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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Without hesitation or qualifiers these features of the Sony A7iii are great for my photography. The top photo is of my youngest daughter right after Christmas dinner. I took this as a series of about 6 holding the eye auto focus button and just pushed the shutter button. I saw in the viewfinder that the eye auto focus was working. The flash was set to TTL and the camera was just on Auto. I had on the Sony G 24-105 f4 lens. The camera set itself to her right eye, the Sony steady shot and OSS lens kept this shot in perfect focus. Brilliant. Did the Sony work better than I could have expected from my older cameras, yes. Did it work better than what my iPhone could have done, yes. My other cameras like the D750 or D5500 would have been able to focus on this eye if I had put the focus point on it or if I had shifted the camera focus point to where the eye was, but this would have been done by me and not the cameras. The iPhone XS Max or Sony HX80 would have found the face but not the eye. So bravo Sony. Without a doubt this is a big advancement forward and you have executed it well.
The eye auto focus on the Sony A7iii also works in a group of people.
The Sony A7iii is also easier to get mid day full sun shots with proper exposure. It is not possible to completely change the subjects to what they would look like if you had been shooting early in the day or late in the afternoon, but the Sony did allow for turning down the exposure enough not to blow all the highlights.
I went to this same location just before we went on vacation to Europe in 2017. I shot tests with my Nikon D5500, iPhone X, Minolta 600si with Kodak Gold 200. In 2017 I only was able to get the shots I liked with the film. The Nikon and the iPhone both overexposed. I could have improved my results back then if I had bracket my shots on the Nikon, but I didn’t. Film has more highlight tolerance than digital so the film was able to give very good results.
But the Sony A7iii shots above with the Zeiss 50mm f1.8 was as good as the film I shot in 2017. At this point I would be willing to say that the Sony very easily gives good mid day full sun shots better than the Nikon D5500. If I had used the Nikon D750 and also used the highlight setting I would say the results would have been similar to the Sony or the Kodak.
The Sony A7iii’s back screen moves like an iPhone or my Sony compact. It is fast and looks just like the viewfinder. This is an improvement over the DSLR’s which on the Nikons were laggy and not quick to focus. I find that I use the back screen a lot more than with the D750. The D5500 was a full on touch screen and I frequently used it when shooting landscape. I would touch the place to focus and it would set up the shot and fire away. This ability is sadly not on the Sony A7iii.
Size – The Sony A7iii is smaller than the previous full frame digital I had the Nikon D750. Not much, but overall about half a pound or .43 kilo. And the 24-105 lens on the front of the Sony is just enough shorter than the Nikon D750 with 24-120 to make it noticeable. So a win for the A7.
Conclusions – The eye auto focus is absolutely an outright advance for technology. It is easy to use and works well. This is a feature I expect to be standard on most cameras in a year or two. Mid day full sun shots on the other hand is a bit better than the Nikons but surprisingly not much better than on Sony’s low cost compact HX80. If the HX80 had been able to output raw I think it would be as good at mid day full sun shots as the A7. And then there is film. Film does not blow highlights easily like digital. But film needs to be developed and you normally want to use the full roll before developing it. But I will say that from what I know this is a win over the Nikon D5500. Back screen on the Sony is much faster than the Nikons. So I use it more. Too bad it is not touch like the D5500. Size is smaller with the A7iii over the D750 especially noticeable when using the kit lenses. Not so much with a prime 50mm.
If you the reader think I am struggling with my conclusions it is because I am. I have no struggle with eye auto focus. A great new feature. But for mid day full sun to me the Sony has proved to be better than the two older Nikon DSLRs but not reliably better than film. I have gone to some of my favorite places where I have shot photos over the last number of years and would say that Kodak Ektar gives a better average shot than the Sony. The back screen on the Sony moves just like a mirrorless should, fast. But certainly not as useful as a full touch screen. Then finally size. The Sony is smaller than the Nikon D750 but the D750 has a grip that fits my hand better. I do find the Sony and D750 with prime lenses about the same. The Sony is lighter but the Nikon is fine. But eye auto focus is a great feature to have. If I was going to be sent to a place where I could have only one interchangeable lens camera for a year I would be tempted to pick a Sony A7iii over a DSLR. Because it is great at both stills and video. But if I also had my iPhone XS Max along with me I would take the D750. Why. I think the D750 is more durable and less likely to break. The sensor is way back behind the mirror so I will be less likely to get buggered up. And at this point shooting video with an iPhone is more fun. And the results are fine.
Back about 1 1/2 years ago I bought my fourth in a line of Sony compact cameras going back to a Sony Mavica in 1999. The new addition was the Sony HX 80. When I got it that model was just out and cost me all of $380 at Best Buy. I had always liked using and the results out of my previous Sony compacts and this was a good one too. I was looking forward to having an electronic viewfinder, steady shot vibration reduction, and the ability to optically zoom from 24-720mm equivalents. For the price and size of this camera I got very good results including really amazing long lens shots of birds in flight and distant mountain tops. One of the big benefits of this camera was the small size, and one of the problems of this camera was the small buttons and small electronic view finder.
Soon I figured out that it was just simpler and better to set the camera to Auto when the exposure seemed not too wide and then I would use A mode and adjust the exposure setting using the zebras on the back screen or in the viewfinder. Sony’s “intelligent Auto”. worked well and was able to detect most scenes and to find people’s faces. And that is how I used the camera until I sold it about 8 weeks ago. My 2 1/2 month old Sony A7iii is a highly capable camera that gives excellent stills and video. It is hard to adjust and change settings quickly on it most of the time. I am sure after I have it for a year it will be easier. So after grousing about how hard it was yesterday when we expected family to come over for a Christmas cookie decorating event I decided that I would try setting the A7iii to Auto and seeing how well it did.
For all of these shots it was always in Auto and I used my 55mm Zeiss f1.8 prime lens. Also used was a Godox flash in some of them. I set the flash on TTL and did not adjust it at all.
As it turns out I think the Sony did a splendid job. When there was a face in the scene it picked it out right away. It did a good job of auto white balance, exposure, speed, and so on. Do I plan to just let the camera do the thinking for me in the future, no, I like trying different settings to get the best result possible.
Color. I am finding the best results at this point to be just setting the camera to export raw only and editing that in Lightroom CC Classic. I have also used Lightroom CC and there is little difference between those two. I prefer the organizational ability of LR Classic to putting everything on line like CC wants you to. The Sony does seem to put out raws that need little editing. For these shots I mostly tried Adobe auto to see if that improved it. In about half the shots it did. And then I mostly added either Adobe Standard profile or Sony Standard profile. Plus maybe a little clarity or dehaze.
All these shots were hand held and this lens does not have VR, but the camera body does. The A7iii was able to get focus quickly and snap off the shot rapidly. I seems to work with the Godox flash easily. I did have a cover over the flash head that quieted down the light blast a bit.
I am surprised at how well the A7iii was able to automatically adjust for backlight and skin tones and come up with a good result. We have had cookie decorating parties in this same spot for about 15 years and the Sony did the best job on exposure of any camera I have used so far. A year ago though I did shoot some Fuji 200 speed film using my Minolta and I will now insert in a few of those shots.
The above film pictures I did use a flash but forgot to tilt the head up so in some cases there is glare on the faces. But the colors are good.
The above six shots were also Fuji 200 (Walmart film) but shot about a week later and with my manual focus Olympus OM2n. All of them except the top one were just nature light through a window. The top one I think the color is a bit affected by a little incandescent light. The bottom five photos are all excellent with the beautiful bokeh you get from the Zuiko lens and the just popping colors on the gingerbread house and the painting. I love some of the sharp focus rolling into off focus from wide open glass and the inexpensive Fuji film just does a great job. There is a little of the Fuji green tinge in the shots though. I did shoot about a roll or so of film yesterday and when I get it developed I will post the results along with the Sony photos for comparison.
I like both the Sony shots and the film shots. The Sony shots are technically excellent. Clear, start, exposed right, clean. Even though the lens I used on the Sony is very highly rated it Just is not rolling in and out of focus like the old Zuiko. Plus the film adds some softness to the look. I find the look of the bottom five shots where the focus rolls in and out and some of the color is just vibrant and other times soft to be beautiful in a way the Sony photos are not. And that is the reason I think film still has a place in 2018. If all we had was digital our photos would look mostly like we were Xeroxing the World. More art is needed with the Xeroxing.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
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