Monday, August 10, 2015

The A7r II

I am still waiting for news about the A99 II, to be announced next month if the rumors are correct. However, the release of the A7r II is a real game changer, and I am seriously tempted to buy one along with the LA-EA4 converter. It will be seriously expensive, but this is the first time that I am tempted to cross over to e-mount territory.
Here are the reasons:
1. 5-Axis stabilization - I've been doing a fair bit of hand held video and this could be really useful for me, eliminating the cumbersome use of tripods and monopods.
2. Eye tracking focus - I seriously would use this feature. As time goes by I find myself using more closed shutters, going up to 4.0 and even 5.0 with my 50mm 1.4 lens, for anything but studio or studio-like work where I have time to re-check photos and move a model. But with good eye tracking focus I could try going back to 2.8 or even lower and create some stunning well focused photos even in demanding environments.
3. Shoot at near darkness - SLTs are not known for their ability to shoot at high ISOs. It seems that the A7rII creates really nice photos at ISO 6400 with barely any noise and has workable noise up to double that. The A99 has noticeable noise at ISO 1600 and gets really funky at 6400.
4. More pixels - This will be quite useful for printing and for crops.

So, if the A99 does not have ALL of these which I really like and could boost my work, why should I spend all that money on it when I can get one mirrorless future proof camera that already has all I want and need?

I will keep you updated as to my decision in the upcoming month. I might wait to April (my birthday to make a final decision). Then again, I might not.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The importance of having an adjustable LCD screen

One of the better reasons for me to get the A99 instead of the Canon or Nikon competition is the 3-way adjustable rear 3-inch LCD. As you might know, the A99 is the only full-frame digital SLR to offer a tiltable screen. This never fails to amaze me. Canon, for example, has a superb articulate LCD which is used on the 70D SLR which I used while my A99 was being fixed (along other cameras) which not only is adjustable but also is a touch screen, like your cellphone's.
Many photographers seem to agree with me.

Hetzer, for example, on the Canon rumor board wrote, "A fully articulating screen is brilliant for stills. Low-level work (macro etc), overhead, astrophotography and just anywhere you can't get you head directly behind the camera."

Apparently, for reasons of pride and conservativeness, not only that there is no non full-frame model to offer this (I guess Sony technically has too, if you consider the A7), future models will probably also NOT get this feature because it is considered "amateurish", perhaps due to its origin in video camera models. 
All this is silly to me, as professionally speaking, I adjust the LCD all the time. It simply allows me to better compose high or low angle shots without having to contort myself or go look for a chair or an apple box. While my A99 was away I had to make due sometimes with the A900, a very good camera producing excellent colors, but I simply had to stop doing some of my favorite composition types, or just "guess" high angle shots, that is, hold camera high and hope the framing was okay and the moment was right.

Let me give an example from last day's shoot. I was shooting a nice young woman, Dana Iungelson. During sunrise, I had the perfect lighting with my reflector well positioned and my external wireless flash in the back. She also managed a perfect smile, somewhat mischievous, but also full of warmth. So I took this photo:



While looking good, I wanted more out of the image, so I flipped the LCD and perfectly composed a higher angle shot.




This produced a more dynamic shot, with the eyes looking more slanted and the upper torso and long hair looking nice in the framing. I would not have been able to make this adjustment with any other professional grade top dog SLR on the market. Instead, I would have to guess the composition or go looking for something high to stand on while my subject is wasting away her perfect smile. Sure, I could also step back and re-compose, but that would have been, artistically, a very different framing.

This is one of the reasons why, as long as Sony continue to innovate and incorporate features from consumer and prosumer models into their high end ones, I will continue to buy their SLRs. As I mentioned before, I would like MORE of these features, to be incorporated. If you don't like them and are a straightforward look-through-the-view-finder kind of a photographer, that is great, just don't use any of it, or better yet, buy some nice A900s, the are seriously cheap and produce great results. For other photographers, many of these features are something they can use to have more creative options in their work as a photographer.

For the rest of the session with Dana Iungelson


BTW: I am trying to get to 1000 likes on my Facebook page, so if you got the time, I would appreciate some nice liking'n sharing here.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Wireless Flash solution #2

So my shoot with the YN 560 III was sort of a disaster. I did get some nice shots out, but somehow I pressed the wrong thing on the flashes and they stopped working mid-shoot. So I raced home to get the old flash system and was a little late for the next shoot. 
You can "feel" the flash providing some back light for this behind the scenes shot.
and masquerading as the sun on this outdoor shot.


After some research it appears that a combination of something that you can accidentally can press could disable the radio on the flashes.
Also, my A99 is still being repaired so I haven't shot since that last shoot :( Instead I went back to working on video projects, doing editing and motion graphics work for a living.
Other then that the flashes worked great. For some reason, by default, they make a totally annoying sound which you can disable quite easily. I am getting my A99 back this week, so I guess, more testing will follow.
That said, I am truly sorry that I didn't get the flashes made by Godox.
They do everything my new flashes do but work with batteries similar to those of cellphones, instead of the AAs which I hate so much. Seriously, I cannot stress how much I hate AAs. They constantly get lost, and take a while to change during a shoot.
I still think that Wifi is a better technology to invest in than radio, so that you could, for example, configure remote flashes using an app on your camera or phone. Imagine that you have you are holding your A99II, impressing your client with the biggest and best camera around, but also have a discrete QX smart lens hidden somewhere for the wide shot or alternative angle, all using same flashes on the same wi-fi network.
This seems to me a technology much easier to implement for Sony than some of the other amazing things that their cameras now do, like in shoot in nearly absolute darkness and provide 5-axis stabilization, do let's hope that they are reading my blog :)

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Wireless Flash solution

So, after much pain in using Sony's own flashes and various flash triggers and a lot of failure, I finally managed to ditch my Sony HVL-F58AM (One is now broken) and Pixel Soldier wireless flash triggers (keep on breaking) for something better.
As I don't use TTL, and manually set my flashes for projects such as Heroines of Light  and FEMP, I finally decided to ditch the ISO to Minolta connector (sometimes it gets disconnected and it can get lost) for a system that is made for Canon by Yongnuo. I tested it in some wedding, thanks to Tomer Foltyn and it worked fine.
I got on E-bay the RF-603C trigger and two YN560 IIIs. The advantages of this setup: no more Minolta connectors, no more radio receivers with AA batteries because radio capability is built into the flashes. I broke my Sony flash when it fell of the radio receiver. The YN 560 IIIs are relatively cheap so you can get a bunch of those and not have to take a bank loan if one breaks.
Tomer also tells me that they don't heat as much nor drain the batteries like the Sony flashes. You can also mount one on the flash trigger if you want and point it at the ceiling and the other at the side so you would have solid ambient light and good directional light.
I am anxious to test it on my Tuesday shoots BUT my A99 is actually being serviced right now (stabilizer is broken) so I hope it get fixed by tomorrow. If not, I will use a friends' Canon 5D MkII, a solid camera though the colors are not as good as the A99.
I will post photos of the results of using the new flash system soon.

BTW: Sony, where is the A99's replacement? I hope that the delay will just mean a better camera, well tested and with more features. For that I WILL go to the bank to get a loan.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

New and Improved

So, got my Zeiss 50 1.4 lens and it's awesome! And a little heavy :| but I guess that that's the price you pay for quality.
Sony hasn't as yet announced the A99 replacement, but I am trying to save some money on the side for it when it does come.  I seriously need a camera with better video, especially in low-light situations. I applied for a residency, to go on a trip from Riga to Helsinki and do more of my Heroines of Light/FEMP shoots in both stills and video. I will be looking for a female Parkour artist for that one, should I be accepted... Cross my fingers and know in a month.
Sony sort of now dominates the sensor market, and I guess that if I had unlimited budget I would get the amazing A7s, just for video but that would really set me back. Sony, if you hear this, please send me a free unit with a good lens so I could show the world how good Sony cameras can be. I also accept beta pre-production models of the A99 replacement, to be announce sometimes this year.

 first Zeiss test shots


Oh, and I also got my IceLight portable lightsabre as you can see here in our fun Purim shoot...

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Excitement

It has been a seriously long time as my last post. I actually had some disappointments with my A99 and I was bummed to write about them.

But now is an exciting time for me, so I'm back!

This week my "Heroines of Light" project is going up on the walls of an exhibit. Really pumped to see my creations printed out 100x70cm.

Also, I ordered from e-bay two things that might change my photography a lot! The first is the Wescott Ice Light, a kind of a real life light saber :)

I've also ordered the Zeiss 50mm 1.4 lens so that I could produce shaper and higher quality photos. My current Sony 50mm 1.4 lens has gone really soft and also has some other technical issues that I'd rather not even talk about.

Also, tomorrow I'm continuing with my new project, FEMP. We're gonna do some yoga/meditation photography on the beach. I'm also going to try a new technique that I like to call "The Human Panorama", which is kind of simple really. I use a good lens with low depth of field and I shoot multiple photos of a single person which I stitch in Photoshop to create the final. So, let's say I shoot 12 angles, each containing only part of the person.
 This way, I get a lot of pixels without the need to buy a very expensive medium or large format cameras. I will post results if they are seriously good :)
It is true that printing for the first time in my life left me seriously pixel hungry, I just hope my PC can withstand it.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Continuous

As Sony fanboys go, I am definitely one of them. Started out as a Minolta user but also got the first Sony HDV camera that landed in Israel, and I've always enjoyed the superb image quality that Sony had to offer over the competition.
That said, the video on the Sony A99 is still in some ways, half baked. It's a great stills camera but some of the video features are lacking. I don't understand why the Modes for video are in a menu separate from the modes dial for video. How come continuous auto focus that was supposed to be a great selling point for Sony SLTs is only available in P mode. There is nothing more bumming out than having the camera switch erratically it's exposure during shoot, sometimes veering to radical shutter settings that are unusable. Even in P mode, I found out during an interview shoot that focus will just not stick, the camera searching frantically for the focus on the wall. I would expect some focus "Search" on a fast moving target, say a person walking towards the camera, but not a rather static interview. This seems to happen if the person being interviewed leans right a little bit, since it seems that the focus relies on a center point in video.
Sony should rewrite or seriously upgrade their video code for the A99, if possible at all, or simply mention that video on a DSLR is still a limited feature. Sure, I could use manual focus, and I do, but in some situations, I would rather have a reliable auto focus on my camera, especially when using a lens such as the 50 1.4.
Now for some positive feedback: Shooting with the EX1,a "real" video camera on the same shoot, it seems that the A99 is much better in some ways. The color is much more accurate, skin tones are betters and highlights do not get overblown.
So I guess we're simply in some sort technological limbo at this point. All the technology exists for creating a great everything-is-included camera, but nobody seem to have the Steve Jobs qualities that you would need to bring out a product that does it all with little compromise.
Last thing about continuous focus. I tried it out on a stills shoot and it looked good at first, but then it  sort of broke apart. I had a person walk down the street, dance a little, turn around. During the turn, focus was definitely lost. Doesn't really matter in terms of a stills shoot, I just told the model to do it again, but in a video documentary situation, sometimes there is no re-doing and you're stuck with an out of focus shot.
So, my recommendation is - don't use the continuous focus feature if you can avoid it, and definitely don't rely on it. Use a monitor and reliable focus pulling and budget for it, you can. I'm still hoping Sony would provide Wi-fi tethering and image viewing on a remote laptop, but that will probably not happen for the A99.

Update: Had another video shoot outside with a young woman hanging from a rope. It was a seriously bright day, but I didn't have to use a ND filter to get a shallow depth of field with my 90mm 2.8 lens, I simply adjusted to M mode and set the shutter to a very fast one. In daylight, unlike my tests with indoor office lighting , the shots looked spectacular.