Tag Archives: Sony

Sony A7iii with Adapted Minolta 100mm f2.8 Macro & Minolta 100-400 f4.5

For me one of the key features that convinced me to buy the Sony A7iii was that the Minolta lenses  I had would all work easily with a Sony LA-EA4 adapter on the Sony A7iii.  The AF lenses would auto focus well and the other settings such as exposure would too.  All true I found out.  The Minolta lenses were all auto focus and seemed to set focus as fast as on my two Minolta 600si film cameras.  After a short time since most of the Minolta lenses I found for sale used were well priced I bought a few more.  My latest being the 100mm f2.8 with 55mm filter size.  This lens has a minimum focus distance of 3.54 meters.

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1/30 sec, f16, ISO 400 using Minolta 100mm f2.8 Macro with LA-EA4 Sony adapter and Sony A7iii using raw.  Edited on Light Room CC Classic

The top featured image is with the 100mm lens.  Both of these were using manual focus and set on a tripod.  This is a solid metal lens and weighs just over 18oz.  It has extremely low distortion and is very sharp.  The minute I saw the first few images from this lens I just went, “wow beautiful”.  The rendition is superb.  This lens was first made in 1986 when the AF Minoltas first came out.  There were several changes and then Sony bought Minolta in 2006 and Sony was put on this lens.

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100mm Minolta lens shot at 1/60 sec, f16, ISO 400 using Sony A7iii

Lightroom Classic lists the lens characteristics under Sony.

To my eye this lens gives the best close up flower shots of any lens I have ever used.  I paid $220 US including shipping.  I bought it with eBay and the source was in Japan.  The condition of the lens is like new.

I also bought a 100-400 AF APO tele zoom 4.5-6.7.

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Minolta 100-400 shot at f8 330mm ISO 500 1/500 sec on a tripod
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100-400 Minolta zoom shot at 360mm hand held, 1/500 sec f6.3 ISO 200 
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Minolta 100-400 shot at 360mm f8 1/800 sec ISO 320

This lens is from the same family of APO zooms and is similar to my 70-210 4.5-5.6 tele zoom.  The 100-400 also came from Japan through eBay.  I paid $240 including shipping.  As with the 100mm the condition was like new.  It came with case and light shield plus front and back caps.  I have done a test using the native Sony G 24mm-105 f4, Minolta 70-210mm f4.5-5.6, and this lens.  I focused on some houses on a hill about 3-4 miles away.  All three lenses performed about equally with similar magnification, f-stop, ISO, and the same Sony A7iii.  Sony makes a 100-400 4.5-5.6.  Maybe it is sharper and better than this lens.  But then maybe it is about the same.  It costs $2,500 dollars and I do not own one so I can test it. This lens weighs 15.17 oz.  The Sony new version is 51oz.

I really like these two lenses.  I also very much like the fact that they are regular mechanical focus and not focus by wire.  Mechanical focus is way easier to use manually than focus by wire.  But of course you have to use an adapter and you do get some limitations with that.  I have found flashes do not automatically work with the TT flash power automatically.  Manual lenses like these are not suitable for video, they make too much noise.  But I am very happy with the results and cost of these.

Sony HX-99 & Sony A7iii Update

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

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

The significant improvements you get with the HX-99 are

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

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

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

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

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

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

This camera is excellent for street-type photos.

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

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

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

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

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

Sony A7iii update.  

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

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

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

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All three of these are from the Sony HX 99

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sony A7iii vs Nikon Z7

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″.

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Taken with Sony A7iii and 50mm f2.8 macro lens.

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.
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iPhone XS Max zoomed about 6X using digital zoom and smart HDR color via Apple Photos App

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.
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Nikon Z7 with Nikon 24-70 f4

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.

Prices

  • 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 Next Huge Digital Photography & Video Disruption Is Here

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

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

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

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

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Apple vertical panorama

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

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Sony A7iii with 24mm lens

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

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Sony with 24-105 lens.  
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Apple smart HDR 

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

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

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

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

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

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

YouTube – Panos and Video A7iii vs iPhone XS Max – Film Fail – Macro A7iii vs iPhone and so on.

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.

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Made with Sony A7iii Sony 24mm – 105mm lens.  About 15 shots merged in Lightroom.  

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 Purchases – Nikon D750, Apple XS Max, Apple MacBook Pro 15″& Sony A7iii – Reflections

2018 was a big uproarious year in the image and video creation business.  After going a couple of years with buying only new smartphones and a compact digital Sony I got caught up in all the changes and bought not one new full frame camera but two.  And I also went back to the full sized iPhone after saying the smaller one was a perfect size.  I also bought a new MacBook Pro.

Featured image above was taken with a Nikon D3200 in 2014 and edited in iPhoto

Foggy hill in Olympic National Park Velvia 50
Taken with Olympus OM2n 50mm f1.8 and Fuji Velvia 50 Edited in iPhoto

Early in 2018 I started using tripods again after years of mostly hand held.  My flower photos improved doing that.  I was bored after having my Nikon D5500 for 3 years so even though I really liked that camera I started looking for my next larger digital camera.  I wanted to get a Nikon and wanted to get their upcoming mirrorless.  But back in the spring of last year there were only rumors about when the new Nikon would be out and it looked like it might be the spring of 2019 before you could get one.  So when Nikon sent me a low price on the D750, 24-120mm, and grip I bought one.  I also got the Nikon 50mm f1.4 at the same time.  Total for everything including tax and shipping was about $2,500.

old town Sacramento
Taken with Motorola Maxx cell phone and edited with iPhoto

After using the flyweight and very easy to use Nikon D5500 for several years when I got the D750 I did not like it at all.  Too big and heavy.  With the 24-120mm zoom on it the size seemed gargantuan compared to the D5500.  It hurt my 71 year old right hand with a little arthritis.  But I then got a Peak Strap and used the 50mm lens and the 750 started to grow on me.  The controls of the Nikon D750 were easy to learn and very intuitive after having two crop body Nikons.  The Peak strap was a big improvement over the strap that came with the camera.  I only shot stills with the 750.  For video I used my iPhone X.  I also tried using some of the FX lenses on my D5500 DX Nikon body.  The better lenses made the smaller Nikon a lot better.  Images from the 5500 and either FX lens were very nearly the same as using the D750.  On the other hand the 750 focused much quicker and the viewfinder was way better.

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Taken with Motorola Maxx smartphone

The Nikon D750 had buttons for most adjustments that were easy to find and when you needed to use the menu on the back screen it was obvious that Nikon had spent some time designing them to be intuitive.  But what the D750 did not solve was washed out mid day full sun colors.  Looking back on it now it is obvious that I should have stuck with the D750 longer and learned to improve this problem instead of jumping to the Sony system.  I did not find out till later that using live view on the Nikon you could see a histogram before shooting.  But I did use bracketing with the 750 and that worked well.

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Shot with Olympus XA compact film camera

The full frame Nikon came with us on our summer motorhome trip and after a while I just got used to the size of it.  The D5500 was still much lighter and easier to handle, but the D750 was OK.

My film photography in the first 6-7 months of 2018 suffered because I kept experimenting with different film stocks, using expired rolls,  and using labs that were not great.  This has now changed and I went back to using my preferred and unexpired film stocks plus two of the best labs and now my film shots look great.

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Shot with Nikon D3200 and 55-200 kit tele lens.  I have not changed these photos from my 2014 edits.  So when you see unleveled photos such as this one just know I was not as picky four years ago on editing.

We got back from our long summer trip in late August and by this time Nikon had set a date for intro of both their Z6 & 7.  Sony was selling lots of A7iii and A7riii.  After watching about 1,000 (exaggeration) you tube videos I decided in Oct to buy a Nikon Z7 or 6.  I called George’s photo and then went down with the intention of buying a Z camera.  While there I chickened out getting the new Nikon Z7 because it was expensive, new, and getting mixed reviews.  I have a number of Sony-Minolta lenses that will adapt easily to the A7iii, and made the spit second fall back decision to get the Sony A7iii and 55mm f1.8 and not the Z7.  Likely if the Z6 would have been available then I might have gone that way.  I figured, “If you don’t like the Sony you can sell it.  The price was not in the same range as the Z7 and the Sony was very very popular so no problem selling it.”  The next day I got the Sony A7iii, LA EA4 Sony adapter, and Zeiss 55mm f1.8.

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Nikon D5500 and 18-55 kit lens.  Edited with iPhoto

Right away after getting the Sony it was obvious that it was difficult to use and confusing.  I had had 4 Sony compact cameras over the years so I knew a little about the Sony menu system.

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Voightlander Prominent from 1953 and 50mm f1.5 Nokton lens, Kodak Ektar film

I did find that the sony adapter worked well with the Minolta A mount glass.  But while several of the Minolta lenses worked brilliantly on the film camera they were made for the Sony A7iii image quality with them was just not as good.  Why, I suspect these lenses were developed for film and the A mount.  They just don’t perform as well as when adapted.  This is stated over and over again by Ken Rockwell in his blog kenrockwell.com which you should read.  I agree with him.

Flowers on hill WA Velvia 50
“Yellow flowers on hill in Olympic National Park”  Taken with Olympus OM2n 50mm f1.8 lens Velvia 50 film hand held.

Just before Christmas I bought the Sony G 24-105mm f4 lens for the A7.  It works great, $1,300.  I bought this as I liked the Nikon 24-120mm f4 and missed it’s abilities.  This Sony is essentially the same but does not cut the corners just a bit at 24mm like the Nikon did.  I only paid $500 for the Nikon and the construction quality seemed just as good.  Plus the D750 was quite well weather sealed and the Sony A7iii does not seem to be.

The switch to Sony from Nikon was painless.  I found willing buyers quickly for all of my Nikon gear.  I sold the D750 and 24-120mm for very little less than I paid.  But of course less the ebay sellers fee.  The D5500 I used for 3 1/2 years and sold it with kit lens for around 60% of what I paid.  The Sony HX80 sold for about 60% of what I paid and I only used it 1 1/2 years.

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Taken with Voightlander Prominent 50mm f1.5 lens and Ektar film

So what did I loose and gain by all of these transactions.

  • I gained eye auto focus.
  • I lost one camera I loved – D5500 and two I liked – Nikon D750 & Sony HX80 and gained one camera that is technically very competent that is growing on me a bit but so far I would have to say I only like it slightly.
  • If I had it to do over again I would go back to what I had.
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Eye auto focus is fine, but this great shot of my daughter was taken by a 65 year old Voightlander with a difficult to use rangefinder focus adjustment that has not been adjusted since 1979.  And to top it off Kodak Ektar is not supposed to be a very good skin color film.

Auto eye focus is not enough to make this worth it.  One of my New Years 2019 resolutions is to get rid of GAS and use what I have now for the rest of the year.  I will make two exceptions 1.  Olympus introduces a full frame camera that follows what I like about the Olympus OM2n of small size, high capability, and everything you need and nuthin you don’t at a price I am willing to pay.  2.  Nikon updates either the Z6 or D750 that fixes the obvious flaws in both bodies.  And I can sell the Sony for enough to pay for one of these two exceptions.  If neither of those two scenarios comes to pass I am going to live with what I have and improve my skills with that gear the complete year.

Expanding on my exceptions 1 and 2.

  1. Olympus – I am completely perplexed as to why Olympus has not followed up on it’s fantastic OM series and introduce a system with a full frame sensor.  The price of sensors has come down and I see no reason not to go with the advantages of a larger sensor for the same reasons I like full frame film cameras.  I like the perspective I get from 35mm.  I will not buy a camera with a small sensor like the micro 4 3rds.
  2. Nikon Z6 or D750.  The Z6 needs to get their auto focus to work as well as the 4+ year old D750 period!  Why do I want to pay a lot of money for a camera today that is not at least as good as their 4 year old comparably priced 750?  And for gods sake add another card slot.  Preferably with SD cards.  750 to 760.  I have never had an issue with a mirror or the F mount.  To make the D760 really desirable the live view focus needs to be as good as regular view.  And a touch screen.  4K video is obvious. I could live without the EVF if the back screen worked as fast as the Sony A7iii.
Manzanita Oregon Coast
Shot with Nikon D3200 and kit 18-55mm

My second new years resolution is not to use expired film and to stick with the films and labs I know and trust.  No cheeping out on bargain film or labs.  And to shoot more film.

Apple XS Max upgrade from iPhone X.  Meh.  The iPhone X was a great great iPhone.  The iPhone XS Max is slightly bigger and better.

MacBook Pro 15″ 2018 6 core 512 gb upgrade from 2013 MacBook Pro 13″ 2 core 256 gb.  Meh.  I have literally used the crap out of my old MacBook.  It still works fine and I am using it to write this blog post.  But I does show some of this heavy use in balkiness to start up sometimes.  It is also much slower to start now than 3-4 years ago.  But it is not slower to start than the new one.

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Taken with Nikon D3200 and 18-55kit lens

Pros of the new MacBook –

  • bigger screen
  • better speakers
  • newer

Cons of the new MacBook

  • $3,000
  • no variety of ports like the old one.  This one really pisses me off.  I delayed for two years getting a new MacBook because of this but finally caved because I need at least one reliable newer computer and wanted an Apple.  Not only did they take away ALL the old style USB ports but the idiots removed the mag safe connector.  They even obsoleted my Apple Thunderbolt screen so I had to buy a dongle for it.  And no SD card slot.  Something I used all the time with my old one.  So now I am switching over to the new style connector.  By the time I switch everything over it will be time for Apple to obsolete that connector too.
  • I really liked my older MacBook Pro.  My favorite Apple product of all time.  The new one I bought because I wanted to stick with Apple and I was worried about the age of my old unit.  I would have rather bought a new old style MacBook with upgraded chips.  Apple has made this device worse not better for me.  The old style keyboard is better.
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Olympus XA compact film camera with Ektar film

Conclusions.  New is many times not better and sometimes worse.  I have purposely used only photos from 2014 to show that with my old gear before I started spending a lot of money my shots turned out fine.  I really liked my old Motorola Maxx smartphone.  It worked well, it had some very slick features, and the battery lasted forever.  I bought my first iPhone the 6S after the Moto and in many ways the Maxx was a better device.  But now you cannot go back to 2014 because Motorola has been sold and they make just so-so phones compared to Apple.  

Back in 2014 I used Apple iPhoto, iMovie, and Aperture.  But then Apple obsoleted iPhoto and Aperture and gave us Photos.  Photos is a better organizer and works with on line better, but the editing functions work poorly with any photo that was not taken with an iPhone.  Or at least poorly compared to Lightroom.  Now I am still stuck sorting back and forth between Apple Photos and Lightroom.  And I also have to remember if I used Lightroom CC Classic or Lightroom CC.  My real photo collection system in 2018 was more of keeping photos on local disks out of any software.  And now I am going to go back and have prints made from my best photos of last year + 2017.

In this blog I have posted very good photos (or at least ones I like) from cameras up to 65 years old, film, digital, DSLR, smartphone, and compact.  All worked just fine.  The key to photography is the photographer and not the gear.  And that is going to be the same in 2019 as it was in 2018.