All posts in Gear

16 Oct

New high-end Cybershot RX10 from Sony

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


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

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.

31 Dec

Light Paint Brushes

In Gear,Mods by Greg / December 31, 2011 / 0 Comments

I’ve always wanted to learn lightpainting ever since I first saw photos in my various Google searches for photographic related techniques. It just seemed so cool, but its an art very different from your ordinary photography. It really is more like painting than photography, except that you are painting in the dark, facing the camera, guessing at how it will turn out. You cant see the result of your work until the picture is finished, and even then its hard to see the result until you put it in a photo program where you can flip the image horizontally so it has the same orientation as you originally drew it. Don’t bump your head or stub your toes fumbling around in the dark, and definitely try not to knock your camera over, tripod and all! Not that I did any of those things, just some deep thoughts I thought I would share for those inclined to clumsiness of which I would normally be categorized, but I did pretty well on that account for this project.

So anyhow, my great plan to make Christmas cards was to rely heavily on photos created by lightpainting. I started brainstorming different ways to get good colored light, particularly cheap ways. I realized I had the perfect cheap solution, small LED flash lights modded to hold colored LED’s. I already had a couple strands of LED Xmas lights I didn’t need so all I really had to buy were a pack of flashlights, and those I found in an 8-pack for just twelve dollars! I did end up buying a few extra Xmas light strands because they were on sale, but I didn’t need them.

I ended up coming up with a few different designs for my light brushes. I made some that were long wands with some very directional LED’s. I realized these were a bit difficult to use because you really need to hold the stick near the light end, like a pencil, but the on/off switch is on the back. I might re-wire them use in the future, with a pushbutton switch near the front. I also realized it wasn’t really necessary to make them so long. I just used pieces of PVC to make the wand extensions. If I had to do it again, I would make them much shorter.

I cam up with another design which used flexible arms which I scavenged from a pair of those clip on LED reading lights. This allows me to spread the lights around to different positions for different kinds of effects. They also have sockets so I can put different kinds of LED’s in them.

This is probably a good time to note differences in the Christmas light LED’s I was using – if you are running them off 3.6V (aka 3 rechargeable batteries) then red and yellow LED’s need 100 ohm resister, but blue and green ones do not. You can use a resistor in series with any of them to lessen the amount of light they create, since when working in the darkness they can be quite bright actually but you may want that effect.

Also if you need another color besides what you can find in LED’s, you can either use white LED’s and cover them with gelatin filters. You could also recolor the painted images in Photoshop, since the colors are pretty consistent should be quite an easy adjustment.

Here are a couple shots of my lightbrushes (the next post will feature the greetings I created with these lightbrushes):

Wand style

Light Brushes

08 Sep

LCDVF on the a55

In Gear by Greg / September 8, 2011 / 0 Comments

a55 and LCDVF

I was finally able to acquire a metal surround to use my LCDVF on my Sony a55 camera! When I purchased the LCDVF 16:9 it only came with 2 surrounds and both of them were needed for my NEX-5’s. I also really wanted to use the LCDVF on the a55 since the view you get through it is far superior to the a55’s EVF (though its not bad in the world of EVF’s, it just can’t compare). Peering through the massive display the LCDVF gives you is about like sitting close to a big screen TV, its not at all like using an EVF or even many OVF’s. There is almost no strain on the eye and I rarely need to use zoom focus check when manually focusing with the LCDVF.

For some reason it is not easy to find the LCDVF 16:9 and accessories in the US (the other sizes are readily available here). I had to search on and off for the last 5 months to finally find a web vendor in the UK (Glidetrack) willing to ship the LCDVF 16:9 surrounds to the US for reasonable enough price. It cost about $45 with shipping for 3 surrounds. That price stinks when you realize all you got were 3 metal rectangles with sticky tape on one side, but considering how useful they are I can’t complain too much. I bought 2 extra because the shipping cost was the same and figured I might need them later.

One small mod I had to make was to add some velcro to the backside of the LCD display of the a55, this keeps it from falling down with the heavy LCDVF attached to it. I may find a better way to deal with this in the future since the velcro prevents the LCD from sitting flush against the camera, but for now it gets the job done.

31 Aug

Got a New Siggy

In Gear by Greg / August 31, 2011 / 0 Comments

Ain’t she beautiful?

sig 4.5mm

I have been debating the purchase of the Sigma 4.5mm circular fisheye for at least the last year, but perhaps more like 2 years. This lens is currently the one and only circular fisheye lens designed for APS format cameras. Most circular fisheyes you will find are 8mm and are designed to produce a circular image on a full frame camera. The biggest beef I have about the Sigma 4.5mm is that the image circle is too small for ordinary APSC format found in Nikon and Sony dslr’s so that it can accommodate Sigma and Canon cameras which have smaller format sensors. This means that on the larger sensor of my Sony cameras, there is a lot of wasted black space in the image. Ideally, a circular fisheye should be designed to fill to the edges of the narrow portion of the image to maximize coverage while still getting a circular image.

The small image circle means many pixels get wasted and will need to be cropped out. It also means that it is a lot less useful for one of my primary purposes for such a lens – 360VR’s. The lower resolution shots from the lens will obviously mean lower resolution 360VR’s and for those resolution makes a huge difference. The main advantage to using a circular fisheye over a diagonal fisheye or even a wideangle is that you can do as few as 3 shots to get complete coverage, where with a diagonal it takes 6-10 shots and with a wide even more.

Now that Sony has announced the new a77 with 24MP sensor (which I have pre-ordered), this lens has become a lot more appealing. I should be able to achieve approximately 38MP 360VR’s while taking only 3 shots. That is pretty good considering I only get 66MP with my current diagonal lens – the Rokinon 8mm. These numbers may seem quite high, but when you consider the wide field of a 360VR, you quickly realize the resolution is not all that much.

Until the a77 arrives this lens will primarily be used on my a55 where it can produce about 17MP 360VR images, not too shabby for web uses and practicing. It also partially fills in that hole I’ve felt since I sold off my Sigma 10mm last year – its a great lens but I just realized the Rokinon has better IQ and I couldn’t keep both.