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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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″.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 was a big uproarious year in the image and video creation business. After going a couple of years with buying only new smartphones and a compact digital Sony I got caught up in all the changes and bought not one new full frame camera but two. And I also went back to the full sized iPhone after saying the smaller one was a perfect size. I also bought a new MacBook Pro.
Featured image above was taken with a Nikon D3200 in 2014 and edited in iPhoto
Early in 2018 I started using tripods again after years of mostly hand held. My flower photos improved doing that. I was bored after having my Nikon D5500 for 3 years so even though I really liked that camera I started looking for my next larger digital camera. I wanted to get a Nikon and wanted to get their upcoming mirrorless. But back in the spring of last year there were only rumors about when the new Nikon would be out and it looked like it might be the spring of 2019 before you could get one. So when Nikon sent me a low price on the D750, 24-120mm, and grip I bought one. I also got the Nikon 50mm f1.4 at the same time. Total for everything including tax and shipping was about $2,500.
After using the flyweight and very easy to use Nikon D5500 for several years when I got the D750 I did not like it at all. Too big and heavy. With the 24-120mm zoom on it the size seemed gargantuan compared to the D5500. It hurt my 71 year old right hand with a little arthritis. But I then got a Peak Strap and used the 50mm lens and the 750 started to grow on me. The controls of the Nikon D750 were easy to learn and very intuitive after having two crop body Nikons. The Peak strap was a big improvement over the strap that came with the camera. I only shot stills with the 750. For video I used my iPhone X. I also tried using some of the FX lenses on my D5500 DX Nikon body. The better lenses made the smaller Nikon a lot better. Images from the 5500 and either FX lens were very nearly the same as using the D750. On the other hand the 750 focused much quicker and the viewfinder was way better.
The Nikon D750 had buttons for most adjustments that were easy to find and when you needed to use the menu on the back screen it was obvious that Nikon had spent some time designing them to be intuitive. But what the D750 did not solve was washed out mid day full sun colors. Looking back on it now it is obvious that I should have stuck with the D750 longer and learned to improve this problem instead of jumping to the Sony system. I did not find out till later that using live view on the Nikon you could see a histogram before shooting. But I did use bracketing with the 750 and that worked well.
The full frame Nikon came with us on our summer motorhome trip and after a while I just got used to the size of it. The D5500 was still much lighter and easier to handle, but the D750 was OK.
My film photography in the first 6-7 months of 2018 suffered because I kept experimenting with different film stocks, using expired rolls, and using labs that were not great. This has now changed and I went back to using my preferred and unexpired film stocks plus two of the best labs and now my film shots look great.
We got back from our long summer trip in late August and by this time Nikon had set a date for intro of both their Z6 & 7. Sony was selling lots of A7iii and A7riii. After watching about 1,000 (exaggeration) you tube videos I decided in Oct to buy a Nikon Z7 or 6. I called George’s photo and then went down with the intention of buying a Z camera. While there I chickened out getting the new Nikon Z7 because it was expensive, new, and getting mixed reviews. I have a number of Sony-Minolta lenses that will adapt easily to the A7iii, and made the spit second fall back decision to get the Sony A7iii and 55mm f1.8 and not the Z7. Likely if the Z6 would have been available then I might have gone that way. I figured, “If you don’t like the Sony you can sell it. The price was not in the same range as the Z7 and the Sony was very very popular so no problem selling it.” The next day I got the Sony A7iii, LA EA4 Sony adapter, and Zeiss 55mm f1.8.
Right away after getting the Sony it was obvious that it was difficult to use and confusing. I had had 4 Sony compact cameras over the years so I knew a little about the Sony menu system.
I did find that the sony adapter worked well with the Minolta A mount glass. But while several of the Minolta lenses worked brilliantly on the film camera they were made for the Sony A7iii image quality with them was just not as good. Why, I suspect these lenses were developed for film and the A mount. They just don’t perform as well as when adapted. This is stated over and over again by Ken Rockwell in his blog kenrockwell.com which you should read. I agree with him.
Just before Christmas I bought the Sony G 24-105mm f4 lens for the A7. It works great, $1,300. I bought this as I liked the Nikon 24-120mm f4 and missed it’s abilities. This Sony is essentially the same but does not cut the corners just a bit at 24mm like the Nikon did. I only paid $500 for the Nikon and the construction quality seemed just as good. Plus the D750 was quite well weather sealed and the Sony A7iii does not seem to be.
The switch to Sony from Nikon was painless. I found willing buyers quickly for all of my Nikon gear. I sold the D750 and 24-120mm for very little less than I paid. But of course less the ebay sellers fee. The D5500 I used for 3 1/2 years and sold it with kit lens for around 60% of what I paid. The Sony HX80 sold for about 60% of what I paid and I only used it 1 1/2 years.
So what did I loose and gain by all of these transactions.
I gained eye auto focus.
I lost one camera I loved – D5500 and two I liked – Nikon D750 & Sony HX80 and gained one camera that is technically very competent that is growing on me a bit but so far I would have to say I only like it slightly.
If I had it to do over again I would go back to what I had.
Auto eye focus is not enough to make this worth it. One of my New Years 2019 resolutions is to get rid of GAS and use what I have now for the rest of the year. I will make two exceptions 1. Olympus introduces a full frame camera that follows what I like about the Olympus OM2n of small size, high capability, and everything you need and nuthin you don’t at a price I am willing to pay. 2. Nikon updates either the Z6 or D750 that fixes the obvious flaws in both bodies. And I can sell the Sony for enough to pay for one of these two exceptions. If neither of those two scenarios comes to pass I am going to live with what I have and improve my skills with that gear the complete year.
Expanding on my exceptions 1 and 2.
Olympus – I am completely perplexed as to why Olympus has not followed up on it’s fantastic OM series and introduce a system with a full frame sensor. The price of sensors has come down and I see no reason not to go with the advantages of a larger sensor for the same reasons I like full frame film cameras. I like the perspective I get from 35mm. I will not buy a camera with a small sensor like the micro 4 3rds.
Nikon Z6 or D750. The Z6 needs to get their auto focus to work as well as the 4+ year old D750 period! Why do I want to pay a lot of money for a camera today that is not at least as good as their 4 year old comparably priced 750? And for gods sake add another card slot. Preferably with SD cards. 750 to 760. I have never had an issue with a mirror or the F mount. To make the D760 really desirable the live view focus needs to be as good as regular view. And a touch screen. 4K video is obvious. I could live without the EVF if the back screen worked as fast as the Sony A7iii.
My second new years resolution is not to use expired film and to stick with the films and labs I know and trust. No cheeping out on bargain film or labs. And to shoot more film.
Apple XS Max upgrade from iPhone X. Meh. The iPhone X was a great great iPhone. The iPhone XS Max is slightly bigger and better.
MacBook Pro 15″ 2018 6 core 512 gb upgrade from 2013 MacBook Pro 13″ 2 core 256 gb. Meh. I have literally used the crap out of my old MacBook. It still works fine and I am using it to write this blog post. But I does show some of this heavy use in balkiness to start up sometimes. It is also much slower to start now than 3-4 years ago. But it is not slower to start than the new one.
Pros of the new MacBook –
Cons of the new MacBook
no variety of ports like the old one. This one really pisses me off. I delayed for two years getting a new MacBook because of this but finally caved because I need at least one reliable newer computer and wanted an Apple. Not only did they take away ALL the old style USB ports but the idiots removed the mag safe connector. They even obsoleted my Apple Thunderbolt screen so I had to buy a dongle for it. And no SD card slot. Something I used all the time with my old one. So now I am switching over to the new style connector. By the time I switch everything over it will be time for Apple to obsolete that connector too.
I really liked my older MacBook Pro. My favorite Apple product of all time. The new one I bought because I wanted to stick with Apple and I was worried about the age of my old unit. I would have rather bought a new old style MacBook with upgraded chips. Apple has made this device worse not better for me. The old style keyboard is better.
Conclusions. New is many times not better and sometimes worse. I have purposely used only photos from 2014 to show that with my old gear before I started spending a lot of money my shots turned out fine. I really liked my old Motorola Maxx smartphone. It worked well, it had some very slick features, and the battery lasted forever. I bought my first iPhone the 6S after the Moto and in many ways the Maxx was a better device. But now you cannot go back to 2014 because Motorola has been sold and they make just so-so phones compared to Apple.
Back in 2014 I used Apple iPhoto, iMovie, and Aperture. But then Apple obsoleted iPhoto and Aperture and gave us Photos. Photos is a better organizer and works with on line better, but the editing functions work poorly with any photo that was not taken with an iPhone. Or at least poorly compared to Lightroom. Now I am still stuck sorting back and forth between Apple Photos and Lightroom. And I also have to remember if I used Lightroom CC Classic or Lightroom CC. My real photo collection system in 2018 was more of keeping photos on local disks out of any software. And now I am going to go back and have prints made from my best photos of last year + 2017.
In this blog I have posted very good photos (or at least ones I like) from cameras up to 65 years old, film, digital, DSLR, smartphone, and compact. All worked just fine. The key to photography is the photographer and not the gear. And that is going to be the same in 2019 as it was in 2018.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Up until now my experience with digital cameras that were not attached to smartphones has been 4 Sony’s and 3 Nikons. All have been reliable. The Sony’s up until now have all been compacts. The Nikons have been two crop sensor and one full frame DSLR.
Over the last year I have wanted to step up to a full frame digital sensor as that is what I have been using for many years with film photography and I just like the perspective and subject isolation you get with 35mm. And I have been thinking about going mirrorless full frame to get reduced size and EVF to facilitate exposure.
Last spring Nikon offered me a deal I could not pass up on a D750 full frame DSLR. I bought it with the 24-120mm f4 and a 50mm f1.4G lens. I have to say that the images out of this rig were excellent. Nikon sold me the 24-120mm lens for $500 and that is a bargain.
The above shot was with the 24-120 and shot at 24mm. When you look at this at full resolution it is a great shot except for the top corners. But for me the combo of the D750 and 24-120 was just too big. Plus my experience with the last Sony compact with the EVF and my iPhone and using the Adobe camera app got me used to seeing exposure and over exposure in real time.
So I figured I would look at Sony and Nikon as that is what I have good experience with. I went to the camera store with the intention to buy a Nikon Z7 or Z6 and changed my mind while in the camera store. Why? 1. I have a number of legacy Sony-Minolta lenses that I thought would adapt really well on the A7iii. 2. The A7iii was $2,000 and Z7 was $3,000+. 3. I liked the fact that the Sony was on it’s third generation of A series cameras and figured they had the bug ironed out. 4. I have had recent experience with the Sony HX 80 compact and the menu system is very similar to the A7iii’s. I did not have a problem with the HX menu.
I bought the Sony A7iii and figured if regretted I could always sell it and buy something else. I also bought the Sony – Zeiss 50mm f1.8 lens and the Sony LA 4 adaptor. The Zeiss f1.8 lens is a small, light, very high quality standard lens. It also costs $1,000. In my opinion sharper than the Nikon 50mm f1.4. And it cost $375.
Most of my older Sony-Minolta AF lenses work as well as I thought they would. The 50mm f2.8 Macro which has been one of my favorite lenses. Gives very sharp, colorful, good bokeh results.
The medium tele Minolta works pretty well. I like the bokeh and it is light and easy to use. It is 1/4 the size of the Nikon 24-120mm f4 and about 1/3 the weight. Plus I paid $32 for it.
And above is using the Sigma 24mm 2.8 Macro I paid $80 for a couple of years ago. I have several more that worked well too.
The Sony autofocus adaptor worked quite well with all of the autofocus lenses. Although using the Sony with a very sharp digital sensor did show some of the weaknesses in bokeh a couple of the lenses have that was covered up more using film. Film has more grain usually and tend to smudge the bokeh a bit.
Here are two more from the Sony and the Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro. These have been cropped quite a bit and the details in the full size image are great.
OVF compared to EVF. I like OVF better but EVF offers more information. Being able to see the histogram and zebras before taking the shot makes it worth it. The mirrorless is also far better for taking shots using the back screen. The Sony is much more responsive than a DSLR back screen.
Videos are far better. with the mirrorless than the DSLR. Video was so bad on the DSLR cameras that I almost never used it. The Sony A7iii is extremely easy to use. Although the adapted lenses would not be good for autofocus. The camera would make too much noise using the old lenses. I have tried the Zeiss and it is silent.
I do miss the 24-120 but not the weight and size. Sony makes a 24-105 f4. I have given some thought to buying it, but I don’t want to get back to lugging a heavy camera around. Using the adaptor and the 24mm prime I already have is less than half the weight and size of the Sony 24-105. But not a zoom. I think I will stick with what I have for a while before doing anything more with additional new lenses.
Do I regret not getting the Nikon. I do not regret not getting 45 mega pixels at all. My computer set up is just not ready for lots of big still files. And I have not had a problem getting used to the Sony menu system. I set up buttons for almost all functions and hardly use the menus. But I would have to say that the Nikon EVF is quite a bit better and I would like to have that. I do not love the Sony position of the front and back selector wheels. The D750 was better.
Far left is Olympus OM2n, the Voightlander Prominent, Minolta 600si, then the A7iii. Of the four I prefer the Oly. I put a a leather ever ready case around it and it becomes very easy to take and carry with you. I also have an ever ready case for the Voightlander. The 1953 leather is looking a bit worn, but still very serviceable. The Sony A7iii above has the Zeiss 55mm lens on it which is a small lens. But it is easy to see from this picture that what we think of as a small lens in 2018 is much larger than the other three. Much bigger than the Zeiss and the Sony is not an easy camera to tote around. I am giving some thought to getting the Zeiss 35mm f2.8 or the Sony FE 28 f2 which are even smaller than the 55mm. But since I have a closet full of film I can just use some of it with the smaller SLR’s.
Final comment. Olympus is the only one of the larger camera companies that have not come out with a full frame camera. If they were to make a smaller full frame and smaller lenses I think it would sell. Maybe even to me.
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.
The shot below is what happens to many digital photos when taken at mid day.
On the other hand here is some film shot at mid day with full sun.
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.
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