Tag Archives: Sony

The Sony A7iii Is Technically Advanced But Hard To Love

My first Minolta 600si was my Dad’s last camera before he passed away.  I inherited it and put in in the very large office closet where all my camera gear is stored.  It stayed there for quite a while and then I loaned it to one of my wife’s friends for about 3 years.  When I got the camera I was in a digital only phase and just did not want to use it.  But then when I got it back I had started using film again and tried it out the first day I got it back.  It came paired with a 50mm f2.8 macro lens.  It also came back with two 24 exposure rolls of Fuji Superia 400.

I did find and download a manual for the 600si.  After looking at that and then checking with the internet to see what people thought about this camera I shot the first roll mostly around our house.  Then the next roll we went to the zoo with my daughter and her two kids.  About half way through the first roll I started to think things like, “wow this is really easy to use”.  “What a great bright viewfinder”.  “No menus Yeah!!!!” “It even loads, advances, and then auto rewinds film rolls” “Boy is this auto focus fast.  It works about as quick as my Nikon D5500”. “This Minolta viewfinder is soooo much better than the Nikon.”

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And then those first two rolls came back from the developer and I was in love with this camera.  For a while I preferred the 600si to my long standing favorite the Olympus OM2n.  Now I am about evenly divided between the two.  I use the 600 when I think there will be kids, action, or low light and auto focus helps.  Or when I am lazy.  The 600 just does everything for you when you want or nothing at all and you can use it manually.

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Minolta thought a great deal about how someone would use this camera body and then made it simple and easy but effective.  My biggest complaints are that the plastic body does not look as good as the Nikon and the viewfinder is not quite as good as the Olympus.  But in every other way this is a great shooter.  Very quick to set up and then make changes when shooting.  All the controls are visible at a glance and changeable with just moving the individual controls changing a setting.

Sony bought Minolta in 2006.  This camera was made around 2000.  Sony must have fired or not listened to any of the Minolta people that made the brilliant 600si.  Even camerapedia calls this a cult camera because of the ease of use and capabilities.  But of course by the time it came out the hey day of film cameras was ending.  The Sony A7iii is a technical tour de force.  However, to set up, adjust when using, and love, not so much. And  I don’t just like older film cameras.  I loved my Nikon D5500.  The D5500 has some of the same advantages of the Minolta 600si, easy to use with it’s capable touch screen, very intuitive adjustments, and gives good photos.  A terrible video camera though.

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Notice all the single purpose controls.  A little secret is that when they all are aligned the same direction the system is on full automatic.  The Sony has pretty much no such thought given to the actual operation of the A7iii.  It’s all there from a technical standpoint, but using it is a jumbled up mess of mostly unmarked buttons, dozens of menus not set out logically, and very difficult to use in the hand.  The Sony is very hard to use quickly, one handed, or fast.  You can set up many of the controls but then you have to remember which ones are which.  If you have a dozen special buttons or controls and only a couple are marked you have to remember which is which quickly sometimes.

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The Sony A7iii turns out really good jpegs.  I always used raw with my Nikons because editing the raws gave better results usually than starting with jpegs.  But Sony adds to my confusion by turning out raws and jpegs that are almost indistinguishable.  That is nothing like Nikon.  Nikon raws are unedited and easily developed in Lightroom.  Sony raws out of my camera look the same as the jpegs.  The Sony is developing both in camera even though I would prefer raw, raws.  One of the problems I have encountered is that the A7iii knows through AI that we are near large bodies of water like the ocean.  When it knows that it adjusts the scene towards the blue side.  And that means you have to go through and edit white balance for every shot you want to use.  That said the Sony A7iii with it’s EVF and histogram in the finder you can control exposure much better than on a DSLR with OVF.  The Sony jpegs and raw so far as I have used this camera seem to be able to handle mid day harsh sun and give better files than Nikon.

I go to this one beach park that is part of a National Park and have tested a bunch of digital cameras and film.  The Sony A7iii is the best digital in this tough lighting of the ones I have used.  That said Kodak Ektar, Kodak Gold 200, Fuji 200, Kodak Ultramax, and Fuji Superia 400 have all given very good results on this test even when using the cheapest photo lab to develop them.  The Nikon D5500 & iPhone both failed this test badly.

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The above shot was taken about a month ago and this was a full sun mid day shot.  The Sony did this with a jpeg.  What is really strange is that when I put on a UV filter later in the shoot I could not tell the difference in the files.  I got shots with unwashed out colors from several films, but no other digital. (I only tried a Nikon D5500, Sony HX 80, and iPhone 7+).

Conclusion so far.  My six weeks of experience with the Sony A7iii is that from a technical and performance standpoint it is excellent but hard to use and confusing.  Sometimes too smart for it’s own good.  Like when it turns water scenes blueish.  And, why is it editing the raws?  It is also expensive compared to the Nikon Z6.  A Sony A7iii with kit 24-105 f4 & 55mm Sony Zeiss f1.8 = $4,300.  The Nikon Z6 with kit 24-70 f4 & Nikon 50mm f1.8 = $2,895.  I don’t think the cheep Sony kit lens is worth having.  And 200 of them currently on eBay at half price says I am right.  Final thought – I may get really good results from the Sony but I don’t think I will ever love or even like this camera much.

Suggestion for Sony – Get those Minolta guys back to help you with handling and logical handling.

Sony A7iii Test With Adapted Minolta 35mm-70mm f3.5-4.5

This test is with my six week old Sony A7iii, Sony adapter LA EA4 & Minolta 35-70mm f3.5-4.5 zoom.  These shots were all taken hand held at f8 and 1/60 sec.  I used a Godox TT350s flash set on TTL.  All are from jpeg out of the Sony set at large & fine.  I used the jpegs as I could see only a tiny bit of image degradation using jpeg.  This is beginning to be the norm with this camera.  When I was using my Nikon D5500 or D750 I almost always shot raw and edited with Lightroom CC or CC Classic.  I did that because there was a substantial benefit to do so.  With the Sony A7iii the jpegs come out so good there just does not seem to be a point to store the bigger raw files.  When I say the Sony jpegs are good I mean both image sharpness and color.

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This lens I got for free.  I bought a Minolta 70-210 from eBay for $32 a couple of years ago to go on my Minolta 600si film camera.  I looked up this lens on the internet and it gets some good ratings.  Cheaply made but it is sharp and works well when you get a good sample.  This should be evident from looking at these photos I just shot today.

I used these settings to get these shots.  Single shot, DMF focus, center focus area, 0 exposure comp, auto ISO, center teetering, AWB, std color, and A mode set at f8.  The camera chose 1/60th.

_DSC0753I have found with this lens that if the background is very busy and bright the bokeh can be distracting.  But this is no Zeiss Otus or Sony G master lens.

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This lens works very well with both the LA AE4 adapter and the Godox flash.  I set the flash on TTL and put on a light diffuser that Godox included when I bought this flash two weeks ago.

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These lenses can be bought at a low price and if you are looking for a budget zoom with this focal range I recommend it.

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.

Keep It Simple When It Comes To Tech

I just spent 5-10 minutes trying to get my bluetooth speaker to attach to my iPhone so I could listen to some music.  Every time I turned the speaker on it was pulling music from some device somewhere in the house but not the one I wanted it to.  After a few failed attempts I gave up.  I did not feel like fishing out a wire and the dongle that adapts the iPhone to an old style phone plug so I could just use a wire.

Earlier today I wanted to scan a document to email to someone.  I loaded the HP printer scanner and then realized that my new MacBook Pro does not have the software for that scanner loaded into it.  And since that HP is about four years old there are no updated drivers that work with the latest Mac software.  So I had to go get one of my old Windows laptops that I knew had that software in it so I could run the scanner.

An hour later I tried to make a new folder on one of my external drives so I could store some data on it.  Guess what, the new MacBook does not have the software on it to get full use of the Seagate drive like the old MacBook does.  So I had to fire up the old MacBook to see what the name of the software is and go to the Seagate web page to get the driver.

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Taken with Sony A7iii with old cheap (very cheap) Minolta 30-70 lens

Don’t get the idea I don’t like tech, I do, but I like stuff that is simple to get to work right and lasts a while.  Bluetooth usually works OK, but can be a PIA.  Wires are simple and always work.  Software drivers and getting software to work in the system you want it to work in can be easy, hard, or impossible.  That older HP combo printer scanner is likely not going to work as a network scanner unless wire it into the network or wire it directly to the computer I want to send the scan to.  It works fine and is not that old.

My point here is that if you take photos today that you want to enjoy a few years from now you had better be very careful how you save the files.  If you take high quality photos and want the quality to be the same in the future you have to be especially careful to make sure that no software changes your files.

  • To make sure your file exists and is readable in the future you need to save some copies.  This is what I do.  I put the files on a plug in drive.  I then back it up on a second drive locally.  (In the future I am only going to use drives formatted for Mac as I do not trust that the driver for the drive will be updated in future years.)  I keep copies in either Apple Photos or Adobe Lightroom CC or both.  Usually the raw in LR and the jpeg in Apple Photos.  I also have a third back up drive I update about once every six weeks that I store in my motorhome safe.  Then as a final measure I keep a copy in drop box.  Drop box is the only on line service I have found and used that does not screw around with the size of your files when you load and download them.  Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Flikr do.  Oh I almost forgot Flickr.  I have a lot of my files on Flikr and some on Google Photos.  And I sometimes make photo books or have prints made.
  • I have had significant problems in the past loosing large numbers of my photos.  I used to back everything up to one hard drive.  It failed.  I lost several years of full sized files and my only copies were on Apple Photos.  Just last month I went to update a file from 2017 in my main back up drive.  The whole year of 2017 was missing.  In this case I had a back up copy of the back up copy on another drive.  Some of the files did not want to be copied and I had to play with this for a couple hours.  So at this point in time I am hyper careful.
  • I have had several on line back up systems change dramatically for the worse.  I used iPhoto and Aperture on Mac.  I liked both of them.  But then Apple discontinued both and substituted Apple Photos.  Apple Photos is still not nearly as effective at editing files as the previous system except using on line.  Apple’s system of on line photos is pretty good now most of the time.  I used Google Picasa to edit thousands of work photos.  It was the best quick edit and file organizer you could get at any price and Picasa was free.  Then Google canceled it.  Adobe Lightroom on the other hand has improved.  I use both Lightroom CC Classic and Lightroom CC.  Both work well.  The on line CC system keeps adding features and you can use it fairly well in conjunction with the CC Classic.  Flickr used to be free.  Now you have to pay to use it.  All of these systems have at one time or another played with the size of the files except drop box and Adobe Lightroom CC Classic.
  • I would say my files are now very secure.  But I am tired of it taking so much effort. Plus I have no illusion that raw files will work ten years from now.  By then your raw files will be from an obsolete camera and you will be using a many generation newer OS.  The best you can hope for is jpegs will still work.  I think jpegs are mostly safe.
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Taken on a 1980 Olympus OM2n with 28mm f2.8 and new Kodak Ektachrome

Here is how I did it 14 years ago.  I bought film or the people that developed it sent me free film.  I would send it off to Seattle Film Lab.  At the time I used my Olympus OM2n and a couple of Olympus pocket film cameras.  When I finished a couple of rolls or even just one roll, I would send it to Seattle Film Lab in a prepaid mailer.  They would develop it and send the negatives, prints, a CD of the scans, plus a free roll of film.  That would take about a week.  The thing is Seattle Film Lab would edit the photos before I got them. I rarely edited what I was sent back.  When I went on vacation I would use slide film so I could project the shots on a screen in full resolution.  I used Kodak Kodachrome in those days.  You couldn’t edit slides.  You either got them right or you did not.  I made photo albums.  I saved the negatives, CD in files in a file cabinet.  My prints from 2004 look just fine and have not faded.  The CD’s I got back then still work.  And if I had not sold my projector I could use slides.  The only thing that endangered your back up files was your house being destroyed.  So if needed today you save a copy of scans in a location not in your house.

I do not plan to go back to just using film.  But anyone that tells you getting great photos is easier or cheaper today is contradicting what I have learned.  iPhones or good Androids take great photos and video and are easy to use.  They give better results than old pocket film cameras.  But big digital cameras with big lenses and big files are very expensive, need careful care, go out of date in about 3 years, and storing the files is complicated.  If you don’t already try both higher end digital and film and use what you like the best.  I waver back and forth.

Why I Chose A Sony A7iii over Nikon Z7 – Z6

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.

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Shot with Sony A7iii and Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro lens

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.

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Nikon D750 with 24-120 f4 lens shot at 24mm

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.

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A7iii with Sigma lens

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.

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Sony A7iii with Zeiss 55mm f1.8

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.

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Shot with Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro 
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Shot with Minolta 70-210mm f4.5-5.6 a low cost lens

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.

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Shot with Sigma 24mm f2.8 Macro

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Does The Sony A7iii Adapt To Minolta-Sony A Mount Glass Well?

Yes it does.  A couple of weeks ago after thinking about doing it for a year I bought a full frame mirrorless digital camera, a Sony A7iii.  I chose the Sony A7iii over the Sony A7riii because of price and the fact that the bigger files would overwhelm my current computer setup.  I chose the Sony over a Nikon Z7 or Z6 mainly because the 24 mega pixel Sony is available now and I have a number of Minolta/Sony/Sigma AF A mount lenses I like a lot.

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Shot with the Sony A7iii and Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8

I also bought the Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 when I got the camera from a local camera store.  No surprise the Zeiss lens works great with the Sony A7iii.  The above shot was taken last weekend in full sun with a sun shade on the lens and a polarize filter.  This shot was taken in raw and converted to black and white in Lightroom Classic.

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Sony A7iii with Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 shot at f8 at 1/60th sec ISO 125

The Zeiss does a good job with color too.  But this is a well reviewed lens from one of the best suppliers that was designed for the A7 line of cameras and cost $1,000.  So you expect it to be good.  It is also light and smallish.  Plus has a 49mm filter size which I have a lot of lenses that size.  In fact that is the standard filter size of many of the Minolta lenses.

But when I got this camera the real question in my mind was how well my favorite Minolta – Sony A mount glass would work.  These lenses are;

  1. Minolta AF 50mm f1.4.  A splendid lens at least as good as my Nikon 50mm f1.4 G lens or my Olympus Zuiko 50mm f1.4.  But not as good as my Voightlander Nokton German Made 50mm f1.5.  The bokeh on the Voight is beyond beautiful.
  2. Sigma 50mm f2.8 Macro.  I have loved this lens since I first got it with my Minolta 600si film camera a few years ago.  It is very sharp and goes to 1:1 or short focuses to .18 m or .62 ft.
  3. Sigma 24mm f2.8 Macro that is also able to focus down to .18 m.  A great wide angle lens that is quite sharp with little distortion.
  4. Minolta 35-70 f3.5 – 4.5.  A shockingly sharp unexpected gem that I got for free when I bought a Minolta 70 – 210mm from ebay.  When I got my first samples back from this lens I immediately looked it up as the results were so good.  This is a plastic excellent light small mid zoom.  Don’t laugh till you see the photos.
  5. Minolta 70 – 210mm 4.5 – 5.6.  Both this lens and the 35-70 were made in Japan.  This is a very good plastic lens.  It is very light and very small for the zoom range.  This is not the same as the all metal “beer can” Minolta with similar zoom range but f4.  This lens is also quite sharp although not quite as good as the 35 – 70.  But it will fit into your pocket if you are wearing cargo pants.  Try that with the Sony 70-200 f2.8.
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Sony A7iii with 24mm at f8 1/100 ISO 4000

I also bought the Sony LA-EA4 adaptor that is designed for the Sony A7 series of AF lenses with screw focus.

As I found out immediately the A7iii with LA-EA4 adaptor worked very well with both the Minolta lenses and the Sigmas.  As you can see in the shot above the 24mm gives a very good still shot.  I used center focus and center exposure for this shot.  It was taken a few minutes before sunset.

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A7iii with Minolta 35 – 70 f3.5 – 4.5

This shot above of the purple geranium is about a 50% crop and was shot at 55mm f8 @ 1/00 ISO 800.  It is very sharp, good color, nice bokeh, and I got this lens for free.  This is my best purchase yet.  I got the 70 – 210 zoom and this lens for $32 dollars plus shipping.  A laughable amount.  This 35 – 70 focuses almost instantly with the A7iii and adaptor.  As with all of the adapted lenses I am reviewing here I would suggest manual focus if you are going to shoot video.  The adaptor and lens will just be too noisy for video in AF.

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A7iii with Sigma 50mm Macro f2.8 

Above is my Macro 50mm 2.8 Sigma.  A well built lens that is quite sharp and can focus as close as .62 of a foot.  I have used this lens a lot with my first Minolta 600si as that camera came with this lens.  I have seen this lens on ebay recently for around $75.

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A7iii with Minolta 70-210 f4.5-5.6 ISO 1250 f8 @ 1/100

And finally we have my Minolta mid range – longer zoom.  This is a very small compact zoom for the 70-210 range that might be 11 or 12 oz.  Is it as good as one of the large 70-200 2.8 lenses, no.  But I already own this lens and it works up to a very good standard and you can own one too for less than 50 dollars.  Here is another example below of this bargain.

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A7iii with 70-210 

The above is not a good photo but does show that the lens can give a sharp and acceptable result.

My point is that the Sony A7iii is a very flexible tool for getting high quality stills with a wide variety of expensive and low cost lenses.  Sony bought Minolta in 2006 and still makes cameras that use the Minolta A mount plus A mount lenses.  There are a lot of A mount lenses for sale now at attractive prices.  The ones I have work fine for still photos. And for that matter there are quite a few used E mount Sony lenses for sale too.  Although so far I have found some of the better E mount glass to sell at relatively close to new prices.  I have been looking for a 35mm Zeiss and in a couple of ebay auctions found the used sold for about 80% of new.  If you want to use video without the noise of the older style auto focus you are going to have to get some native quiet glass.

A7iii.  So far I like the Sony A7iii quite a bit.  Since I have had several previous compact Sony cameras including a HX80.  I am used to the menu and find the A7 easy to operate.  Now I have set up buttons to operate all of the major functions directly and adjustments a very quick.  This camera with reasonable size lenses makes for a package of camera and lens similar to my film SLR’s like my Olympus OM2n, Voightlander Prominent, and Minolta 600si.  The Minolta is now my largest body.  But it is only a bit bigger than the Sony.  I have no plans at this point to buy huge heavy glass for this camera so that it is hard to travel with and carry around.  If I had not had any of the older glass that works easily with the A7iii I might have made a different choice of a full frame mirrorless body.  I like the fact that Nikon with the Z mount has come out with some pretty light and smaller glass.  But the Sony already has done this.  The Sony 55mm f1.8 like I bought is about the same size and weight as the new Nikon Z 50mm f1.8.  But the Nikon 35mm f1.8 is over 13oz.  The Sony 35mm f2.8 is 4.4 oz and the Sony 28mm f2.8 7.1 oz.

Enough for now.  I have a bunch of rolls of the new Kodak Ektachrome and am waiting for the first finished roll to come back from the developer.

Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Leica, Olympus, Fuji, and Maybe More New Mirrorless Cameras

So mirrorless full frame cameras are now going to be a common thing.  Sony has had most of the headlines in this category for the last couple of years.  Leica has long made mirrorless full frame cameras too, but they are a very high cost device and their announcements for reasons of price and also features have been muted.  I personally have been waiting to see what Nikon and Canon announce as at this point I really do prefer the full size 35mm image capture either film or digital to other sizes.  Why, it is what I am most used to and also seems to work best.

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Expired Kodak Gold 200 taken with Minolta 600si 35mm with Minolta 50mm f1.4 Edited with Lightroom CC Clasic

Last Spring I rented a Sony A7riii with a Zeiss 55mm f1.8.  At the time I was not thrilled with this camera except for it’s images.  When I rented the camera they did not include an operators manual (even though I likely would not have read it) and I found it quite confusing even though I have had four compact Sony’s and the menu system is similar to the A7.

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Sony A7riii with Zeiss 55mm f1.8 taken as a jpeg with a small amount of editing in LR

I blundered along using the A7riii for a day and of course used it in the most harsh condition of full sun mid day.  But I did get a few shots of subjects I had taken with other cameras and found the jpegs from the Sony to be excellent.  I only shot jpeg and did not do anything but shoot in aperture priority.  This was before I bought a Nikon D750 and was used to the weight and size of a D5500.  I found the Sony to be heavy and hard to hold.  But then for a month after I got the 750 I found it heavy and hard to hold.  Since I used this A7riii there is a Sony A7iii that is cheaper than the r model.  But now we are down to 24 mega pixels and not up at the r’s 42.

My overall impression of the Sony was good and not so good.  The images looked very good when I figured out how to operate the computer, oh I mean camera.  But I am sure I would learn how to operate it just like I figured out how to use a MacBook after 20 years with Windows.  What I might not get used to is the grip.  Not nearly as nice as my Nikon D5500 or D750.  But then my favorite camera is an Olympus OM2n which has no grip at all.  The Oly is just a flat case like the Leica M’s.

Nikon had their somewhat low key intro for the Z6 & Z7 just over a week ago.  I still have not held one in my hand as is the case with nearly every other prospective buyer.  But a fairly big number of youtube personalities have and like almost every news caster today spins their opinions in lots of different directions.  To me the main reasons to get mirrorless over a DSLR is that you get an EVF and WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) plus much improved video ability.  I like WYSIWYG.  It is very useful so see what you are going to get in a viewfinder before you take the shot.  This is one of the main reasons cell phones are so popular for photos and video.  It is easy to get great shots if you know what you are going to get before and when you are taking it.  Plus good video ability.  My two Nikon DSLR’s are hard to use for video so I don’t.  I use my iPhone.

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Nikon D750 with 50mm f1.8 That is my wife’s face in the upper left of the shot

Pros of the Nikon Z’s

  • Looks like a typical easy to hold camera body like my existing two Nikons
  • My Nikon glass adapts easily to these cameras
  • I have had very good experience with Nikon.  Their cameras have been very reliable
  • Touch screen has full control of menu settings.  This is a big deal.  I have that on my Nikon D5500 and it is very fast and easy to adjust settings.  However, my Nikon D750 has marked dedicated buttons for major functions like ISO and Image quality. The buttons make up somewhat for the fact the 750 screen is not a touch screen.  Sony’s screen is not a full featured touch screen.  Sony’s buttons are not marked.  That means I have to assign the functions and remember where I set them.  Overall I would have to say that Nikon’s choice to go with full featured touch screen on the Z’s is the best one.  Sony’s the worst.
  • Nikon introduces a good working inexpensive adapter for Nikon’s F mount lenses.
  • Nikon comes out with 3 lenses that are relatively small and relatively well priced with new cameras.
  • Very good set of video specs. From the video I watched on youtube last night it seems like the video focus works quite well as does the stills focus.  But so does Sony.
  • Z7 has basic ISO of 64.  The best of any of the new mirrorless full frames.
  • The bodies are smaller and lighter than my D750.  But so are the other new mirrorless full frames.
  • High resolution EVF

Cons of the Nikon Z’s

  • One card slot and the one card is not SD.  My D750 has two SD card slots.  I like two slots.
  • Screen does not fully articulate like my D5500.  In fact it is exactly like my D750.
  • New lenses are high priced.  Why does the new 50mm f1.8 cost more than my recent 50mm f1.4?
  • Z7 more costly than D850 which is the king of DSLRs at the moment.  If you don’t care about video the 850 seems like a better buy.
  • No built in flash.  I have one on my D750 and it works very well.
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Sony HX 80 Compact Zoom – mirrorless

Canon EOSR. 

Canon announced their full frame mirrorless EOSR a few days ago.  Orders can be placed this week and deliveries very shortly after that.  I have never owned a Canon camera so my comments are just armchair ones.  I would like to say that my sister has had Canon for years and is happy with it.  My son who is a professional camera man for movies and TV has both a Canon 5Diii and a Sony A7s.  He likes Canon.  He likes Leica lenses better.

Pros for Canon

  • Canon has a habit of making cameras that work well without problems.
  • 30 mega pixels vs 24 for Sony and Nikon (The lower Sony and Nikon)
  • Fully articulated screen
  • Touch screen
  • Inexpensive adaptor seems to work very well with Canon legacy glass
  • Made in Japan

Cons for Canon

  • One card slot
  • 4K video is cropped
  • No high megapixel option
  • Two of the new lenses are huge.  Small size is one of the major benefits of mirrorless and huge lenses defeat that.  Those two lenses are also very expensive.
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Nikon D5500 with 18-55mm f3.5

Panasonic.    

Panasonic has made it their speciality to make excellent mirrorless mirrorless micro 4-3rds cameras that are known for their video capability.  They have indicated that they will announce a full frame camera in a few weeks.  Since good video is one of the prime reasons to go mirrorless this might be a dark horse winner.

Olympus 

Olympus has made a very popular line of micro 4-3rds cameras along with Panasonic the last ten years.  In the past Olympus has introduced some very innovative cameras.  The OM line of 35mm film cameras offered a very capable 35mm body that was smaller and lighter than the competition.  The XA compact film 35mm camera was a miracle of miniaturization for full frame image size in a pocket camera.  The EM5 digital camera of 2012 started the trend of making retro digital cameras with in body stabilization, advanced video, and a high quality lens line.  So anything could happen from these guys.

Fuji 

Fuji has been rumored  to be introducing a larger than full frame sensor rangefinder camera at Foto Kina in Germany later this month.  Prices for the body are supposed to be in the $3,000 – 3,300 range.  If so that could sway Z7 and A7riii buyers to look at the Fuji.  We will have to wait for announcements to see how all the Panasonic, Olympus, and Fuji cameras turn out.

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iPhone X using portrait mode.  As it came out of the camera with just the Apple enhance button pushed. 

Conclusion

If you need a camera today you need to buy a Sony.  And that might not be such a bad idea.  They have three mirrorless models and also the A 99 which is mirrorless but different.  Sony now has a very good lineup of lenses for zoom or prime buyers.  And with an adaptor you can easily use the older Minolta AF lens line at a much lower price point.  I have a number of pieces of Minolta glass and can tell you that some of it is excellent.  I would put my Sigma/Minolta 50mm f2.8 macro up against any comparable lens for sharpness.  And Sony is a huge company that has the resources to forge ahead with new models.  They currently also have a line of excellent crop sensor cameras that use the same E mount.

For Nikon and Canon I would say that if you have Nikon or Canon lenses now that you should likely stick with that brand and go with mirrorless if you plan to do both stills and video.  If you are going to mostly shoot stills I would stick with DSLR’s.  Two of my friends bought Canon full frames recently at very good prices.  I bought a D750 because Nikon made me an offer I did not want to refuse.  And sticking with a DSLR means you can use the existing lines of glass new and used without adapters and at much lower price points than any of the mirrorless full frames.  I came very close to preordering one of the Nikon bodies the first day.  But then I just decided it would be better to hold one in my hands and maybe even rent one before buying.  I suspect the Nikon bodies will not be fully sorted out for a while.  For that mater Adobe won’t have raw conversion when the first production models come out.

The last three, Pana, Oly, and Fuji, their offerings are not known yet and only rumors.

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Nikon D750 with 50mm f1.4 taken raw and edited in Lightroom CC Classic

Oh, and to leave the best for last there is Leica.  I would love to have the budget to buy an M10 with autofocus.  But I don’t have the budget and they don’t sell them with autofocus. I actually like focusing my old Olympus OM2n bodies because it is so easy when it is light outside.  I like the look and feel of a Leica M10 better than any other.  I love the small size of the bodies and especially the lenses.  But at about $8,500 for an M10 and a 50mm Summicron is that really a wise purchase in 2018.  I suppose you could make the case that an M10 and an iPhone X paired is all you would need.  But realistically you would want a 50mm, 28 or 35mm, and a 135mm for your kit.  And now we are up to about $15,000.  But going back to the first though, an M10 with 50mm Summicron + the optional electronic finder, paired with an iPhone X would be a pretty good set up.  And you could call it quits and just know you were carrying two of the World’s best cameras.  Keeping in mind that the Leica does not shoot video.  So if a lot of video is in your future a Leica M10 is not.

But think about this.  A Nikon Z6 with a Nikon new Z mount 50mm f1.8 could be bought for about $2,800.  It includes EVF and video.  The size is similar to the Leica, but with the lens the Nikon will be longer from back to lens front.  The grip is likely more comfortable than the M10 that does not really have one.  That said I find no problems when I hold an M10.  And with my similarly sized Olympus OM2n I have been using it for 38 years and it is my favorite camera.  So is this a better camera setup than the Nikon D750 or Canon 6D or 6D II?  For just stills, maybe not.

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Nikon D5500 with 18-55P kit lens taken raw and edited in Lightroom CC Classic.  Seen in the full size file this is very detailed.  Plus Lightroom dehaze made this a great shot.  I used the D5500 the whole day plus my ever trusty iPhone X. 

Added the next day September 10

I write this blog to keep track of my thoughts and maybe once in a while put up something that helps out someone else.  And in no way do I make any money from this or intend to ever do that.

It is amazing the amount of chatter and people involved in photography today and the storm in information and opinion going on about the new photo tools coming out this year.  The year 2018 is almost 3/4 over, but it is like a building crescendo of noise from all the new cameras coming out.  It seems like Sony started the noise back at the end of last year with the really capable A7riii.  Then Sony upped the ante and added the cheaper but also very capable A7iii in the Spring.  Now Nikon and Canon have introduced their full frame mirror less bodies and the noise is gone way up without any production units shipping.  A few blogger-youtubers say they have production model Canon’s but to me real production units is when many regular users get their cameras.

What all of this reminds me of is when computers were something everyone was getting and general use of the internet was fairly new.  Say about 2000.  Every few months performance and new applications were introduced and Microsoft would make changes on their system.  Many people including myself bought a new computer frequently.  In my case I had both a desktop and laptop.  I got a new one at least once a year.  And Apple was starting to make a comeback.  Today’s computer-cameras right now seem to be changing a lot and their is a lot of noise going on as to what the changes are and what is best.

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Taken with 2000 Minolta 600si with 50mm f1.4 Minolta lens and Kodak TriX 400.  Developed and standard scan.  A tiny tiny edit in Lightroom CC

All of this excitement is good for photography and video.  But it is not the same as computers in 2000.  Back then many of the computers and computer software being sold was crap.  Remember the blue screen of death.  For those too young to remember that is when Windows crashed yet again and you had to restart your computer.  What is different is that there are all kinds of very good cameras being sold today that do not have problems and the new bodies are just improving things a little.  Keep in mind the new Nikon and Canon bodies are also taking things away, like the 2nd card slot.  And going with shorter battery life.  Even Sony has an excellent legacy system.  The A mount that has the same sensor and mega pixel count as the top end A7riii.

WYSIWYG is a big deal if you take the time to consider and adjust your shots before taking them.  Blown highlights are still an issue with digital sensors and being able to tone them down before taking the shot will help you get better shots with fewer tries.  WYSIWYG is not new except for Nikon & Canon in the viewfinder.  Even with Nikon’s exposure setting for highlights it is helpful to be able to see in the viewfinder if you are going to blow the highlights in advance.  I do that with my little Sony compact.  I set it to aperture and look at the zebras before I take the shot in the viewfinder.  I turn down the exposure when I see zebras.  It saves ruined shots and saves time in post.  So I expect EVF’s are going to take over.  Eventually.

The big German camera show Photokina is going to be here shortly and I expect more announcements from more camera makers.  But here is the thing.  Until these new devices get released and in the field no one will really know how good they are.  My favorite blog this morning after singing the praises of Nikon a couple of weeks ago and basically saying Fuji can now go back to making film.  Sony can go back to TV’s and toasters.  Now this morning is changing their mind as says buy Sony A9 for sports and action and Canon R for everything else.  Now I am paraphrasing here and condensing the last couple of weeks of this blogs postings plus this is just my opinion of their postings – but if you had followed this blogs advice you would have placed both the A7 and A6 on preorder.  Now we are told that in fact Canon is the best one except for sports and action.  So you have $6,000 worth of Nikons coming in that are now not recommended.  But the blogger would have been paid a commission if you had used the links on the blog.

My advice.  Spend your time and money learning to use the image capture devices you already have and concentrate on improving your ability instead of trying to improve your images and video with new systems.  When there are units in the field and you can go to a camera shop and hold one then that is a good time to maybe buy one.  Or not buy.  All the camera makers are giving big money off their existing models and Fuji just introduced their XT3 body for less money than the XT2.  And the XT3 is mirror less.  (crop frame though)

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1980 Olympus OM2n with 50mm f1.8 using expired Kodak Portra 400 developing with standard scan.  A little Lightroom CC editing.
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Same details as the shot above.  I love the colors in these two shots.  The Kodak Portra gave colors I just don’t see from my digital cameras or the same look.  To me film still many times adds something you cannot get from digital.  Film is analog and we still see in analog.