Tag Archives: Apple

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

Spot Focus Very Hard With iPhone XS Max

The iPhone XS Max does not have a spot focus setting or small dots marking where you are focusing in either the regular Apple camera app or the Adobe Lightroom iPhone camera app that I can find.  It has a fairly large square box instead.  This works well if you are shooting a subject that takes up a large enough area of the image, but does not work for images like this.

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Shot with iPhone XS Max and Adobe Lightroom camera app with the focus box over the top of the flower.  The box is about four times the size of the flower.  And I cropped this image quite a bit.  
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This is the same image uncrossed.  

The California poppy bloom is not in sharp focus.  This is a problem for me.  I like flowers in sharp focus.  With any of my larger cameras or my Sony pocket camera focus on this type of subject is very easy.

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Shot with iPhone XS Max and Adobe camera app.  Using manual focus with peaking.  

The very good Adobe iPhone XS camera app allows manual focus when in “pro” mode.  I used that when shooting the above photo.  The subject I focused on is in fairly good focus when you look at it closely but certainly not what I consider sharp focus.  Again, any of my larger cameras or the Sony pocket camera would have easily done a much better job.

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Same shot with auto focus.  Both are using the Apple wide angle lens.  

Here is a shot of the same bush using auto focus.  The results are similar to the manual focus.

I have been able to get many very sharp focus shots with this smartphone.  Here is one from yesterday.

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This focus and image quality from the same iPhone using the same Adobe camera app is so good it challenges my Sony full frame mirrorless A7iii with very sharp Zeiss lens.  BUT if you cannot reliably get sharp focus when you need/ want it then the camera is less useful.  I take lots of flower & plant shots all the time.  I need sharp focus when I ask for it not maybe.  Same thing with smart HDR and flash.  When I turn them on I expect them to work.  All of these problems can be fixed with software changes.

But while I am waiting for Apple to fix this I am going to go out and buy another compact digital camera.  I sold my Sony HX 80 super zoom last October because I could not get raw out of it.  The jpegs out of that little camera were great.  But you just get better details and more latitude on adjustment when you have raw files.  I was also not really happy with the tiny viewfinder that you needed to manually pull out when you wanted to use it.

Sony has an update to the HX 80 called the HX 99 which adds raw image capability, 4K video and eye auto focus.  Unfortunately the new one still has the tiny viewfinder with manual pull up.  Nikon is bringing out a similar compact that also has raw & 4K with a fixed electronic viewfinder with double the pixels of the Sony.  The Nikon is called the A1000 and it has a zoom from 24-840 compared to the Sony 24-720.  Max f stop is nearly identical.  When the Nikon is available to hold and touch I am going to check it out to see if I like it better than the Sony.

Who knows maybe Apple will fix these problems in the mean time.

 

iPhone XS Max Camera – Apple Camera App (jpeg) vs Adobe Lightroom Camera App (raw) vs Sony A7iii with Zeiss 55mm Lens (raw)

So today is another cool and rainy day, drizzle actually.  Cool not cold as this is San Diego California.  We are having the most rain for any rainy season in quite sometime.  Point is many activities I normally plan or do on Saturday are cancelled.  So time to test some cameras.

The iPhone XS Max phone has a great camera for stills and video.  One of the great things about using a camera in a modern iPhone or Android is that you can use different camera apps.  I use the native Apple app and also the Adobe Lightroom one.  I have tried several others but now just stick with Apple and Adobe as I also use those softwares to organize photos and with the Apple app both photos and video.

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iPhone XS Max using Apple camera app ISO 25 4.25mm lens f1.8

This is a significant crop of a close up image.  The result is pretty good.

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iPhone XS Max using Adobe camera app and raw ISO 25 6mm lens 1/120

This is the same image taken less than a minute later with the Adobe Lightroom CC app camera and the same crop.  Maybe you can see the quality of these images on what you are viewing on, but if you cannot I will tell you that the second one is significantly better.  I would say a good portion of the improvement is due to using raw and that the software does not smear the details.

I would have tried Apple’s new and excellent file stacking smart HDR on this shot.  I turned it on.  But this year the phone decides if it will use HDR or not no matter if you turned it on or did not.  This is a change from last year where you could manually control it.  Same thing with the flash.  You can turn on the flash on the iPhone this year, but the camera software has an override.  So if you want to use the flash as a fill in during daylight maybe it flashes and maybe not.  For this reason I am thinking about buying another compact camera to replace my Sony HX 80 I sold last Oct.  With a real camera when you turn something on it actually does what you tell it to.  Nikon is making a new Coolpix 1000 out next month.  I am going to look at that and the latest Sony model the HX 99.

Using my Sony A7iii and very good Zeiss 55mm lens here is the result.

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Sony A7iii with 55mm lens f5.6 at 1/50 of a second ISO 100

Looking at the full sized files I would say the Apple /Adobe shot and the Sony shot are about equal.  Frankly this is phenomenal for the Apple camera.  A high end smartphone equal to a $2,000 camera body and $1,000 lens.  And this is a close up which is to me one of the weaknesses of the iPhone camera as you get a center zone focus but on focus point like on the Sony.

The rain has stopped for a few hours and I am going to get out of my office and get outside.

The Next Huge Digital Photography & Video Disruption Is Here

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Neither of the top two photos has been edited much.  Not even cropped.

A few days ago I went up to one of my favorite spots in the local mountains with my Sony A7iii, Sony 24-105mm G lens and Apple XS Max.  I wanted to get out of the house for a few hours and I wanted to see how the Sony would compare shooting a few more panoramas against the Sony.  And I shot quite a few other standard shots with the Apple using it’s computational smart HDR compared with the Sony.  This was more of a get-out-of-the-house drive than a photography one.  But after the iPhone vs Sony results I got a few days back I thought I would run a few more comparisons.

The two shots above are, one with the iPhone XS Max and the other with the Sony A7iii and 24-104 G lens.  Can you tell which is which?  At first I compared the Apple panorama shot with the Sony at 24mm.  When I greatly enlarged the panorama from the Apple I could see it was well exposed and it looked a little sharper on distant images than I expected.  I also noticed some HDR effect.  I then compared the iPhone standard photo with the smart HDR photo.  The HDR had way more detail in far distant details.  In the standard shot Apple did it’s typical smudge job which looks good at first glance, but not good when you blow it up.  But here’s the thing, the standard Apple camera app did not smear and smudge the small details in the computational HDR photo.

I then compared it to the Sony shot.  The Sony was way better than the standard iPhone photo.  But the computational iPhone picture was about as sharp on my Apple Thunderbolt 27″ monitor as the Sony shot.

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Apple vertical panorama

The day after I took these shots Olympus introduced their new expensive professional grade camera with some computational capture features a bit like the iPhone.  And then a light bulb went off in my head.  “Stacking files with computational techniques is an alternative to big sensors and big lenses.”  Consider; In the last couple of weeks I have been able to get panoramas, videos, and still shots of about the same quality with my iPhone XS Max as the new Sony A7iii full frame camera with high quality lenses.

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Sony A7iii with 24mm lens

Does the iPhone replace the Sony?  Not if you have about $4,300 to spare for the extra features you get with the Sony.  But if you don’t have or want to spend that kind of money the iPhone XS Max that fits in my pocket is a very good substitute.  All of the Sony shots I used were with raw and edited in Lightroom Classic CC.  All the Apple photos were also done LR too.

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Sony with 24-105 lens.  
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Apple smart HDR 

The iPhone XS Max is not cheap, and you use it every day.  Then again it was 25% of the Sony body and two lenses.

I have not tested carefully using the Adobe camera app in the iPhone with HDR.  I suspect that the Apple computational camera is a bit more advanced than the Adobe one.  The Adobe shoots 3 files for its HDR.  I believe the Apple takes around 25.  I noticed in the Olympus ads that their stacking technology is similar to Apple’s.  I have heard that the Olympus system is not all sorted out.  The Apple system is very good now and getting better with every update.  This fall the new iPhone is supposed to have three cameras on one of its models.  That is likely an improvement on this years camera.

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This is the Apple in panorama mode.  You can tell that this mode adds some HDR to the photo by looking at the grasses on the bottom left.  These are in deep shadow without HDR.  

After spending the last year thinking we all needed to trade in our DSLRs for full frame mirrorless now it looks to me like the changes are going to keep cascading in.  I would guess it would be easy for Sony to add back in built in panorama to their camera bodies.  I believe some of their cameras used to have it.  The A7iii is very good at taking bracket photos fast.  It is pretty easy to merge them with Adobe Lightroom.  Mirrorless cameras tend to be faster in frames per second and have no mirror flapping around to cause problems with mirror shock.  Sony is really the only one of the big camera makers that is into electronics and software.

Olympus has been an innovator in the past and they are the first to jump into computational photography in a big way with a high level type camera.  I would guess that they will be able to fix many or all of their issues with this feature relatively fast if they want to.  And the software should be able to be fitted to their less expensive camera bodies.

I really don’t know how things will shake out.  But for sure things are going to be shaking in the camera imaging industry.

2018 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.

 

 

Sony A7iii Complexity of Operation

The Sony A7iii is capable of very good photographs with native E mount glass or adapted Sony A mount glass.

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Shot with Sony A7iii with Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8
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Shot with Sony A7iii and Sigma 50mm f2.8 macro and Sony LA EA4 adapter

Both of these shots were made to jpeg – fine only and the only edit I did was to import to Apple Photos on my MacBook Pro and hit enhance.  I used auto focus on both and the adapted lens focused perfectly.  The colors here are very accurate.  I used the Sony “standard” setting for jpeg color.

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Shot with Sony A7iii and Sony Zeiss f1.8 manual focus

Then I put back on the native Sony Zeiss lens and tried to get a decent shot of this metal Christmas scene.  This is not a good picture, but I am using it to illustrate a point.  I tired the auto focus in wide and it got a bit confused.  So I figured this was a good time to try the manual focus again.  Manual focus for close up shots is really better than auto focus.  So I aimed the camera at where I wanted to focus and slightly turned the focus ring on the Zeiss.  The camera zoomed in and showed me focus peaking.  That made it pretty easy to set focus where I wanted to.  Of course this is a very very complex way to do this. My old Olympus OM2n has manual focus only and you get a very easy to use split focus in the viewfinder.  When the images come together it is in focus.  The Sony is almost as good in regular light and I am sure is much better in low light.  If you zoom into the above photo you can see that it is quite sharp.  And I can tell you the jpeg colors are accurate.

So this afternoon I thought I would take another pass through the menus to try and improve my knowledge of the many settings that are in them.  I put in about an hour before it becomes just too much.  There are far more Sony settings than my last camera.  And from the enthusiasm of the tutorial I was using it seems like I should commit many of them to memory.  But many of the settings interfere with other settings and the number of possibilities is very large.  The Nikon system is far simpler.  I would guess that after a year with this camera body I will still not know most of them.  Adding to the complexity is the fact that only a few of the buttons are labeled.  That means you have to remember where you put the focus settings before you then have to remember which of the settings you have to use.  This system would be much better with a simplified menu that could be controlled by a touch screen.  Since Sony makes smart phones I know they can make touch screens.  And I do know that the back screen in my camera is a partial touch screen.  But I have to go back and read the manual to figure out how it works.

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Shot with iPhone XS max

This rainbow turned up outside our house a little after I took the pictures of the Christmas figures with the Sony.  I went outside with the Sony to get a shot of the rainbow, but it was still raining.  And I am not quite sure exactly how weather proof the Sony and Sony lens are.  They are supposed to be OK with some rain, but I am still not sure how much.  The iPhone on the other hand is quite capable of just about any amount of rain with no damage.  As was my Nikon D750.  So the iPhone got this rainbow shot.  The above is smart HDR, and below is just a single shot.

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If you look at these two shots on my detailed monitor I am not sure the HDR added anything.  The clouds are not blown with either.

Unlike the Sony the iPhone XS max with the standard apple camera app is easy to understand after a bit of effort.  And the Adobe iPhone camera app is pretty darn simple too.  Adobe has really come a long way to improving this iPhone app over the last year.  A year ago their HDR was terrible, unusable.  Now it works well.  But then Apple has just blown the doors off computational photography with their smart HDR which much of the time really adds something to the finished image with no effort.  I have only had the new iPhone two weeks and I think I am pretty expert at using it.  With the Sony I am OK with the stuff that is basic but World’s away from getting all the complicated things to work.

So here is a message to Sony from me about their A7 line of cameras.  Cut about half of the menu items.  Make the back screen a full touch screen.  And make sure you buy and use an iPhone for a while to see how simple making good photos can be.  And a couple more things.  1.  Why is there no pop up small built in flash.  You fit one on my last inexpensive compact Sony HX 80 so I know you can do it on the A7 bodies.  That type of flash comes in very handy and if it works as well as the Sony HX 80 built in flash that would be great.  2.  Identify the main buttons.  Put labels on them.  3.  A7s should be possible to operate with one hand, they are not.

Travel Photography When You Can Take Everything

We travel regularly by motorhome.  We don’t live in a motorhome, but we do go for local and extended trips with one.  One of the benefits in doing this over either going somewhere by car or flying when you like to take pictures and video is you can take everything.  Another benefit is that if you are a hybrid shooter who uses both digital and film you have a refrigerator with you to store your unused and exposed film.  We left mid June and I had with me.

  • Nikon D750 Full Frame digital DSLR with two lenses
  • Nikon D5500 Digital DSLR with three lenses
  • 2 Olympus OM2n’s with six lenses
  • 2 Minolta 600si SLR’s with six lenses
  • 1 Voightlander Prominent rangefinder with 50mm f1.5
  • 1 Sony compact HX 80
  • 1 iPhone X
  • At least 30 rolls of film
  • 3 tripods.  None have been used yet.

We are now still on our trip.  Since I bought the D750 shortly before the trip I have used that the most so far to see how well it performs.

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Taken with a Nikon D750 with Nikon 24-120 f4

And the answer to that question is pretty dam well.  Other than the two little corner imperfections that I should get rid of with Lightroom the above photo from Bryce National Park is very nice.  Yes there is a little bit of sky issue caused by too wide of a lens for a polarizing filter, but when you look at the file in full size on a good screen the detail and color of the rocks is stunning.

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Nikon D750 with Nikon 50mm f1.4

The above shot was a couple of days earlier near Page UT.  This was taken at dusk and the file was taken raw and it allowed me to bring up the foreground of the photo so that it blended well with the top of the frame.  When you see this file full size it is very detailed.  Again I have not done as much Lightroom as I could and the top corners need a little fixing.

My experience using this camera when traveling is that if you put my 50mm f1.4 prime lens on it and one of the Peak larger camera straps you can carry it around pretty well without feeling weighted down.  It is nowhere near as easy to use like this compared to the Nikon D5500.

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Taken with a Nikon D5500 and 18-55mm P

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All three of these photos above were with my D5500 and the latest 18-55 P model zoom.  I took the D5500 with me this day because it is much lighter than the D750 and I felt like using it instead of the 750.  To me the 5500 files are as good as what would have come from the 750.  But when I work with files from both these cameras there is no doubt that the full frame 750 and full frame glass gives more details and less noise.  It seems like you can crop the 750 files forever and they still look great.

And a few times I have put the little compact Sony in my pocket and come up with these results.

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All of these were shot hand held.  You cannot do raw with the Sony so these were jpegs only.

Plus I did use my iPhone X some.

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For the iPhone X pictures I used for these three the native Apple app that comes with the phone.  Sometimes I use the Adobe Lightroom camera app which allows you to use raw.  This works very well with the Adobe Lightroom mobile app on the phone and my iPad.  But as you can see from these three shots that the standard Apple app works pretty good.  The middle photo is taken using Apple’s portrait mode.  This now gives what I would call excellent results in most of the times I use it.

Now here is the bad news.  No matter how many cameras you have with you you cannot control the weather.  We have been in the mid west USA mid summer heat dome and we have had bright overcast days for at least a month now.  Blue skies and puffy clouds have been as rare as Leicas.  Bright overcast skies are the enemy of good outdoor photos.  Bright overcast skies are almost impossible to shoot with a digital sensor camera as all digital cameras do not handle highlights that well.  Even if you shoot in raw you might have only two stops over on the best digital camera.  What happens is this.

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Wisconsin Dells shot spoiled by too much contrast in sky to land.   
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North Dakota grasslands spoiled by too bright sky

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So with too much contrast in the sky you only solution is to take shots without sky like the one above.  The problem with this is that when you are at places with natural things to see like National Parks you need to put some sky in the shots sometimes.

To me not being able to handle over-brignt highlights as well as photo film is digital photographies biggest weakness.  In one very well done you tube video I have watched a couple of time “The Slanted Lens” showed how the Nikon D850 compared with Kodak Portra film.  The Nikon shots were not usable at 2 stops over and the film was OK up until about 4 stops.  This is a very big difference.  Remember that each stop doubles the amount of light.

  1. Mirrorless cameras with good EVF’s and indications in the viewfinder are helpful at knowing when the highlights are too bright.  However, this does not fix the problem.  It tells you to turn down the exposure, but then you can plug your shadows.  Or if you don’t plug your shadows, you darken them.  And when you turn up your shadows in post it increases noise.
  2. Film tends to work better than digital in situations where you have very bright highlights and lots of contrast.  At least film with lots of dynamic range does.

Thats it for now.  Time to go shoot some film in the classic western town of Medora with classic old SLR.