such as the Sony 16-35/2.8 (if I ever go full frame), one of the two Minolta 80-200/2.8’s and the Sigma 120-300/2.8 if the Sony version is ever released.

I plan to do a separate write up on why I like each of the below lenses, but for now, just look at how neat they all look together:

The 2.8's by Greg Kemp

From left to right –
Tokina AT-X 116 Pro DX 11-16mm
Sony DT SSM 16-50mm
Tamron SP AF XR Di II LD 17-50mm
Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* ZA SSM 24-70mm
Tamron SP AF LD Aspherical IF 28-105mm
Tamron SP Aspherical 35-105mm
Sigma APO EX DC HSM II 50-150mm
Tamron SP AF Di LD IF Macro 70-200mm

02 Sep

Getting the Most Out of the NEX-5

In Infrared,Reviews by Greg / September 2, 2011 / 0 Comments

When the NEX cameras were first announced in May 2010 by Sony, many people were surprised by how small they were. At the time (and I believe this is still true) they were the smallest APSC sensor cameras ever made. This was a really big break through. I was very interested in the cameras for other reasons entirely –

1. I knew these would make great candidates for infrared conversion. Why? See my previous post here for more info.

2. It would not be possible to make better use of old obsolete lenses. If you say it was already possible to adapt lenses to the m43’s cameras, I would have to agree, but the advantage to the NEX is getting closer to using the full coverage of the lens. Instead of having a 2x crop factor on the m43 would only have a 1.5x crop factor, which as a DSLR shooter I am already very comfortable with.

The small size of the NEX-5 turned out to be more of a hindrance (thank you Sony for listening and creating the incredible NEX-7) than a help for me. I was excited 3rd parties out there like Ownuser and LCDVF came to the rescue. The Ownuser battery grip (I will do a write up on this grip in a later post) really makes the camera easier to hold. The LCDVF helps by giving you a giant viewfinder to look into the NEX’s LCD display, it also lets you use the camera eye level propped against your head, which can help you get a DSLR perspective and help with stabilizing the camera in low light situations. I hope to do more in-depth write-ups on these different products in a future posting. For now, suffice to say that the NEX can be useful a lot more like a “normal” DSLR but with all the advantages I was looking for that a mirrorless offers. Oh, and it looks really cool too:

NEX-5 Decked Out

26 Mar

LCDVF as EVF solution for NEX

In Reviews by Greg / March 26, 2011 / 2 Comments

If you have not heard of the LCDVF product please read about it on their website here – www.lcdvf.com/

The LCDVF is a viewfinder optic and hood that attaches to your LCD screen, turning it into a giant EVF. A metal frame is stuck to the LCD and the LCDVF has very strong magnets that hold it perfectly in place against the LCD screen. This method would work great with any model that has live view, particularly those with main sensor live view. At first I was really put off by the idea since the LCDVF adds quite a bit of size to the NEX, but for my shooting style it doesn’t matter much.

Before looking toward the LCDVF, I tried the Hoodman Hoodloupe, and I cannot recommend that product to anyone. The attachment straps are a terrible idea and only the center of the image stays in focus, the edges are out of focus just like a cheap camera lens. You also have to adjust focus on the hoodloupe, unlike the LCDVF which is perfectly focused and does not have (or need) an adjustment. It costs almost the same as the LCDVF by the time you buy any of the required attachment options and it is of much lower quality. That being said I really liked the idea of the Hoodloupe so after a lot of research and review reading I went for the LCDVF.

Yesterday I finally received mine, I purchased the 16:9 model which is specifically designed for NEX and certain M4/3 cameras with 16:9 screens. It fits over the NEX screen almost perfectly, just being slightly too narrow but its not cutting off anything I need to see at all.

Today I took the LCDVF attached my NEX-5 and my a55 out so I could do a comparison between the a55 EVF and the NEX with LCDVF…and lets just say there is no comparison. I actually do like the a55 EVF despite its limitations, but once you get used to using the wonderful NEX LCD with a magnifier as an EVF, there is just no comparison. It has excellent eye relief and its very easy to manually focus.

It also gives you the ability to shoot larger lenses with the NEX without a tripod, since you get the extra stability of having the camera propped against your face. It helps in so many ways I can say the LCDVF will always be in my bag when I am doing any significant amount of shooting with the NEX.

I am also planning to order an extra 16:9 frame for the a55 since I used both frames for my pair of NEX-5’s. Once I get one on the a55 I am not sure I’ll ever use it’s EVF again…. Again let me emphasize that I actually like the a55 EVF, but by comparison the LCDVF is so much better to me.

The LCDVF includes a padded carrying case, a strap, a padded eye cushion and 2 metal frames for attaching to your camera. The strap is useful so you can switch back and forth between using the LCD normally and using it with the LCDVF without having to pocket the LCDVF each time.

That being said, it really wasn’t designed with photography in mind. The big eyepiece is perfectly suited to wrap around your eye when shooting in landscape orientation. But it does not have a way to rotate the eyepiece for portrait shooting. I might have to find a way to trim the eyepiece or make it rotate. Shooting in portrait is still great even with this limitation.

There is a small amount of light that leaks around the joint between the frame and the LCDVF when shooting in bright sun, but its not bothersome to me.

Overall, I love the LCDVF and highly recommend it to anyone looking to have EVF-like capability on their NEX, or even for a5xx and SLT users with who want to use it as an EVF replacement / substitute.