A few days ago I went up to one of my favorite spots in the local mountains with my Sony A7iii, Sony 24-105mm G lens and Apple XS Max. I wanted to get out of the house for a few hours and I wanted to see how the Sony would compare shooting a few more panoramas against the Sony. And I shot quite a few other standard shots with the Apple using it’s computational smart HDR compared with the Sony. This was more of a get-out-of-the-house drive than a photography one. But after the iPhone vs Sony results I got a few days back I thought I would run a few more comparisons.
The two shots above are, one with the iPhone XS Max and the other with the Sony A7iii and 24-104 G lens. Can you tell which is which? At first I compared the Apple panorama shot with the Sony at 24mm. When I greatly enlarged the panorama from the Apple I could see it was well exposed and it looked a little sharper on distant images than I expected. I also noticed some HDR effect. I then compared the iPhone standard photo with the smart HDR photo. The HDR had way more detail in far distant details. In the standard shot Apple did it’s typical smudge job which looks good at first glance, but not good when you blow it up. But here’s the thing, the standard Apple camera app did not smear and smudge the small details in the computational HDR photo.
I then compared it to the Sony shot. The Sony was way better than the standard iPhone photo. But the computational iPhone picture was about as sharp on my Apple Thunderbolt 27″ monitor as the Sony shot.
The day after I took these shots Olympus introduced their new expensive professional grade camera with some computational capture features a bit like the iPhone. And then a light bulb went off in my head. “Stacking files with computational techniques is an alternative to big sensors and big lenses.” Consider; In the last couple of weeks I have been able to get panoramas, videos, and still shots of about the same quality with my iPhone XS Max as the new Sony A7iii full frame camera with high quality lenses.
Does the iPhone replace the Sony? Not if you have about $4,300 to spare for the extra features you get with the Sony. But if you don’t have or want to spend that kind of money the iPhone XS Max that fits in my pocket is a very good substitute. All of the Sony shots I used were with raw and edited in Lightroom Classic CC. All the Apple photos were also done LR too.
The iPhone XS Max is not cheap, and you use it every day. Then again it was 25% of the Sony body and two lenses.
I have not tested carefully using the Adobe camera app in the iPhone with HDR. I suspect that the Apple computational camera is a bit more advanced than the Adobe one. The Adobe shoots 3 files for its HDR. I believe the Apple takes around 25. I noticed in the Olympus ads that their stacking technology is similar to Apple’s. I have heard that the Olympus system is not all sorted out. The Apple system is very good now and getting better with every update. This fall the new iPhone is supposed to have three cameras on one of its models. That is likely an improvement on this years camera.
After spending the last year thinking we all needed to trade in our DSLRs for full frame mirrorless now it looks to me like the changes are going to keep cascading in. I would guess it would be easy for Sony to add back in built in panorama to their camera bodies. I believe some of their cameras used to have it. The A7iii is very good at taking bracket photos fast. It is pretty easy to merge them with Adobe Lightroom. Mirrorless cameras tend to be faster in frames per second and have no mirror flapping around to cause problems with mirror shock. Sony is really the only one of the big camera makers that is into electronics and software.
Olympus has been an innovator in the past and they are the first to jump into computational photography in a big way with a high level type camera. I would guess that they will be able to fix many or all of their issues with this feature relatively fast if they want to. And the software should be able to be fitted to their less expensive camera bodies.
I really don’t know how things will shake out. But for sure things are going to be shaking in the camera imaging industry.
The top image is an iPhone XS Max panorama using Apple’s built in pano generator. I don’t think it is a great pano but I need the shot to make a point.
And the shot immediately above is from my Sony A7iii and about 15 shots taken hand held then merged on Lightroom. The pano with the Sony and Lightroom was pretty easy. Lightroom is very smart and does this quite easily. But, the iPhone XS Max made the first pano in camera, hand held, effortlessly. Looking at the finished panoramas on my high end monitor in full size (very big files, both of them) there is no appreciable difference in the results. The Sony produced file has slightly more detail, you can read the names better on the gravestones, but you can also read lots of graves on the iPhone produced image too. By the way, I want to give credit to Thomas Heaton who is a youtube landscape video maker and has his own channel on youtube for giving me the idea to do more panoramas. I have done them in the past, but after watching his video went out the next day and shot a few.
An hour later I went and shot some video down by the bay using the same Sony and iPhone. And the results were much the same. Although in this case the Sony and iPhone processing was the same as I did not edit either. Again the Sony had a bit more detail, but the overall viewing of the video is about the same. I only put up one video which I thought was the best clip. It is from the iPhone. I do find the Sony 24mm-105mm f4 to be a good video lens. It is fast focus, silent focus, stabilized, and has a good zoom range. The iPhone’s system of video and zoom is quite good also. If you hand hold and manipulate the zoom with one hand and hold the phone with the other the result can be quite good. Both the Sony and Apple smoothed out the hand holding pretty well. The panoramas are also not edited except for pushing the auto enhance feature as I did not like the resulting photo all the much, but wanted to share the fact that in this case the expensive Sony body and expensive G zoom was not noticeably better than the iPhone.
On the other hand I have not found iPhones to be that good at macro or close ups of plants and flowers. With the Sony A7 or nearly any other regular camera you can focus to a subject quite well with little effort. To me iPhones, even the latest iPhone XS Max are sometimes OK and sometimes not. Even the little Sony HX 80 compact I had last year could easily lock on to a flower and get an accurately focused photos. I have many many well focused iPhone shots of flowers, but only up to a certain point. Past that point the focus can be inaccurate. And also today on my hike up the large hill back of our house I only took the iPhone. Not having a sun shade for the iPhone was a big deal as was no polarizing filter. My point here is that while smartphones can be very useful in photography they have limits where larger or more featured cameras do better.
I pay a monthly fee to youtube so I don’t have to watch commercials and do watch quite a few varied clips. Many of them are about photography. Some are good and many not. But my reason for writing about youtube is to say that many trolls say really rude inappropriate things on YT. A couple days ago I posted a comment on a video about the Nikon D3500 (new) vs Nikon D700 (used). My comment was polite. Some troll came along like he was hot stuff and said that the Nikon D5500 I used to own was a “plastic turd” compared to the 10 year old Nikon D700. It was inappropriate of him (or her) because I did not disparage the D700 as I have no experience using one. But I have lots of experience using the D5500 and it was / is a camera I got many many very good photos from. It’s only defect was a small viewfinder and that it is not mirrorless.
All of the above shots were taken with the Nikon D5500 in 2015 with the old style Nikon kit lens. Take a look at those close ups of the bristlecone pines. That was not with a macro lens just the standard kit lens. Or the Bodie California shots. In the full size files that are very sharp pictures and most of them were shot jpeg standard size. No raw. In addition to taking really great photos the D5500 had about the slickest control system and menu I have ever used. The back screen worked for a variety of things plus going through the menu. Compared to that Nikon my current Sony and iPhone are miles behind. But the D5500 did not have an EVF which would have helped it. And the live focus for stills or video was terrible. In my humble opinion Nikon would be smart to just convert this camera into mirrorless. Take out the mirror, put in an EVF, but make sure it focuses as well as the D5500 does not when not using live view. The curved body and light weight makes this crop sensor camera so easy to use. Even with the low end style lenses they work pretty darn well. And there is a full line up of lower cost good performing lenses. Or instead of making it mirrorless leave the dam mirror in and just put a greatly improved live view auto focus in.
For the most part good photography is because of the photographer and not the gear. The last four beautiful strawberry sky photos were shot on the same trip as the D5500 ones, but they were taken with my old Motorola Droid Maxx. That had a 10 megapixel camera in it. And finally Film Fail. As much as I like shooting film with old cameras there is one part of the process I don’t like. Many film labs. Sometimes they screw up one or more full rolls of film. I got back two rolls week before last from a local lab that has done good work for me in the past. One roll of Kodak Portra 400 and the other Fuji Superia 400. Two different cameras. The lab fouled up both rolls. Many of the photos were of no consequence, but one roll was Christmas 2018. So those photos will never grace an album. Now I need to go back to the one local lab that does not screw up film rolls (or at least has never done so in the past) and just put up with the 40 mile drive to get there. And the extra money they charge.
The above shot I took yesterday with my Sony A7iii & adapted Sigma/Minolta 50mm f2.8 macro with no flash. Two years ago we had significant rain this time of year and I took similar shots with my Minolta 600si and the same lens using Kodak Ektar film.
In both cases I took the shots hand held. I edited both with Lightroom Classic CC. Even though it is the same lens and the film shot is four times the size of the digital I think the sharpness and color of the digital is better. I spent very minimal time editing the digital shot.
This is a larger view of the same area.
My point. The Sony A7iii may not be the best handling easiest to operate camera I have ever owned, but it puts of great files. Quickly and much easier than shooting film and then getting it developed and scanned.
The Sony is very versatile in being able to shoot landscape, people, and pretty much any lighting situation you throw at it.
All three shots were taken in my usual raw only (compressed raw) and edited in Lightroom Classic CC. Both the flower picture and my newest grand daughter were cropped. The photo of my grand daughter was indoors in fairly dim light and no flash. There was a tiny bit of noise after editing which I mostly removed with Lightroom. The top shot was with a zoom lens and has everything from full shadow to sunny sky. The Sony handled this with no problems.
Now that I have owned the Sony for just over 3 months it is becoming easier to use. At least I can find near everything quickly. I go back and forth from using checking and adjusting the settings either by pushing the fn button on the back which puts on the screen the basic settings. You can then adjust those there. Or at other times I push the buttons for the individual focus, drive, and other things you need. I usually look at the back screen to make my adjustments. If it is full sun I look in the viewfinder. It all works pretty fast and easy. Of course if Sony looked in it’s archives and pulled out the Minolta 600si (Sony owns Minolta) and used the set up system from that camera plus a touchscreen it would be much better, but they did not and the existing system with the Sony A7iii is fine.
The Sony on time from rest or turned off is relatively fast. Not as fast as a DSLR, but fast enough. You do have to make adjustments when going to the Sony A7iii with EVF from and optical viewfinder. There is a slight lag for the EVF, but again, the A7iii works fine. I have become used to seeing subjects in the EVF as opposed to OVF. I do like being able to see light settings adjustments in the viewfinder or the back screen. This saves a lot of fiddling and guessing to get the photo exposure right.
The Sony G 24-105 f4 which I added to my kit just before Christmas is excellent. I would call this a mid size lens. It is bigger than my Zeiss – Sony 55mm 1.8 prime, but not so big that I find it cumbersome to carry and use like I did the Nikon D750 24-120 f4. I learned to live with the Nikon but it always felt too big. The Sony does not. The few oz’s you save on the body weight and body size and the couple of oz’s less and a bit smaller on the lens and it just fits better on my Peak Strap. The Sony lens is rated a little better than the Nikon but I think they are both sharp stabilized lenses. I definitely liked the price of the Nikon better. Quality I can’t tell the difference. The one annoyance on the Nikon you don ‘t have with the Sony lens is that the Sony does not clip the corners at 24mm like the Nikon did. I cropped it out when editing the Nikon files, but you don’t have to do that on the Sony setup. The bokeh is good on the Sony lens as you can see in the photo above.
The Sony / Zeiss 55mm f1.8 is an exemplary lens. Super sharp with great bokeh and the ability to set up the above photo so the newborn is in sharp focus, as is my wife’s face, and her left sleeve. The rest of the photo defocuses and seems to go out of the photo.
Basically the same thing happens here with the restaurant on the pier in sharp focus and the background fading away. This is one of the best lenses you can buy for the Sony A7 cameras and for sure the best lens that is also not big and heavy. DXO Mark gives this lens very high marks and so do I.
Very likely a lot of people go through the adjustment to get used to the A7iii or other A7 Sony’s when they come from Nikon or Canon like I did. I would say it is similar to when I switched from Windows to Mac about 5 1/2 years ago. It took me a while to get so I was used to the Mac, same with Sony A cameras.
Conclusion. The files don’t lie. They are good out of this camera. And once you get a feeling for what settings to use the camera seems to pump out good ones pretty easy.
2018 was a big uproarious year in the image and video creation business. After going a couple of years with buying only new smartphones and a compact digital Sony I got caught up in all the changes and bought not one new full frame camera but two. And I also went back to the full sized iPhone after saying the smaller one was a perfect size. I also bought a new MacBook Pro.
Featured image above was taken with a Nikon D3200 in 2014 and edited in iPhoto
Early in 2018 I started using tripods again after years of mostly hand held. My flower photos improved doing that. I was bored after having my Nikon D5500 for 3 years so even though I really liked that camera I started looking for my next larger digital camera. I wanted to get a Nikon and wanted to get their upcoming mirrorless. But back in the spring of last year there were only rumors about when the new Nikon would be out and it looked like it might be the spring of 2019 before you could get one. So when Nikon sent me a low price on the D750, 24-120mm, and grip I bought one. I also got the Nikon 50mm f1.4 at the same time. Total for everything including tax and shipping was about $2,500.
After using the flyweight and very easy to use Nikon D5500 for several years when I got the D750 I did not like it at all. Too big and heavy. With the 24-120mm zoom on it the size seemed gargantuan compared to the D5500. It hurt my 71 year old right hand with a little arthritis. But I then got a Peak Strap and used the 50mm lens and the 750 started to grow on me. The controls of the Nikon D750 were easy to learn and very intuitive after having two crop body Nikons. The Peak strap was a big improvement over the strap that came with the camera. I only shot stills with the 750. For video I used my iPhone X. I also tried using some of the FX lenses on my D5500 DX Nikon body. The better lenses made the smaller Nikon a lot better. Images from the 5500 and either FX lens were very nearly the same as using the D750. On the other hand the 750 focused much quicker and the viewfinder was way better.
The Nikon D750 had buttons for most adjustments that were easy to find and when you needed to use the menu on the back screen it was obvious that Nikon had spent some time designing them to be intuitive. But what the D750 did not solve was washed out mid day full sun colors. Looking back on it now it is obvious that I should have stuck with the D750 longer and learned to improve this problem instead of jumping to the Sony system. I did not find out till later that using live view on the Nikon you could see a histogram before shooting. But I did use bracketing with the 750 and that worked well.
The full frame Nikon came with us on our summer motorhome trip and after a while I just got used to the size of it. The D5500 was still much lighter and easier to handle, but the D750 was OK.
My film photography in the first 6-7 months of 2018 suffered because I kept experimenting with different film stocks, using expired rolls, and using labs that were not great. This has now changed and I went back to using my preferred and unexpired film stocks plus two of the best labs and now my film shots look great.
We got back from our long summer trip in late August and by this time Nikon had set a date for intro of both their Z6 & 7. Sony was selling lots of A7iii and A7riii. After watching about 1,000 (exaggeration) you tube videos I decided in Oct to buy a Nikon Z7 or 6. I called George’s photo and then went down with the intention of buying a Z camera. While there I chickened out getting the new Nikon Z7 because it was expensive, new, and getting mixed reviews. I have a number of Sony-Minolta lenses that will adapt easily to the A7iii, and made the spit second fall back decision to get the Sony A7iii and 55mm f1.8 and not the Z7. Likely if the Z6 would have been available then I might have gone that way. I figured, “If you don’t like the Sony you can sell it. The price was not in the same range as the Z7 and the Sony was very very popular so no problem selling it.” The next day I got the Sony A7iii, LA EA4 Sony adapter, and Zeiss 55mm f1.8.
Right away after getting the Sony it was obvious that it was difficult to use and confusing. I had had 4 Sony compact cameras over the years so I knew a little about the Sony menu system.
I did find that the sony adapter worked well with the Minolta A mount glass. But while several of the Minolta lenses worked brilliantly on the film camera they were made for the Sony A7iii image quality with them was just not as good. Why, I suspect these lenses were developed for film and the A mount. They just don’t perform as well as when adapted. This is stated over and over again by Ken Rockwell in his blog kenrockwell.com which you should read. I agree with him.
Just before Christmas I bought the Sony G 24-105mm f4 lens for the A7. It works great, $1,300. I bought this as I liked the Nikon 24-120mm f4 and missed it’s abilities. This Sony is essentially the same but does not cut the corners just a bit at 24mm like the Nikon did. I only paid $500 for the Nikon and the construction quality seemed just as good. Plus the D750 was quite well weather sealed and the Sony A7iii does not seem to be.
The switch to Sony from Nikon was painless. I found willing buyers quickly for all of my Nikon gear. I sold the D750 and 24-120mm for very little less than I paid. But of course less the ebay sellers fee. The D5500 I used for 3 1/2 years and sold it with kit lens for around 60% of what I paid. The Sony HX80 sold for about 60% of what I paid and I only used it 1 1/2 years.
So what did I loose and gain by all of these transactions.
I gained eye auto focus.
I lost one camera I loved – D5500 and two I liked – Nikon D750 & Sony HX80 and gained one camera that is technically very competent that is growing on me a bit but so far I would have to say I only like it slightly.
If I had it to do over again I would go back to what I had.
Auto eye focus is not enough to make this worth it. One of my New Years 2019 resolutions is to get rid of GAS and use what I have now for the rest of the year. I will make two exceptions 1. Olympus introduces a full frame camera that follows what I like about the Olympus OM2n of small size, high capability, and everything you need and nuthin you don’t at a price I am willing to pay. 2. Nikon updates either the Z6 or D750 that fixes the obvious flaws in both bodies. And I can sell the Sony for enough to pay for one of these two exceptions. If neither of those two scenarios comes to pass I am going to live with what I have and improve my skills with that gear the complete year.
Expanding on my exceptions 1 and 2.
Olympus – I am completely perplexed as to why Olympus has not followed up on it’s fantastic OM series and introduce a system with a full frame sensor. The price of sensors has come down and I see no reason not to go with the advantages of a larger sensor for the same reasons I like full frame film cameras. I like the perspective I get from 35mm. I will not buy a camera with a small sensor like the micro 4 3rds.
Nikon Z6 or D750. The Z6 needs to get their auto focus to work as well as the 4+ year old D750 period! Why do I want to pay a lot of money for a camera today that is not at least as good as their 4 year old comparably priced 750? And for gods sake add another card slot. Preferably with SD cards. 750 to 760. I have never had an issue with a mirror or the F mount. To make the D760 really desirable the live view focus needs to be as good as regular view. And a touch screen. 4K video is obvious. I could live without the EVF if the back screen worked as fast as the Sony A7iii.
My second new years resolution is not to use expired film and to stick with the films and labs I know and trust. No cheeping out on bargain film or labs. And to shoot more film.
Apple XS Max upgrade from iPhone X. Meh. The iPhone X was a great great iPhone. The iPhone XS Max is slightly bigger and better.
MacBook Pro 15″ 2018 6 core 512 gb upgrade from 2013 MacBook Pro 13″ 2 core 256 gb. Meh. I have literally used the crap out of my old MacBook. It still works fine and I am using it to write this blog post. But I does show some of this heavy use in balkiness to start up sometimes. It is also much slower to start now than 3-4 years ago. But it is not slower to start than the new one.
Pros of the new MacBook –
Cons of the new MacBook
no variety of ports like the old one. This one really pisses me off. I delayed for two years getting a new MacBook because of this but finally caved because I need at least one reliable newer computer and wanted an Apple. Not only did they take away ALL the old style USB ports but the idiots removed the mag safe connector. They even obsoleted my Apple Thunderbolt screen so I had to buy a dongle for it. And no SD card slot. Something I used all the time with my old one. So now I am switching over to the new style connector. By the time I switch everything over it will be time for Apple to obsolete that connector too.
I really liked my older MacBook Pro. My favorite Apple product of all time. The new one I bought because I wanted to stick with Apple and I was worried about the age of my old unit. I would have rather bought a new old style MacBook with upgraded chips. Apple has made this device worse not better for me. The old style keyboard is better.
Conclusions. New is many times not better and sometimes worse. I have purposely used only photos from 2014 to show that with my old gear before I started spending a lot of money my shots turned out fine. I really liked my old Motorola Maxx smartphone. It worked well, it had some very slick features, and the battery lasted forever. I bought my first iPhone the 6S after the Moto and in many ways the Maxx was a better device. But now you cannot go back to 2014 because Motorola has been sold and they make just so-so phones compared to Apple.
Back in 2014 I used Apple iPhoto, iMovie, and Aperture. But then Apple obsoleted iPhoto and Aperture and gave us Photos. Photos is a better organizer and works with on line better, but the editing functions work poorly with any photo that was not taken with an iPhone. Or at least poorly compared to Lightroom. Now I am still stuck sorting back and forth between Apple Photos and Lightroom. And I also have to remember if I used Lightroom CC Classic or Lightroom CC. My real photo collection system in 2018 was more of keeping photos on local disks out of any software. And now I am going to go back and have prints made from my best photos of last year + 2017.
In this blog I have posted very good photos (or at least ones I like) from cameras up to 65 years old, film, digital, DSLR, smartphone, and compact. All worked just fine. The key to photography is the photographer and not the gear. And that is going to be the same in 2019 as it was in 2018.
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