Category Archives: Minolta

Sony A7iii with Adapted Minolta 100mm f2.8 Macro & Minolta 100-400 f4.5

For me one of the key features that convinced me to buy the Sony A7iii was that the Minolta lenses  I had would all work easily with a Sony LA-EA4 adapter on the Sony A7iii.  The AF lenses would auto focus well and the other settings such as exposure would too.  All true I found out.  The Minolta lenses were all auto focus and seemed to set focus as fast as on my two Minolta 600si film cameras.  After a short time since most of the Minolta lenses I found for sale used were well priced I bought a few more.  My latest being the 100mm f2.8 with 55mm filter size.  This lens has a minimum focus distance of 3.54 meters.

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1/30 sec, f16, ISO 400 using Minolta 100mm f2.8 Macro with LA-EA4 Sony adapter and Sony A7iii using raw.  Edited on Light Room CC Classic

The top featured image is with the 100mm lens.  Both of these were using manual focus and set on a tripod.  This is a solid metal lens and weighs just over 18oz.  It has extremely low distortion and is very sharp.  The minute I saw the first few images from this lens I just went, “wow beautiful”.  The rendition is superb.  This lens was first made in 1986 when the AF Minoltas first came out.  There were several changes and then Sony bought Minolta in 2006 and Sony was put on this lens.

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100mm Minolta lens shot at 1/60 sec, f16, ISO 400 using Sony A7iii

Lightroom Classic lists the lens characteristics under Sony.

To my eye this lens gives the best close up flower shots of any lens I have ever used.  I paid $220 US including shipping.  I bought it with eBay and the source was in Japan.  The condition of the lens is like new.

I also bought a 100-400 AF APO tele zoom 4.5-6.7.

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Minolta 100-400 shot at f8 330mm ISO 500 1/500 sec on a tripod
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100-400 Minolta zoom shot at 360mm hand held, 1/500 sec f6.3 ISO 200 
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Minolta 100-400 shot at 360mm f8 1/800 sec ISO 320

This lens is from the same family of APO zooms and is similar to my 70-210 4.5-5.6 tele zoom.  The 100-400 also came from Japan through eBay.  I paid $240 including shipping.  As with the 100mm the condition was like new.  It came with case and light shield plus front and back caps.  I have done a test using the native Sony G 24mm-105 f4, Minolta 70-210mm f4.5-5.6, and this lens.  I focused on some houses on a hill about 3-4 miles away.  All three lenses performed about equally with similar magnification, f-stop, ISO, and the same Sony A7iii.  Sony makes a 100-400 4.5-5.6.  Maybe it is sharper and better than this lens.  But then maybe it is about the same.  It costs $2,500 dollars and I do not own one so I can test it. This lens weighs 15.17 oz.  The Sony new version is 51oz.

I really like these two lenses.  I also very much like the fact that they are regular mechanical focus and not focus by wire.  Mechanical focus is way easier to use manually than focus by wire.  But of course you have to use an adapter and you do get some limitations with that.  I have found flashes do not automatically work with the TT flash power automatically.  Manual lenses like these are not suitable for video, they make too much noise.  But I am very happy with the results and cost of these.

Sony HX-99 & Sony A7iii Update

I bought a Sony HX-99 compact mirrorless camera about a month ago to replace my previous Sony compact the HX-80.  I thought the HX-80 was a very good compact and the HX-99 is very similar with some significant improvements.

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Shot with Sony HX-99 using raw, edited with Adobe Lightroom Classic CC – The top shot was with my Sony A7iii and Sony 24-105 lens.  

The significant improvements you get with the HX-99 are

  • Ability to use Sony raw
  • Eye auto focus like what I have in my Sony A7iii
  • Face and Smile auto focus
  • Touch screen with same limits as on A7iii
  • Improved electronic viewfinder
  • Improved rear view screen
  • Adjustment ring around the lens for a variety of things it can do that can be set in the menu
  • Additional button on the back of the body that can also be programmed for different adjustments
  • 4K video in 24 and 30p

All of these features for $69 more than I paid for the HX-80.  Total price is $449.  In my humble opinion this is a screaming deal.  The carry over significant features from the HX-80 are

  • Very compact size.  Easily fits into small pockets.  Thicker than a smartphone but smaller over all.
  • Steady shot vibration reduction
  • 24-720 mm optical focal range!
  • Built in electronic viewfinder
  • Can be completely auto with very good auto recognition of scenes and excellent exposure control.  But also a full compliment of M, A, S, and P settings.
  • Built in flash
  • Very complete menu with bracketing and HDR
  • Very fast and accurate auto focus
  • Zebras and histogram in back screen and viewfinder
  • Excellent video capability with good built in microphone
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Sony HX 99
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Sony HX 99

I sold my Sony HX 80 compact because it could not use raw photo files.  I bought the Sony HX 99 when I found out it could.  But I did not expect that this little gem of a camera would add things like eye auto focus, 4K, touch screen, improved viewfinder, and two more programable controls.  To show you how good this camera can shoot long telephoto shots take a look at this Panda I shot at the Zoo today.

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Shot with Sony HX 99 at f8 and 160 ISO at a bit over 500mm (equivalent) 

If you pixel peep you can see a bit more noise than if I had used my A7iii with a 500mm lens, but this is not a noisy photo.

This camera is excellent for street-type photos.

I like to shoot raw.  But if you want to not bother this camera puts out very good jpegs.

The auto focus on this camera is excellent.  Much better than my iPhone XS max.  It is very similar to my Sony A7iii.  With a much smaller sensor than my A7iii the auto focus on this camera sometimes is better than the A7iii.  This happened to the yellow flower shot two rows of photos up.  I also used my Sony A7iii for this same group of flowers.  The HX 99 grabbed the flowers better than the larger camera.  I would guess that with the much bigger sensor of the A7 that the much smaller depth of the filed of focus allowed the compact camera to out focus it’s big brother.

If you pixel peep using Lightroom you can see that the image files from the full frame A7iii have much less noise than from the little camera.  In most cases you just add some noise reduction and it is fixed.  But of course you lose some detail when you put in the noise reduction.  The Sony HX 99 has about 50% more mega pixels than my iPhone XS max.  The Sony also has a nice quality Zeiss lens and the iPhone does not.  If I had to pick if the HX 99 or the iPhone XS max gave better results in general I would say the HX 99 is better by a little at 58mm and down and that the Sony is far better for tele shots where you can use it’s long lens.  But I have been able to get some really remarkable files from the Apple when it used smart HDR.

The Sony HX 99 handles like a regular small camera.  All the usual camera controls are on it unlike a smartphone.  But the big screen of the iPhone works very well as a viewfinder.  The Sony has direct controls that work when you tell them to.  Apple has put a computer between the camera operator and the camera itself.  So that means that when you tell the iPhone to flash or smart HDR the computer has the last say.  I like cameras that do what you tell them to do.  I hope Apple goes back to the way the flash and HDR worked just a couple of software upgrades ago.  I used to be able to set HDR and it would just do it, now, who knows.  I would guess that this fall when Apple adds a predicted third camera with longer telephoto that I will have to revisit if that iPhone is better than this camera.  For now the Sony is better.  But then I paid $449 for it and no phone included.

In almost all cases a full frame camera like the A7iii is going to be better than a compact like the HX 99.  But most of the time you don’t need better than the compact.  Most of the time unless you look carefully you will not be able to tell the difference.

Sony A7iii update.  

The secret of the Sony menu system for me has been to just get used to it and remember where things are.  If you are coming from Nikon like I did then Sony menus are just really different.  But at this point I am used to them.  By the way, the Sony HX 99 and A7iii are almost the same.  If you know one the other is easy.

The Sony A7iii is still not as comfortable in the hand as the Nikon DSLRs I had.

I have recently bought a very high quality Sony / Minolta 100 mm f2.8 macro and Sony / Minolta 100-400mm lens.  They both work great adapted on my A7iii.  I will put up a post soon about those lenses.  The 100mm is just stupendously beautiful in its results.  A gorgeous lens.

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All three of these are from the Sony HX 99

When Shooting Spring – 1. Use a tripod. 2. Use a Manual Camera. 3. Consider or Just Use Film

Advanced digital cameras with automatic features are great for action, low light, and video.  They are not that good for shooting spring flowers and other things that bloom in the spring.  For me spring has arrived.  My first California poppy bloomed today and I have early roses coming out.  Half of my yard is fields of blooming Alyssum and other wildflowers.  I record spring happenings like this every year.

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Sony A7iii with 55mm f1.8 lens 

Shots like the above are just far easier with manual cameras.  I had to fiddle with the Sony A7iii to get the focus on the orange poppy and not the background.  My iPhone absolutely refused to get sharp focus.  But my almost 40 year old Olympus with manual focus only was completely simple.  I have negative film in it so I know that the highlights will not get blown easily.  But from past experience I know flowers tend to be about 1 stop over a center weighted meter.  So I just set the Oly -1 stop.  Put it on a little light tripod, took maybe 30 seconds to focus precisely on the flow and took the shot.  Of course the disadvantage of film is you have to wait for it to be developed to see the results.  So I can remember how I shot the photo I keep a photo log in my iPhone notes app.

Then I loaded a roll of Ektachrome into one of my Minolta 600si’s.  Getting that set up was about twice as hard as the Olympus because the Minolta has auto focus and no manual focus aids in the viewfinder.  But no menus to putz with so maybe 10 times easier than my full auto Sony A7iii.

Film.  I have a bunch of film (maybe 25 rolls) left over from last year.  None of it has expired.  I just have not shot much of it lately because I have been too busy playing with my full frame Sony and iPhone.  But now that spring has arrived there are all kinds of beautiful subjects that will be available and I want to use some of my older cameras.  I have heard some disquieting news that Kodak Alaris is selling the film business.  As I mostly use Kodak film I hope there will not be any problems with supply.  Overall I like the look of Kodak film better than any other.  I would have to say Ilford makes excellent black and white.  The last roll I shot was Ilford 50 speed and it was just a great result.  And Fuji has announced they are raising their film price 30% soon.  So I don’t know how to read that.  30% + of their consumer film is not that much, but 30% on Velvia or Provia is a bunch.  That would make Velvia about 20 bucks a roll and that is too much.  The current price of $15 bucks is already too high.  BUT.

BUT continued – if I had just used my film cameras this past year and my old Nikon D5500 and Sony HX80 it would have been far far cheaper than what I spent to get two full frame cameras.  New full frame cameras and especially full frame camera glass that is good is soooooooo expensive it just makes my head swim.  New full frame lenses are being introduced left and right by Sony, Canon, Nikon, Sigma, and a bunch of others.  The latest for my Sony camera is a 135mm f1.8 – I am sure it is a great lens, but it costs $1,900 US dollars!!!! And it weights over 2 lbs (almost a kilo).  Good grief Charlie Brown that is a lots of dough and very big and heavy.  I have an Olympus 135mm f3.5.  These sell for about $40 on eBay and it weighs about 8 oz.  If I wanted I could get an Oly 2.8 for about $75.  Or I could get a Minolta AF 135 2.8 that would work on my A7iii for about $140.

I have bought two Minolta lenses from eBay that are supposed to arrive tomorrow.  1.  100mm f2.8 AF macro.  This lens is rated as about 9.5 on a scale of 1-10.  I paid $220 for it including shipping.  Condition is rated as mint.  2.  Minolta 100-400 f4.5-6.3. I am curious to see how good this lens is.  The reviews I read on it said it was good to excellent.  I paid about $250 including shipping.  Rated Excellent + condition.  I have been thinking about getting this 100-400 for a while now but was trying to decide if I wanted to pony up the $2,500+ for the Sony new one.  Then I tested the Minolta 70-210 f4.5-5.6 that I have against my Sony 24-105 f4 I bought new a couple of months ago.  I thought the Sony would blow it away.  It did not.  I shot some houses on a hill opposite out house that are about 2-3 miles away and the Sony and Minolta are about equivalent.  I paid $32 for the Minolta lens about 2 years ago.  Just before Christmas I paid $1,300 for the Sony.  The Minolta lens is smaller and lighter than the shorter zoom Sony.  The Minolta 100-400 I have coming is much smaller and far lighter than the new Sony 100-400mm.

I bought the 100mm 2.8 macro because spring is here.  I have been using various 50-55mm lenses on my Sony and Minoltas and 50 & 135 on my Olympus bodies.  The Minolta 100 has been rated as a great lens by a number of people including just last week the “Casual Photographer” blog.  Ken Rockwell has raved about how good the lens is.  So I am looking forward to it.  100mm in macro is just easier to use than 50mm macro.  My Zeiss 55mm lens is excellent and I can get pretty close with it and then just crop the image.  Hopefully the 100mm will be better.  A Sony 90mm 2.8 macro is about $1,000.

Even though I keep thinking that I will get away from using any film I keep going back to using some.  I like manual cameras.  I like being able to set them quickly how I want them without having to delve into any deep menus.  For landscape manual focus is fine.  There is the problem of getting a good lab to develop, but that is solved easily by just paying more to a good one.  Enough for now.

 

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

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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.
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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.

 

 

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.

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.