Tag Archives: digital photography

Sony HX-99 & Sony A7iii Update

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

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

The significant improvements you get with the HX-99 are

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

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

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

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

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

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

This camera is excellent for street-type photos.

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

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

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

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

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

Sony A7iii update.  

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

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

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

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All three of these are from the Sony HX 99

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

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

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Sony A7iii with 55mm f1.8 lens 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

What Is Your Photo Style – Van Eyck or Monet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Both of these shot with iPhone XS Max.  IMG_0150

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

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