Category Archives: Nikon

Sony A7iii vs Nikon Z7

I have had my Sony A7iii since October.  In four months I have taken about 5,000 still photos and a dozen videos.  It has been a learning curve for me after three Nikon DSLRs. I would say I am at an intermediate skill level with this camera, but still finding new features frequently.  Last week I rented a Nikon Z7 + 24-70mm f4 lens.  Nikon offered me a special price and my curiosity got the better of me.  The photo above is one of the very first I took with the Nikon.  This was taken hand held and focus was by touching the back screen where I wanted the kit lens to focus and I then pushed the shutter button.  For a kit lens the ability to focus this close and for the photo to be this sharp is impressive.  This is closer than my Sony 24-105mm f4 can focus.  The Nikon has a minimum of 12″ and the Sony 15″.

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Taken with Sony A7iii and 50mm f2.8 macro lens.

The above shot with the Sony is also close up and very sharp.  I used a Sigma 50mm 2.8 macro to get it.

  • Overall the image quality of both the A7iii and Z7 are excellent.  The Z7 has more mega pixels, but unless you are cropping and viewing on a very detailed screen you will not see the difference.  To my eye the sensors of these two cameras are very similar when shot in raw.  The colors seem to be about the same.

When I rented the Sony I took it directly from the camera store to a park and started shooting.  I found it remarkably easy to do this.  The menu is mostly the same as on the Nikon DSLRs.  But I just used the back LCD touch screen to get into the menu and did not have to search around.

  • Most of the menu in the Sony was pretty easy for me too.  I have had 4 Sony compact cameras and the menu of the A7iii is similar but longer.  The Z7 is easier to use if you don’t know what you are doing.  And the Nikon just does some things that help.  You can touch the back LCD of the Sony too, to set a focus point.  On the Nikon the place where you set the point is easy to see with a white outline.  On the Sony it uses a hard to see black outline that will turn green when it focuses, but before that happens is difficult to see.  Some of the settings on the Sony are very hard to figure out.  Like settings for jpeg or raw on which card.  The Sony has this in two locations many pages and three sections apart in the menu.  Plus the language used in the description is not clear.  The Nikon has this in one location and is very easy to figure out.
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iPhone XS Max zoomed about 6X using digital zoom and smart HDR color via Apple Photos App

The Sony has lots of customizable buttons.  I have them set up now so I can access menu functions I use all the time.  Only some of the buttons are marked.  This means you have to memorize which ones are which.  In the beginning it is hard to quickly find what you want.  My previous Nikon D750 also had lots of buttons, switches, and dials.  They were mostly marked.  Finding the function you wanted was easy to learn.  Much more so than the A7iii.  The Nikon Z7 has some marked buttons and a full function touch screen.  This is more like my Nikon D5500 than the 750.  There are advantages to both the button system (A7iii & D750) and button-touch screen (Z7).  Done well I would say both systems are about equal in ease of use and speed.  The Nikon D750 and the Z7  good.  The Sony A7iii is just not as easy or fast.  If I had to pick a winner today it would be a tie between the Nikon D750 and Nikon D5500.  The Z7 has the potential to be as good as the D5500, but I just did not use it long enough to say at this point.

  • My controls winner between the Z7 and A7iii would be the Z7, but I have to say I loved the ease with which the D750 worked.  It’s dials, buttons, and switches were placed so you could remember where they were easily by sight or feel.  For the Sony you really have to look where you are pushing a button to be sure on many of the controls.
  • The touch screen winner (between Z7 & A7iii) is the Z7 by a mile.  The Sony is stretching it to even say they have a touch screen.  Right now you cannot adjust the menu with it.  That is a big mistake on a camera that needs a full function touch screen.
  • Overall build quality look, feel, appearance.  This is a hard one.  The Sony body and two lenses I have feel very solid.  I have the 24-105 G f4 and the Zeiss 55mm f1.8.  They look and feel like very high quality pieces.  But the Sony body falls down on the doors over the plug ins.  They are light and poorly designed.  That said besides the doors the Sony body feels solid.  The Nikon Z7 body has a softer feel than the Sony.  The door covers are better than the Sony.  The 24-70mm f4 lens is lighter and does not feel as solid as the Sony.  By a wide margin the Nikon body is much nicer in the hand.
  • The Sony is very hard to hold comfortably for any length of time.  The Nikon designers paid special attention to this and the body is more spread out than the Sony.  And the 24-70 lens is shorter than the Sony 24-105.  Nikon also obviously spent time putting the weight of the 24-70 as far back towards the body as possible.  They made the lens retractable, they made the lens light, there is less spacing in the lens to move the elements further away from the body.  With the Nikon Z7 your fingers are more spread out so more leverage and comfort.  When you wrap your hand abound the grip the knuckles are half way out this lens.  With the Sony when you have your fingers around the grip your knuckles are about a third out the 24-105 lens and maybe a bit less.  The result is the Nikon is the one you want to hold for a long time.
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Nikon Z7 with Nikon 24-70 f4

The above photo has a focus point of the tiny little bud on the side of the cactus.  The second one.  This was very easy to do with the Z7.

Prices

  • Nikon Z7 $3,000 (approx) after $400 reduction for trade in bonus.  Or $3,600 with 24-70mm f4 after $400 reduction for trade in bonus.
  • Sony A7iii $2,000 + $1,300 for 24-105mm f4 = $3,300
  • Nikon D750 + 24-120mm f4 = $1,800
  • Nikon D5600 + 18-55mm kit lens = $530
  • Nikon Z6 + 24-70 f4 $2,200 after $200 off for trade in bonus.

If you are a photographer and don’t care about video or want to shoot video with your iPhone XS Max like I do get the D5500 for $530.  An incredible deal on an excellent camera.  I owned one for 3 1/2 years and it is a great piece of gear.  But if you own an iPhone XS Max you likely want to spend more money so get a D750 or Z6.  I owned a D750 for six months and think it is a step up from the D5500 but much heavier and bigger.  To my eyes the combination of full frame sensor and FX better glass put the quality out of the D750 one notch above the 5500.  For less weight and much better video the Z6 is the pick.

Between the Z7 at $3,600 or the A7iii around $3,300 it is a hard choice.  I would be tempted to go with the Z7 for the comfort of carrying it and the ease of adjustment.  If I were in the market to change I think I would choose the Z6.  To me it is a bargain at the current prices.

YouTube – Panos and Video A7iii vs iPhone XS Max – Film Fail – Macro A7iii vs iPhone and so on.

The top image is an iPhone XS Max panorama using Apple’s built in pano generator.  I don’t think it is a great pano but I need the shot to make a point.

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Made with Sony A7iii Sony 24mm – 105mm lens.  About 15 shots merged in Lightroom.  

And the shot immediately above is from my Sony A7iii and about 15 shots taken hand held then merged on Lightroom.  The pano with the Sony and Lightroom was pretty easy.  Lightroom is very smart and does this quite easily.  But, the iPhone XS Max made the first pano in camera, hand held, effortlessly.  Looking at the finished panoramas on my high end monitor in full size (very big files, both of them) there is no appreciable difference in the results.  The Sony produced file has slightly more detail, you can read the names better on the gravestones, but you can also read lots of graves on the iPhone produced image too.  By the way, I want to give credit to Thomas Heaton who is a youtube landscape video maker and has his own channel on youtube for giving me the idea to do more panoramas.  I have done them in the past, but after watching his video went out the next day and shot a few.

An hour later I went and shot some video down by the bay using the same Sony and iPhone.  And the results were much the same.  Although in this case the Sony and iPhone processing was the same as I did not edit either.  Again the Sony had a bit more detail, but the overall viewing of the video is about the same.  I only put up one video which I thought was the best clip.  It is from the iPhone.  I do find the Sony 24mm-105mm f4 to be a good video lens.  It is fast focus, silent focus, stabilized, and has a good zoom range.  The iPhone’s system of video and zoom is quite good also.  If you hand hold and manipulate the zoom with one hand and hold the phone with the other the result can be quite good.  Both the Sony and Apple smoothed out the hand holding pretty well.  The panoramas are also not edited except for pushing the auto enhance feature as I did not like the resulting photo all the much, but wanted to share the fact that in this case the expensive Sony body and expensive G zoom was not noticeably better than the iPhone.

On the other hand I have not found iPhones to be that good at macro or close ups of plants and flowers.  With the Sony A7 or nearly any other regular camera you can focus to a subject quite well with little effort.  To me iPhones, even the latest iPhone XS Max are  sometimes OK and sometimes not.  Even the little Sony HX 80 compact I had last year could easily lock on to a flower and get an accurately focused photos.  I have many many well focused iPhone shots of flowers, but only up to a certain point.  Past that point the focus can be inaccurate.  And also today on my hike up the large hill back of our house I only took the iPhone.  Not having a sun shade for the iPhone was a big deal as was no polarizing filter.  My point here is that while smartphones can be very useful in photography they have limits where larger or more featured cameras do better.

I pay a monthly fee to youtube so I don’t have to watch commercials and do watch quite a few varied clips.  Many of them are about photography.  Some are good and many not.  But my reason for writing about youtube is to say that many trolls say really rude inappropriate things on YT.  A couple days ago I posted a comment on a video about the Nikon D3500 (new) vs Nikon D700 (used).  My comment was polite.  Some troll came along like he was hot stuff and said that the Nikon D5500 I used to own was a “plastic turd” compared to the 10 year old Nikon D700.  It was inappropriate of him (or her) because I did not disparage the D700 as I have no experience using one.  But I have lots of experience using the D5500 and it was / is a camera I got many many very good photos from.  It’s only defect was a small viewfinder and that it is not mirrorless.

All of the above shots were taken with the Nikon D5500 in 2015 with the old style Nikon kit lens.  Take a look at those close ups of the bristlecone pines.  That was not with a macro lens just the standard kit lens.  Or the Bodie California shots.  In the full size files that are very sharp pictures and most of them were shot jpeg standard size.  No raw.  In addition to taking really great photos the D5500 had about the slickest control system and menu I have ever used.  The back screen worked for a variety of things plus going through the menu.  Compared to that Nikon my current Sony and iPhone are miles behind.  But the D5500 did not have an EVF which would have helped it.  And the live focus for stills or video was terrible.  In my humble opinion Nikon would be smart to just convert this camera into mirrorless.  Take out the mirror, put in an EVF, but make sure it focuses as well as the D5500 does not when not using live view.  The curved body and light weight makes this crop sensor camera so easy to use.  Even with the low end style lenses they work pretty darn well.  And there is a full line up of lower cost good performing lenses.  Or instead of making it mirrorless leave the dam mirror in and just put a greatly improved live view auto focus in.

For the most part good photography is because of the photographer and not the gear.  The last four beautiful strawberry sky photos were shot on the same trip as the D5500 ones, but they were taken with my old Motorola Droid Maxx.  That had a 10 megapixel camera in it.  And finally Film Fail.  As much as I like shooting film with old cameras there is one part of the process I don’t like.  Many film labs.  Sometimes they screw up one or more full rolls of film.  I got back two rolls week before last from a local lab that has done good work for me in the past.  One roll of Kodak Portra 400 and the other Fuji Superia 400.  Two different cameras.  The lab fouled up both rolls.  Many of the photos were of no consequence, but one roll was Christmas 2018.  So those photos will never grace an album.  Now I need to go back to the one local lab that does not screw up film rolls (or at least has never done so in the past) and just put up with the 40 mile drive to get there.  And the extra money they charge.

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.

old town Sacramento
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.

 

 

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.

Sony A7iii After 6 Weeks & compared to Nikon D750 & D5500

I have now had my Sony A7iii a little over six weeks and it is time to post some additional  thoughts about it and also in comparison to my previous Nikon DSLRs the D5500 and D750.  All three of these interchangeable lens cameras have the same mega pixel count, 24.

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From left to right Olympus OM2n, Voigtlander Prominent, Minolta 600si, Sony A7iii

And to my eye from a users perspective and not a scientific test, all three will give about the same quality photo using the same quality lens.

So why did I switch to Sony if the image quality was about the same.  There are two main reasons.  1.  Try and get the size and weight down from the D750.  2.  EVF.  I like being able to set exposure using zebras or the histogram before taking the shot.  After about six years using DSLRs I wanted to see if I could be better at getting the exposure right in varied conditions.

  1.  For the most part I did get a size reduction on the Sony compared to the D750.  But you still have the problem with the lens size and weight.  D750 Nikon 29.5 oz, 50mm f1.4 9.8 oz 24-120mm f4 25 oz, Sony A7iii 22.9 oz 50mm f1.4 27.5 oz 24-105 f4 23.4 oz.  So you can see the problem with those two full frames.  The Nikon D5500 is way smaller and lighter.  I did choose the Sony – Zeiss 55mm f1.8 that is exactly the same weight as the Nikon but only f1.8 and not f1.4.  Also, the Sony Zeiss is well over twice the price of the Nikon 50mm f1.4.
  2. EVF.  The Electronic view finder makes it much easier to nail exposure.  I don’t have to bother bracketing any more.  The Sony finder and back screen allow easy exposure settings.  I don’t have any problems with lag in the EVF.  It is not as crystal clear as the Nikon D750 OVF.  Both the Sony A7 and Nikon D750 viewfinders are far superior to the Nikon D5500’s.  The D5500 has a smaller size view.  I don’t really know why.  My near 40 year old Olympus OM2n has a huge bright viewfinder and it is a smaller body than the D5500.
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Taken with Sony A7iii and 55mm f1.8

I am 71 years old and am strong but have a slight bit of arthritis in my right thumb.  When I would start out with the D750 and the 24-120mm lens it took a while before it became comfortable to hold.  And when walking with that setup it is pretty big.  I bought a Peak strap to go with it and that helped a lot, but I still many times would wish for a smaller camera set up.  So now I have the Sony A7iii with one 55mm lens that is light.  Plus I have five adapted lenses that are Minolta.  The A7 & native 55mm f1.8 makes a great package.  The adapted lenses do not perform as well as they did with the Minolta film bodies.  They work, but some of the photo magic is just not there with them.  I do not have a good wide to medium zoom.  And if I buy the 24-105 Sony f4 then the A7iii and lens will be right back up there in size and weight with what I have with the 750 & 24-120.

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This is the Sony A7iii with an adapted 50mm f2.8 macro Sigma lens.  This particular adapted lens works well.  

Handling – Lots of writers have complained about the menus.  I have had 4 Sony compact cameras over the last 15 years and the menus are all about the same.  But no doubt the Sony menu is longer than Nikon’s DSLR menu.  Once I set up the programable buttons I did not use the menu much.  I am a big fan of touch screens.  The one on the Nikon D5500 is great.  Neither the A7iii or the D750 have touch screens.  Yes the Sony has a very limited touch screen, but not enough for me to use it.

Both Nikons have well set up dials and buttons that are easy to learn and use.  The single dial and buttons are very easy to use one handed with the D5500 as it is so light and comfortable to hold.  I do prefer both a front and back dial.  The D750 has front and back dials.  These are the ones to adjust exposure and shutter speed.  The D750 is also relatively easy to use one handed if you have something like a 50mm lens on it.  A big zoom, not so much.  The buttons on the D5500 and D750 are resistant to being accidentally hit and changed when using the camera.

The Sony is a different story.  It’s weight is about 6 oz more than the D5500 and about 7 oz less than the D750.  The D5500 and D750 have better grips for my size hand than the Sony.  The Sony grip however is the least desirable of these three.  But the Sony has an additional issue that makes this worse.  And that is that you many times want to adjust the camera while in your right hand.  Adjustments to the back or front dial or buttons is much harder than either Nikon.  It is much easier to accidentally move one of the setting buttons or dials on the Sony.  I did just that last time I was out shooting.  I took at least 2 dozen shots before realizing it.

I also have 5 film SLR cameras I use all the time.  2 Olympus OM2n’s.  This is the gold standard of handling.  Perfect size with only a few simple controls.  2 Minolta 600si cameras.  Just a little bigger than the Olympus and slightly larger.  A wonderful camera for handling and use.  Simple excellent quick to use controls for manual or auto use.  I like this a little less than the Oly.  Mostly because the Oly looks and feels better.  The Minolta is plastic and not the Nikon nubby kind.  Auto film load and rewind.  3.  Voigtlander Prominent from the early 50’s.  Same size as the Oly and the Leica M3 by the way.  Funny about those coincidences.  The Voight is beautiful with just gorgeous lenses.  But it is hard to use.  Much harder than the Sony.

Color – Lightroom works hand in hand with Nikon files put out by the three DSLRs I have owned in the last ten years.  Ever since Lightroom started their new system earlier in 2018 I just only take raw and make my adjustments.  Both LR CC Classic and LR CC work very well with Nikon.  In tough lighting situations the Nikon files can require some work to get them to look right.  Of course you can fix a lot of that by “chimping” and looking at the histogram after you take the shots.  In general it is easy to use Nikon colors with LR.  Not so with Sony.  Sony  (and keep in mind this is only my personal use and experience and I am just a user and no expert.) raws and Jpegs do not for me have nearly as much differentiation as the Nikons.  Raw with Nikon is flat and obviously not processed.  Sony when I shoot raw + jpeg the files come out looking much more similar.  And if you get my Sony A7iii near the ocean or a large body of water it swings the raw files towards blue.  I am forced to spend a lot of time getting the color to look how I like it.  Much more so than my Nikons, Apple iPhone, or my Sony HX 80 compact.  The last one really confuses me.  Going towards the blue side must be part of the AWB and the camera looks for water and it’s computer must make an adjustment.

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Both of these went towards the blue.  These look pretty good now, but it took some work in LR to get them so.  

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The Sony does a very good job for me with jpeg on flowers.  I take lots of plant pictures.  I worked at getting good at that with the Nikons.  The Sony does just as good a job on raw but better for me on jpeg.  I also find that even though I have begun to think the Sony jpegs are a little “weird” I am getting the “Ektar” look that I love using that Kodak film.  Part of that has to do with the really spectacular Sony Zeiss 55mm lens.

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These two were from a local hike the other day.  They are just OK photos but they have punch to their color like Ektar gives.  These two are with an adapted 24mm Sigma 2.8 macro lens.  

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So for me specifically I have things I like about the Sony color and things I do not.  I guess I will call this a tie.

Video – The Sony has much much better video ability than either Nikon.  The ease of use on the A7iii is significantly better.  In the past I disliked the results I got from the Nikon DSLRs and so used my iPhone for video.  I have heard that the Nikon Z6 & 7 have much improved video.  So if you have to have Nikon get one of those for video.

Price – The Sony with lenses is far more expensive than the Nikon D750 or Nikon D5500.  Back when the Nikon was introduced it’s price was about the same as the Sony.  And Nikon’s new Z6 is about the same as the Sony A7iii.  Right now you can buy a Nikon D5600 and two zoom lenses for $700.  And today you can get the D750 with the 24-120 for $1,800.  The Sony A7iii with Sony 24-105mm is going to run you $3,300.

Bottom Line – If you want to buy one of these cameras you should do so knowing you are getting a great image maker.  If you shoot mostly, almost all still photography get one of the Nikons at todays prices.  Even at a big discount the D5600 is 1/3 of the D750 cost.  For most people the D5600 is a much better buy.  The only really huge improvement in the D750 is the viewfinder (I agree with Ken Rockwell who said the same thing.)  Other than that the smaller Nikon is much easier to carry and has a touch screen.  If you take video and don’t want to use your phone for that then you should get the Sony or maybe the Nikon Z6.

The Sony and Nikon cameras I have owned over the years have both been very reliable.  The Nikons seem a bit tougher but I have not had problems with my Sony’s.  For me I am going to stick with this Sony through the end of 2019 at least.  I may buy one or two more lenses for it.  But I am worn out from all the new cameras in 2018.  Time to use the gear I have.  Unless Olympus makes a full frame mirrorless the size of my old Oly OM2n.  I would buy one of those.  And I am going to shoot film too.  I love the new Kodak Ektachrome.  I think it might be the best slide film I have ever used.

 

Camerageddon = 2018 – Might Be The Biggest Year Of Change Ever In The Photo – Video Industry

This year has had one significant introduction after another in new camera bodies, systems, and film.  Sony has introduced the A7riii and A7iii.  Both mostly great and maybe the greatest full frame mirrorless cameras of today.  Nikon has put forward the A7 & A6 full frame mirrorless designs with new lenses.  So far to me this looks like the biggest contender of the Sony’s.  Canon EOSR.  A great camera, except, no ibis and big crop on video at 4K.  Both Nikon and Canon have only one data card slot.  This is a big omission.  Fuji XT3.  Another great camera, but crop sensor and no ibis.  Fuji again with the R version of their medium format camera.  This looks like a great landscape camera but lacks features that are in the full frames.  Panasonic now is talking about their S line for full frame mirrorless, but full specs are not available.  And then Zeiss and their ZX1.  Complete specs are not available and neither is the price.  As I said in my previous post I love this ZX1 concept.  I want one.  But I want one based on specs that I imagine but are not confirmed yet along with the price.

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Nikon D5500 – Using Lightroom to get B&W

I would like to buy a new full frame mirrorless camera.  I currently have a Nikon D750 DSLR and would like something smaller and lighter plus has an electronic viewfinder.  Of the ones above that we actually know the specs and price of I would say the Sony’s and the Nikon’s are the closest to what I want.  But here is the thing, I am not sure I like either enough more than the Nikon D750 to switch.  I like have tried the A7riii and did not like the way it felt in my hand and thought the menu-control system to be difficult.  I do like the dual SD cards.  The Nikon Z7’s are just now getting shipped to their buyers.  So far I have heard good feedback.  But I don’t really want to switch to XQD cards.  My three computers all have SD card readers but not XQD.  So dongle time would be the case with the Nikons.  And I like the dual card slots I have on the D750.  I don’t like the fact that Nikon is charging a lot more for a 50mm f1.8 than and F mount 50mm f1.4.  Actually I don’t like that a lot.

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Kodak Tmax 100 with Minolta 600si and 50mm f1.4

Or for that mater Nikon charging 50% more for the Z mount 35mm f1.8 than the F mount f1.8.  Even the 24-70 f4 is more than I recently paid for the F mount 24-120 f4.

And neither the Sony’s or the Nikon’s have settings adjustments for the all important aperture, shutter speed, and ISO dials.  Ones I can see at a glance like Zeiss and Fuji.  The Sony and Nikon do have quick change on aperture and and shutter speed but not in the elegant way Zeiss and Fuji do.

And then the Fuji XT3.  What a great camera with dedicated settings for aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and exposure compensation.  And it is a beautiful camera, far more so than the Sonys.  And a bit prettier than the Nikons.  Plus it is cheaper than any of the full frames.  But no 35mm sensor.  What were they thinking???  The whole World is going back to the best image size ever invented full frame 35mm and they stick with crop size? And no ibis to top it off.  But I have to say the simplicity of the Fuji and quality of materials, and the smaller size have great appeal.

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Shot with iPhone X and it’s wide lens

I have no experience with Canon cameras except that several of my friends and relatives have and like them.  Most prominently my professional TV and Movie cameraman son who is about ready to go back to a Canon DSLR after having a Sony A7S for two years.  His reason, “Canon has better colors”.  And this is a person who uses $100,000 camera rigs in his work.  So maybe when the Canon R is in the stores I will take a closer look.  Right now I don’t like the one card slot of the Canon or the no ibis.  Plus it is big unlike the Fuji.  But Canon has an extremely good reputation so maybe more on it later.

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Shot with Nikon D750 and converted to B&W with Lightroom

Like Canon I have no experience with Panasonic.  Their two full frame bodies look quite good, but no final specs or prices yet.  So more to come on these two later.

Kodak Ektrachrome is finally shipping.  After the unexpected Zeiss ZX1 this Kodak announcement was the most exciting of the German show.  I like shooting with film.  I like the look of the results I get from my old SLR cameras (4 of them with lots of lenses) and one very nice Voightlander rangefinder with a set of 3 lenses.  On our summer trip this year I did not shoot as much film as I had planned as I bought the D750 just before the trip and was still experimenting with it.  But one of the rolls I shot was Kodak Tmax 100.  I used my Minolta 600si for this film and all of the shots turned out.  I was being lazy and did not use any filters for the whole roll, which was a mistake.  I should have used a yellow, orange, or red for daylight shots.

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Both of these above shots were from this roll of Tmax.  The second shot was a lean out the moving train shot with 100 speed film and an unstabilized lens.  The camera was set to auto focus and worked perfectly.  It has 3 auto focus points and not 500 like modern cameras.

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The above 3 shots are from Portra 400 film that was about a year expired.  All were shot on a 40 year old Olympus OM2n and 50mm f1.8.  One of the best film SLRs ever made.

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And the above three were from inexpensive Kodak Gold 200 that was expired two years. I used my second Olympus OM2n to shoot these.  The Kodak Gold really did it’s job, but if I had it to do over again would have shot with fresh film.  Keep in mind these were shot with a very simple old meter in the Oly and then put through medium priced developing and only mid range scanning (3000 x 2000).

So I am thrilled to be able to get Kodak Ektachrome fresh again.  I fully expect that Kodak’s new formulation will be better than the old Kodak Ektachrome.  This film is being made in the United States in Rochester New York and is shipping from the factory now.  The new Ektachrome is the “natural” formulation and not the old “vivid” formulation as per an interview I watched yesterday from a Kodak spokesperson.  Why am I thrilled?  Slide film has punch you cannot get from negative film.  And you can project slide film on a screen without electronics.  One downside is reduced dynamic range.  As you can see from the three color photos above, the Kodak Gold has tremendous dynamic range.  I have already called one of the local camera shops to get an estimate as to when they are getting the film.  Guess is second week in Oct.

Waiting For Good Light

If you cannot see the back LCD on your DSLR maybe it is not a good time to take pictures or video?  Or you should stick to film that has huge room for bright highlights in full sun?  95% of my best digital outside photos or video are taken when it is not bright overhead sun.  So instead of a new camera with EVF or reading the zebras to make sure your highlights are not blown you should just take your shots or video when the light is good?  Even if you turn down the exposure on digital so you don’t blow your highlights in full sun you have to pull your shadows up so much that you get a lot of noise.  The best digital cameras like a Nikon D850 only have about +2 stops of highlights before the pictures are unusable.  The best film like Portra have about +4 stops.  Many times when the photo is overexposed a stop when you try to improve it in post you just don’t get a good result even using raw.

The flower below was taken with a digital camera about an hour before sunset and mostly in the shade.

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Nikon D750 taken late afternoon

The shot below is what happens to many digital photos when taken at mid day.

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Same camera as the above shot a D750 but full sun in North Dakota this summer.  This was taken raw but there is no way to get this into a good photo.  At least it is beyond my ability.

On the other hand here is some film shot at mid day with full sun.

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Inexpensive Fuji film and the lowest priced scan
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Fuji 200 (cheap) but a medium quality scan both of these taken at mid day
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D850 late afternoon in shade
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Fuji 200 mid day shot.  Medium scan.
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Black and white film works fine mid day but a filter either red or yellow would have improved the sky.  Kodak TriX 400
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This is Tmax 100 with no filters.  Again I should have added a yellow or orange or red filter.

Right now you have a ton of people switching to buy mirrorless cameras from DSLRs to get an EVF.  That way you can control your exposure better when you can’t see the back screen.  My suggestion is that if you cannot see your back screen maybe your camera is telling you it is not a good time to be taking pictures.

Now if you are switching to mirrorless because you want to take more videos with your camera then I think that is a good reason.  But if you are going to take mostly or all photos and not video there is no reason to ditch your DSLR or not buy a new one.  Both Nikon and Canon offer very good DSLRs at modest prices.  I have a several year old Nikon D5500 that takes sharp clear detailed photos and is half the price of a comparable mirrorless.