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.
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.
I just spent 5-10 minutes trying to get my bluetooth speaker to attach to my iPhone so I could listen to some music. Every time I turned the speaker on it was pulling music from some device somewhere in the house but not the one I wanted it to. After a few failed attempts I gave up. I did not feel like fishing out a wire and the dongle that adapts the iPhone to an old style phone plug so I could just use a wire.
Earlier today I wanted to scan a document to email to someone. I loaded the HP printer scanner and then realized that my new MacBook Pro does not have the software for that scanner loaded into it. And since that HP is about four years old there are no updated drivers that work with the latest Mac software. So I had to go get one of my old Windows laptops that I knew had that software in it so I could run the scanner.
An hour later I tried to make a new folder on one of my external drives so I could store some data on it. Guess what, the new MacBook does not have the software on it to get full use of the Seagate drive like the old MacBook does. So I had to fire up the old MacBook to see what the name of the software is and go to the Seagate web page to get the driver.
Don’t get the idea I don’t like tech, I do, but I like stuff that is simple to get to work right and lasts a while. Bluetooth usually works OK, but can be a PIA. Wires are simple and always work. Software drivers and getting software to work in the system you want it to work in can be easy, hard, or impossible. That older HP combo printer scanner is likely not going to work as a network scanner unless wire it into the network or wire it directly to the computer I want to send the scan to. It works fine and is not that old.
My point here is that if you take photos today that you want to enjoy a few years from now you had better be very careful how you save the files. If you take high quality photos and want the quality to be the same in the future you have to be especially careful to make sure that no software changes your files.
To make sure your file exists and is readable in the future you need to save some copies. This is what I do. I put the files on a plug in drive. I then back it up on a second drive locally. (In the future I am only going to use drives formatted for Mac as I do not trust that the driver for the drive will be updated in future years.) I keep copies in either Apple Photos or Adobe Lightroom CC or both. Usually the raw in LR and the jpeg in Apple Photos. I also have a third back up drive I update about once every six weeks that I store in my motorhome safe. Then as a final measure I keep a copy in drop box. Drop box is the only on line service I have found and used that does not screw around with the size of your files when you load and download them. Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Flikr do. Oh I almost forgot Flickr. I have a lot of my files on Flikr and some on Google Photos. And I sometimes make photo books or have prints made.
I have had significant problems in the past loosing large numbers of my photos. I used to back everything up to one hard drive. It failed. I lost several years of full sized files and my only copies were on Apple Photos. Just last month I went to update a file from 2017 in my main back up drive. The whole year of 2017 was missing. In this case I had a back up copy of the back up copy on another drive. Some of the files did not want to be copied and I had to play with this for a couple hours. So at this point in time I am hyper careful.
I have had several on line back up systems change dramatically for the worse. I used iPhoto and Aperture on Mac. I liked both of them. But then Apple discontinued both and substituted Apple Photos. Apple Photos is still not nearly as effective at editing files as the previous system except using on line. Apple’s system of on line photos is pretty good now most of the time. I used Google Picasa to edit thousands of work photos. It was the best quick edit and file organizer you could get at any price and Picasa was free. Then Google canceled it. Adobe Lightroom on the other hand has improved. I use both Lightroom CC Classic and Lightroom CC. Both work well. The on line CC system keeps adding features and you can use it fairly well in conjunction with the CC Classic. Flickr used to be free. Now you have to pay to use it. All of these systems have at one time or another played with the size of the files except drop box and Adobe Lightroom CC Classic.
I would say my files are now very secure. But I am tired of it taking so much effort. Plus I have no illusion that raw files will work ten years from now. By then your raw files will be from an obsolete camera and you will be using a many generation newer OS. The best you can hope for is jpegs will still work. I think jpegs are mostly safe.
Here is how I did it 14 years ago. I bought film or the people that developed it sent me free film. I would send it off to Seattle Film Lab. At the time I used my Olympus OM2n and a couple of Olympus pocket film cameras. When I finished a couple of rolls or even just one roll, I would send it to Seattle Film Lab in a prepaid mailer. They would develop it and send the negatives, prints, a CD of the scans, plus a free roll of film. That would take about a week. The thing is Seattle Film Lab would edit the photos before I got them. I rarely edited what I was sent back. When I went on vacation I would use slide film so I could project the shots on a screen in full resolution. I used Kodak Kodachrome in those days. You couldn’t edit slides. You either got them right or you did not. I made photo albums. I saved the negatives, CD in files in a file cabinet. My prints from 2004 look just fine and have not faded. The CD’s I got back then still work. And if I had not sold my projector I could use slides. The only thing that endangered your back up files was your house being destroyed. So if needed today you save a copy of scans in a location not in your house.
I do not plan to go back to just using film. But anyone that tells you getting great photos is easier or cheaper today is contradicting what I have learned. iPhones or good Androids take great photos and video and are easy to use. They give better results than old pocket film cameras. But big digital cameras with big lenses and big files are very expensive, need careful care, go out of date in about 3 years, and storing the files is complicated. If you don’t already try both higher end digital and film and use what you like the best. I waver back and forth.
Even though MicroSoft and Windows have greatly improved their OS system in the last few years if you need to get work done now, and do not want to wait the Mac is far, and I mean far superior.
I have used MicroSoft OS systems since Windows DOS and Windows 95. I have used a Mac computer for just over five years. When you turn on the MacBook it is ready to go very quickly with no problems, ever. With Windows since W95 and even with my newest Windows 10 systems, the answer is, maybe. If I use any of my two Windows computers or my wife’s two Windows computers every day and leave them on most of the day they are reliable and have few problems. But if you don’t use your Windows computer every day and let it sit for a week, many times you are exposed to update “hell” for hours. I have not used my newest Windows computer for a week. I turned it on 4 1/2 hours ago to update my Lightroom backup. Even though I used it a week ago and had everything up to date when I turned it off, it now has been futzing around for 4 1/2 hours doing, who knows what. It still is not working past a crawl speed. This is common when I don’t run either of the Windows boxes every day.
Many things work better on a Windows computer, but as far as going on and being ready to run fast, reliably, there is no comparison, Mac all the way.
Update 24 hours later. I finally got Lightroom to open and run on my Windows computer. It took about 5 hours from when I first turned it on. Even this morning 24 hours later the thing is still posting updates.
Update 8 days later. I have used my PC laptop most days since I first put out this post 8 days ago. It is working far better than the first two days but still is posting updates almost every time I shut the computer down or restart. So at this point I see no reason to change my original view.
I have been using Microsoft operating systems since DOS. I’ve used every one of Microsoft’s OS’s except Windows 8. This morning I read a tech news piece saying Windows is 90% of the current laptop market. After owning a MacBook Pro for a little over 4 years you have to just roll your eyes at this statistic. Yes there are some things about Windows that are better than MacOS, but the Mac is so much more reliable than any of our Windows computers. And this includes the fact that I am part of the Mac Beta software program. I am now running Mac OS 11 beta. Apple’s beta is far more reliable than regular non beta Windows.
As I’m writing this blog post I am also looking at our newest Windows laptop that was bought earlier this year for my wife. It is updating. It has been updating since yesterday morning. Maybe it will finish updating by the end of the week. I am very computer literate and do things like have the automatic-update setting on. I thought when I first installed Windows 10 a little over a year ago that Redmond had cleaned up their act. I put Windows 10 on two of my few-year-old high-end Windows 7 laptops and they were way improved. They booted up faster and everything on them ran better. Then I started thinking, “wow, MS is going to be as good as Mac”, wrong. Now a year later we are back to the old “update hell” that was the Microsoft of old. I take back all the good things said a year ago about Windows 10 OS being a great system. It is not if you use it like a Mac.
About that percentage of users that Microsoft has with PC’s. 90%. The misleading part of that statistic is it does not take into account the use of IOS and Android (including Chrome OS). Apple is doing an end run on MicroSoft with IOS. When IOS 11 is standard this fall it will turn an iPad into a laptop computer and then some. It will still not be as full featured as Mac OS, but from what I have seen of the previews it looks like it is going to work for most people as a laptop or regular computer. And then there is the Google system of putting everything on line in Google Docs and other on line services. If you compare the use of computer “systems” adding mobile phones and tablets the likely Microsoft percentage is much lower than 90%. I would speculate that it is more like under 50%. Most likely way under.
Google’s system online is very well sorted out. I have used Gmail for years and I am very happy with it. Google docs works just fine and I never spend any time updating it. I will say I am not happy with Google getting rid of Picasa and Motorola, both of which I used. But overall Google does a very good job just like Apple. Microsoft has been trying to use one system for computers, tablets, and smartphones. That only works if your one system is near perfect. In my opinion MS has a ways to go. So does Apple with Mac OS. But on the other hand with Apple you have more than one system and I can tell you that IOS is very easy to keep updated. And Mac OS is far more perfected than Windows.
Many of the applications that run on Windows work well. This includes Word, Excel, and the newest Photos app. In addition, one drive works for me without issues. But by sticking with the same basic cranky old general operating system MS has had for years it in turn makes me cranky. Microsoft needs to get better.
My laptop is still updating BTW.
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