All posts by rfcn2

Newer Cameras Usually Take Better Pictures

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.

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Film shot with a 4 times larger file than the digital shot above.  

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.

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This is a Sony A7iii shot with same Sigma lens as above.  

This is a larger view of the same area.

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And this is another film picture from two years ago.  This shot with a flash.

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.

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Shot with Sony A7iii and Sony FE 24mm – 105mm f4.  
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Shot with Sony A7iii and Sony /Zeiss 55mm f1.8 
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Shot with Sony A7iii and Sony/Minolta 50mm f2.8 macro

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.

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Shot with Sony A7iii and 24-105 f4 in late afternoon.  

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.

Barbara with Abby

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.

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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 Purchases – Nikon D750, Apple XS Max, Apple MacBook Pro 15″& Sony A7iii – Reflections

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

Foggy hill in Olympic National Park Velvia 50
Taken with Olympus OM2n 50mm f1.8 and Fuji Velvia 50 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.

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Taken with Motorola Maxx cell phone and edited with iPhoto

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.

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Taken with Motorola Maxx smartphone

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.

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Shot with Olympus XA compact film camera

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.

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Shot with Nikon D3200 and 55-200 kit tele lens.  I have not changed these photos from my 2014 edits.  So when you see unleveled photos such as this one just know I was not as picky four years ago on editing.

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.

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Nikon D5500 and 18-55 kit lens.  Edited with iPhoto

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.

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Voightlander Prominent from 1953 and 50mm f1.5 Nokton lens, Kodak Ektar film

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.

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“Yellow flowers on hill in Olympic National Park”  Taken with Olympus OM2n 50mm f1.8 lens Velvia 50 film hand held.

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.

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Taken with Voightlander Prominent 50mm f1.5 lens and Ektar film

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.
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Eye auto focus is fine, but this great shot of my daughter was taken by a 65 year old Voightlander with a difficult to use rangefinder focus adjustment that has not been adjusted since 1979.  And to top it off Kodak Ektar is not supposed to be a very good skin color film.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
Manzanita Oregon Coast
Shot with Nikon D3200 and kit 18-55mm

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.

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Taken with Nikon D3200 and 18-55kit lens

Pros of the new MacBook –

  • bigger screen
  • better speakers
  • newer

Cons of the new MacBook

  • $3,000
  • 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.
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Olympus XA compact film camera with Ektar film

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.

 

 

Sony A7iii Eye Auto Focus, Mid Day Full Sun Landscapes, Back Screen Mirroring, Size.

Without hesitation or qualifiers these features of the Sony A7iii are great for my photography.  The top photo is of my youngest daughter right after Christmas dinner.  I took this as a series of about 6 holding the eye auto focus button and just pushed the shutter button.  I saw in the viewfinder that the eye auto focus was working.  The flash was set to TTL and the camera was just on Auto.  I had on the Sony G 24-105 f4 lens.  The camera set itself to her right eye, the Sony steady shot and OSS lens kept this shot in perfect focus.  Brilliant.  Did the Sony work better than I could have expected from my older cameras, yes.  Did it work better than what my iPhone could have done, yes.  My other cameras like the D750 or D5500 would have been able to focus on this eye if I had put the focus point on it or if I had shifted the camera focus point to where the eye was, but this would have been done by me and not the cameras.  The iPhone XS Max or Sony HX80 would have found the face but not the eye.  So bravo Sony.  Without a doubt this is a big advancement forward and you have executed it well.

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This is my older daughter at the same dinner with the Sony A7iii finding her eye the same as the first photo.

The eye auto focus on the Sony A7iii also works in a group of people.

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In this shot the Sony picked the closest eye to it and grabbed it with perfect focus.  

The Sony A7iii is also easier to get mid day full sun shots with proper exposure.  It is not possible to completely change the subjects to what they would look like if you had been shooting early in the day or late in the afternoon, but the Sony did allow for turning down the exposure enough not to blow all the highlights.

I went to this same location just before we went on vacation to Europe in 2017.  I shot tests with my Nikon D5500, iPhone X, Minolta 600si with Kodak Gold 200.  In 2017 I only was able to get the shots I liked with the film.  The Nikon and the iPhone both overexposed.  I could have improved my results back then if I had bracket my shots on the Nikon, but I didn’t.  Film has more highlight tolerance than digital so the film was able to give very good results.

But the Sony A7iii shots above with the Zeiss 50mm f1.8 was as good as the film I shot in 2017.  At this point I would be willing to say that the Sony very easily gives good mid day full sun shots better than the Nikon D5500.  If I had used the Nikon D750 and also used the highlight setting I would say the results would have been similar to the Sony or the Kodak.

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Also Sony A7iii shot at mid day full sun.  

The Sony A7iii’s back screen moves like an iPhone or my Sony compact.  It is fast and looks just like the viewfinder.  This is an improvement over the DSLR’s which on the Nikons were laggy and not quick to focus.  I find that I use the back screen a lot more than with the D750.  The D5500 was a full on touch screen and I frequently used it when shooting landscape.  I would touch the place to focus and it would set up the shot and fire away.  This ability is sadly not on the Sony A7iii.

Size – The Sony A7iii is smaller than the previous full frame digital I had the Nikon D750.  Not much, but overall about half a pound or .43 kilo.  And the 24-105 lens on the front of the Sony is just enough shorter than the Nikon D750 with 24-120 to make it noticeable.  So a win for the A7.

Conclusions – The eye auto focus is absolutely an outright advance for technology.  It is easy to use and works well.  This is a feature I expect to be standard on most cameras in a year or two.  Mid day full sun shots on the other hand is a bit better than the Nikons but surprisingly not much better than on Sony’s low cost compact HX80.  If the HX80 had been able to output raw I think it would be as good at mid day full sun shots as the A7.  And then there is film.  Film does not blow highlights easily like digital.  But film needs to be developed and you normally want to use the full roll before developing it.  But I will say that from what I know this is a win over the Nikon D5500.  Back screen on the Sony is much faster than the Nikons.  So I use it more.  Too bad it is not touch like the D5500.  Size is smaller with the A7iii over the D750 especially noticeable when using the kit lenses.  Not so much with a prime 50mm.

If you the reader think I am struggling with my conclusions it is because I am.  I have no struggle with eye auto focus.  A great new feature.  But for mid day full sun to me the Sony has proved to be better than the two older Nikon DSLRs but not reliably better than film.  I have gone to some of my favorite places where I have shot photos over the last number of years and would say that Kodak Ektar gives a better average shot than the Sony.  The back screen on the Sony moves just like a mirrorless should, fast.  But certainly not as useful as a full touch screen.  Then finally size.  The Sony is smaller than the Nikon D750 but the D750 has a grip that fits my hand better.  I do find the Sony and D750 with prime lenses about the same.  The Sony is lighter but the Nikon is fine.  But eye auto focus is a great feature to have.  If I was going to be sent to a place where I could have only one interchangeable lens camera for a year I would be tempted to pick a Sony A7iii over a DSLR.  Because it is great at both stills and video.  But if I also had my iPhone XS Max along with me I would take the D750.  Why.  I think the D750 is more durable and less likely to break.  The sensor is way back behind the mirror so I will be less likely to get buggered up.  And at this point shooting video with an iPhone is more fun.  And the results are fine.

DSLR vs Mirrorless – Nikon D760 Rumors

Today I saw the first rumors of the update of the Nikon D750 that will likely come next year.  Is that a wise move by Nikon, and is the DSLR dead?  My answer to those two questions is yes and then no.  But let me put in a qualifier on if it is a wise move by Nikon.  It is a wise move if Nikon improves the auto focus in live view so that it is at least on par with the current Nikon Z6.  If the back screen gets a bump up in speed then it becomes much more useful.

Over the last six years I have taken under ten videos with my cameras that were not smartphones.  The new iPhone XS Max which I have had now for about two months takes excellent video including 4K up to 60fps.  Apple has an easy to use video editor called iMovie that is free and works well.  And I don’t have to learn all the stuff that goes with bigger cameras like my Sony A7iii like “log” “lut” “gamma” “grading” and so on.  I have shot some test videos with my Sony A7iii.  It is far harder to use than the light iPhone XS Max which I put on a small tripod type holder.  The iPhone XS max also has a far better screen to use with the camera than the Sony.  My point is that one of the Key mirrorless advantages is lost on me.  Better video than a DSLR.

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Shot with an iPhone XS Max.  

The key advantage for me of an EVF is to improve exposure.  Seeing zebras and the histogram in the viewfinder helps.  I mostly use the zebras and adjust exposure compensation using them as a guide.  But with improved live view on a D760 you could see that information on the back screen.  Is that as good as the viewfinder, no, but it would help.  A big advantage of the OVF is it is always on and does not use power.  Plus the D750 I had this year had a much clearer optical viewfinder than the Sony electronic viewfinder I now have.

The rumors I read say the new camera will have a new 36 mega pixel back lighted sensor.  The optical viewfinder will be with a prism and 100% coverage.  The back screen will be flippy and full touch enabled.  Two SD card slots.  (I have also read rumors saying the sensor will stick with 24 mega pixels and the back screen will not be flippy.)  Price between $2,295 and $2,495.

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Shot with Minolta 600si with 24mm 2.8 lens

Even though I wanted the weight to be less when I had the 750 that was only with the 24-120mm f4 lens that was 27oz.  The D750 was fine with the 50mm f1.4.  Now after owning the Sony A7iii for 2 1/2 months I would say I prefer the D750 and lighter lens to the Sony A7iii and lighter lens.  The 750 is a bit heavier but has a much better grip than the Sony.  And the Nikon buttons and co-ordination with the menu on the D750 was much better (actually much much better) than the A7iii.  And if the new 760 comes with the touch screen like I used on the Nikon D5500 then the Nikon D760 will have a far far superior control and handling setup than the Sony.

The other giant benefit of the D760 is that I assume it will come with an F-mount.  That means Nikon’s giant catalog of F-mounts will be able to be used on the new camera.  That means all kinds of specialty lenses but also much better values like the 50mm f1.4 for approx $400 instead of $1,500 on the Sony.

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For the last couple of years uncounted people with podcasts, videos, and blogs have hailed the coming of mirrorless to replace the old mirror system in SLR’s.  I never really saw the reason for getting rid of the mirror.  I have had an Olympus OM2n body I bought in 1980.  In 38 years of use I have had exactly zero problems with the mirror.  And the old Oly has just a magnificent viewfinder with a very simple optical focus aid.  I would hope the new D760 would come with a similar manual focus aid or at least be possible to add one.  I really like focusing manually, but find it harder to do with viewfinders that have no help to let you know when you are at focus.

With these rumored features.

  • Full frame new 36 mega pixel back lit sensor
  • Improved live view focus to at least Z6 level
  • Weight and size no bigger than the D750
  • F-mount not Z mount
  • Price between $2,295 and $2,495

I think Nikon would have a real winner.  Of course something extra like a little electronic screen in the viewfinder with a histogram would be really nice too.

The Minolta 600si And Why You Should Buy One

I have been on a film use slump.  I have a closet full of film and I just have not been shooting film for the last six months.  Why, I bought a full frame Nikon D750 and two lenses in May six months ago and spent the whole summer and September using-testing it.  Then I sold the D750 and lenses and bought a Sony A7iii.  And I have been testing it for the last two months.  Yesterday after writing the previous post about how it was hard to love the Sony, today I thought, “Use a camera you really do love and have some fun”.  So I got out my original Minolta 600si that was loaded with Portra 400 and got out my best, but heaviest tripod and started shooting.  At first I did not get out the tripod out of laziness.  I have learned in the last few years that if you want to get the best flower and plant shots a tripod helps.  When you are doing close ups it is always best to have the camera rock steady.

macro of 4th of july
All of the photos in this post are from the first two rolls I put through my first Minolta 600si when I got the camera.  The film is slightly expired Fuji 400 Superia and the lens that came with the camera at Sigma 50mm 2.8 macro.  All of these were shot hand held.

One of the great benefits of shooting film over digital is that you have to wait to get it processed and cannot edit it immediately.  What I mean is that you can have an enjoyable shoot and then keep enjoying yourself.  You do not have to feel obligated to edit what you just shot.  With film if you are using a good quality not long expired film likely all of the shots will come out.  Maybe some need tweaking a bit but I almost never have ruined shots any more.

Purple Haze

The above shot was the fourth shot I took with this camera and when I saw it I just went, “Wow”!  Keep in mind this was consumer grade film from Wal Mart that was given to me for free and the processing was with a just OK lab.

When I get my film back from the lab scanned it usually is mostly processed and edited when I get it.  Sure I Lightroom it a bit if needed, but way more often than when using a digital SLR the film shots come out right from the get go.  And they are already in jpeg, plus I have the negatives or positives and a CD scan as back ups.

Back to why I love the Minolta 600si.  This thing was designed and made as an anti menu statement.  All controls are easy to use and this is a modern camera, auto focus with more than one point, adjustable metering with spot, center, and matrix, auto film load, advance, and rewind, top LCD giving you setting information, front and back adjustment wheel, even high speed sync on the flash.

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top view of 600si

All functions are obvious marked simple switches, dials, or marked buttons.  Things that are individual marked controls are AF mode (Continuous, Auto, Single), Auto focus area (simple marked switch with picture grams ), Exposure (spot, center, matrix), exposure and flash exposure compensation dials, just like todays full frame digitals the front control dial is for shutter setting and the rear dial for f-stop, there is a mode dial with program, A, M, S, and drive switch with double exposure, bracket, single, multiple, and timer.  In the manual it points out that if you have all the switches so they are either vertical or horizontal you are set on full auto and you can just point and shoot.  Full Manual is also very easy to activate.

Riding train

Red rose bud

Picture of Barbara on skyway
The 600si easily shifts from people to macro if you have the right lens.  What it cannot do is give neutral color if the film tends to go a little green like Fuji can.

Having individual switches and dials for adjustments means you just make one direct movement to change the setting.

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If you want to adjust AF area you just move the setting lever.  Same with metering.  Spot, center, or matrix meter setting you look at the dial and either move it or not.  On the Nikon D750 or Sony A7iii you push the metering button and then change the setting.  With the Nikon D5500 you need to bring up the back touch screen.  Touch the place for setting, and then touch the setting you want.  It is certainly true that the digital cameras have more settings.  If you need those extra settings then the 600si won’t do for you.  Very likely you do not need them.

Auto focus mode.

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Same deal.  Look at the knob and set to what you need.  One movement.  No menu screen.

Or look at the way the 600si handles drive.

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Simple and direct.  The indicator switch can be set to double exposure, bracket, single shot, multiple shots, and timer.  The Sony A7iii is about ten times this complex.  It has all the settings for this, but you have to remember where they are in the drive settings.  The Nikons are also much more complicated but much easier to learn than the Sony.

The 600si also has a built in flash.  I think this is a significant feature.  The Nikon D5500 and D750 do too.  But the Sony A7iii left it off.  Why?  They included it on my tiny compact camera and include it on the crop sensor bodies.  It is much better to use a full size flash, but the built ins are very good for fill in.

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You will also notice the Minolta has a double dial for exposure compensation and flash compensation.  And the Minolta does high speed flash.  And very handily it has built in motor drive for loading, advancing, and rewinding film plus auto film speed.

Conclusions – To me the Minolta 600si is for the film shooter who wants automation plus manual.  So this camera is good for landscape, people, and wildlife.  Landscape is usually easy and all manual settings usually work fine.  But for people and wildlife it helps to have some automatic features.  As a bonus, with an adaptor you can get the AF lenses from this camera to work on the Sony A7 bodies almost as though they were native lenses.  I have found the auto focus and exposure work very well.  Not so much with the TTL flash.  These camera bodies sell for about $35 on eBay.  Make sure you get a good one and maybe pay a bit more.  The batteries are not common, but for sale on the internet at reasonable prices.  I have found the batteries are good for a year or two.  The manual states 15 rolls of film.  I think it is about double that.  I would suspect it depends on how much you use the built in flash.  I bought a very capable high speed sync Minolta flash on eBay for $35.  And I bought the 24mm f2.8 macro lens you see in the picture above on eBay for $80.  The lens is a Sigma/Quantaray.

If you buy one of these in good working condition you will be able to learn to use it in a day.  The manual is on the internet.  It is simple, simple, simple to use.  I would guess you can get a whole kit with one body and three lenses for $150.  A stunning deal.  I already have $4,600 into my Sony A7iii with only two lenses.

What Is Your Photo Style – Van Eyck or Monet?

Digital cameras today can give you very sharp clear images like the paintings of Jan Van Eyck.  Of course you can use fast lenses to soften focus and give you some bokeh, but sometimes Claude Monet and his style of soft images might be a better choice.

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Shot with Olympus OM2n 50mm f1.8 Kodak Ultramax film

Both the top photo and the above rose are similar subjects but the look is entirely different.  In my opinion it is easier to get the softer image of Monet using older lenses and film.

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Shot with Sony A7iii and Zeiss 55mm f1.8
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Shot with Olympus OM2n and 50mm f1.8 Olympus lens.  Film is Ektar

Which of these photos do you like best.  I like them both.  The Sony did an excellent job of balancing exposure and white balance and the film shot is the best one I have been able to get of this miniature Christmas tree with a lighted Christmas tree in the background.  I think in the case of these two shots the tools used were needed for this result.  I think to get the top shot with the Olympus camera you would need Portra 400 and the camera on a tripod.  Plus you would need a flash with a cap over it to diffuse the light, which I don’t have.  The Olympus does have TTL flash so that would be similar to the Sony.  The Oly does not have steady shot so to get this shot hand held might be hard.

I tried getting the bottom film photo with several digital cameras.  I was not able to get anything this good with the newer stuff.  My point here is that to get good photos you need a variety of tools and you need to keep shooting.  Keep trying and you will get some results you like.  I am not telling you to spray and pray.  What I am saying is to set up photos often and you will get some results you like.

Black and white adds a layer of mystery to draw you in.

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Both of these shot with iPhone XS Max.  IMG_0150

Do you like the black and white or color best?  Of these two I prefer the black and white because it removes us more from reality than the color.  The color shot is more like a Xerox of the scene.  I like the black and white pulling us closer to the photo to see if the white spot is the moon or just a light.  And the black and white adds a bit of sidewalk and street to pull us in.  But I prefer color on the stained glass window.  And I like color on the yellow street sign.  Would these two pictures have been better with film.  No doubt in my mind that both the color and black and white would have been better with film.  Film adds a layer of distance between you and the objects.  There is the analog chemical film process to make the image, and then the film image is scanned to make it a digital of the film.  What is very nice is that the scanning is a Xerox of the image the film created.  So all of what the film renders of the scene comes out in the scan.  Using film and then doing a high quality scan is a great combination that adds the film’s rendering and then when you digitize it you can do some editing digitally instead of working in a darkroom.  The best of both Worlds.

If you want clear clean sharp renders of the scene then digital is the best way to do it.  But on the other hand if you want to create an impressionist version of the scene I suggest film and then scanning.  Old lenses also help to give the impressionist look.  Plus throw in some black and white.  Every time I shoot a roll of black and white I always think that I should shoot some more black and white.  I generally do not get that same feeling when shooting black and white digitally.

Using The Sony A7iii In Auto Mode

Back about 1 1/2 years ago I bought my fourth in a line of Sony compact cameras going back to a Sony Mavica in 1999.  The new addition was the Sony HX 80.  When I got it that model was just out and cost me all of $380 at Best Buy.  I had always liked using and the results out of my previous Sony compacts and this was a good one too.  I was looking forward to having an electronic viewfinder, steady shot vibration reduction, and the ability to optically zoom from 24-720mm equivalents.  For the price and size of this camera I got very good results including really amazing long lens shots of birds in flight and distant mountain tops.  One of the big benefits of this camera was the small size, and one of the problems of this camera was the small buttons and small electronic view finder.

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Soon I figured out that it was just simpler and better to set the camera to Auto when the exposure seemed not too wide and then I would use A mode and adjust the exposure setting using the zebras on the back screen or in the viewfinder.  Sony’s “intelligent Auto”. worked well and was able to detect most scenes and to find people’s faces.  And that is how I used the camera until I sold it about 8 weeks ago.  My 2 1/2 month old Sony A7iii is a highly capable camera that gives excellent stills and video.  It is hard to adjust and change settings quickly on it most of the time.  I am sure after I have it for a year it will be easier.  So after grousing about how hard it was yesterday when we expected family to come over for a Christmas cookie decorating event I decided that I would try setting the A7iii to Auto and seeing how well it did.

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For all of these shots it was always in Auto and I used my 55mm Zeiss f1.8 prime lens.  Also used was a Godox flash in some of them.  I set the flash on TTL and did not adjust it at all.

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As it turns out I think the Sony did a splendid job.  When there was a face in the scene it picked it out right away.  It did a good job of auto white balance, exposure, speed, and so on.  Do I plan to just let the camera do the thinking for me in the future, no, I like trying different settings to get the best result possible.

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Color.  I am finding the best results at this point to be just setting the camera to export raw only and editing that in Lightroom CC Classic.  I have also used Lightroom CC and there is little difference between those two.  I prefer the organizational ability of LR Classic to putting everything on line like CC wants you to.  The Sony does seem to put out raws that need little editing.  For these shots I mostly tried Adobe auto to see if that improved it.  In about half the shots it did.  And then I mostly added either Adobe Standard profile or Sony Standard profile.  Plus maybe a little clarity or dehaze.

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All these shots were hand held and this lens does not have VR, but the camera body does.  The A7iii was able to get focus quickly and snap off the shot rapidly.  I seems to work with the Godox flash easily.  I did have a cover over the flash head that quieted down the light blast a bit.

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I am surprised at how well the A7iii was able to automatically adjust for backlight and skin tones and come up with a good result.  We have had cookie decorating parties in this same spot for about 15 years and the Sony did the best job on exposure of any camera I have used so far.  A year ago though I did shoot some Fuji 200 speed film using my Minolta and I will now insert in a few of those shots.

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The above film pictures I did use a flash but forgot to tilt the head up so in some cases there is glare on the faces.  But the colors are good.

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The above six shots were also Fuji 200 (Walmart film) but shot about a week later and with my manual focus Olympus OM2n.  All of them except the top one were just nature light through a window.  The top one I think the color is a bit affected by a little incandescent light.  The bottom five photos are all excellent with the beautiful bokeh you get from the Zuiko lens and the just popping colors on the gingerbread house and the painting.  I love some of the sharp focus rolling into off focus from wide open glass and the inexpensive Fuji film just does a great job.  There is a little of the Fuji green tinge in the shots though.  I did shoot about a roll or so of film yesterday and when I get it developed I will post the results along with the Sony photos for comparison.

I like both the Sony shots and the film shots.  The Sony shots are technically excellent.  Clear, start, exposed right, clean.  Even though the lens I used on the Sony is very highly rated it Just is not rolling in and out of focus like the old Zuiko.  Plus the film adds some softness to the look.  I find the look of the bottom five shots where the focus rolls in and out and some of the color is just vibrant and other times soft to be beautiful in a way the Sony photos are not.  And that is the reason I think film still has a place in 2018.  If all we had was digital our photos would look mostly like we were Xeroxing the World.  More art is needed with the Xeroxing.