Friday, May 19, 2017

ISO 6400 is the new ISO 3200

I think by now I've used the A99ii on two events where the low-light capabilities were tested. On the last event, a local election night coverage,  I set it to Auto ISO but soon discovered that all the shots were in ISO 6400, so I set it manually to 6400.  You can set the maximum and minimum ISO like this:

It doesn't go in smaller increments, so over 6400 you get 12800 rather than 8000.

 The good news is that images look really great at ISO6400.
Color is nice, noise is barely noticeable. I did use some flashes this time to supplement the light coming from the window and the venue's brown lights. The lights were set to 1/16 or 1/32 so as to blend well with the ambience.

That said, as soon I went over 6400 ISO, photos were visibly degraded. Color was smudged and brownish. Also, the pixel count does not really matter at that point. I wish the camera would just decrease the number of pixels at that point, to save on disk space.
Due to compression you might not be able to tell but there is just no point for this photo to be 42.4MP. I have to admit that these photos are still usable, even though I might personally not like their quality very much. Sometimes your clients just want a documentation of what's happening.
There are some good news though. The photos would look better in high ISO if the light is between 3200K and 5600K. It will look better if the contrast is good. Also, if you left the high ISO on by mistake, as in the A99 in a lot of cases the photo will NOT be overexposed. The camera will figure out that it has enough light for the pixels and will compensate.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Good news and Bad news

I had a little more time and real life experience to check the A99ii. The good news: high ISO as expected is much improved. This makes the A99ii in low light and even regular room situation a totally different camera than the A99. For the first time shooting inside a room that I didn't use ANY flashes and put the ISO to auto without worrying.

I also took one photo in real high ISO 16,000 and the results were so so.
The photo looks kind of okay as long as you don't look to closely realizing the woman's face isn't really all there. So I guess that is reasonable. The A99ii is NOT the A7s, but as long as your eyes can see something, the camera will also be able to see it well. That was definitely NOT the case with the first A99. Here is another sample from a church wedding, still no flashes employed, even though I had them with me.
I actually m now using the flashes more for outside shoots than for low-light shoots. The rationale as I mention in previous post is that I want to put my clients in the shade so they will squint less.

Now for some bad news: The inner RAW viewer on the A99ii probably creates a jpeg version of the photo taken that does not represent the final output really well. I wasn't really sure that the photo about of the bride in tears was in focus until I get home and offloaded the photos. Even zooming all in, I wasn't really sure. I guess I could have used Wifi to take a better look, perhaps I will try it next time. I am pretty sure now that I can't rely on the internal viewer, even when zoomed in, to tell me how good the photo would look later on. I do hope Sony will fix that, but I am not holding my breath as the previous A99 model didn't receive any update except for accommodating some lenses.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

First impressions

On Saturday, I had two photo shoots with the A99ii. The morning one was a maternity photo shoot with this nice couple I know. We drove out to Lewis and Clark, a very nice campus surrounded by trees. It is actually even too large for someone who doesn't know it very well. On the other hand it is totally free and allowed to shoot there unlike most places in Portland, including some public parks tat require you to have a permit and insurance or pay an entrance fee on some days.
I knew I wouldn't see all the benefits during a daytime photoshoot where the A99 would probably be more than enough. The menu system on the A99ii is quite overwhelming, not that much better than the A99's but with more options, so more wondering around. The good news: You can utilize the custom buttons for the things you need. I programmed the one in front of the camera to eye-AF and the back lower one to "Live View Display", a vunery important option to me, to be able to switch between seeing what the camera sees or a brighter higher ISO display that makes it easier to focus manually in dark situations or see the objects when using flashes to light a scene. I did not end up changing that option until my second gig that day.
So the A99 was kind of a slow camera in a lot of situations. You could do a burst but it was both very loud and slow to clear to the card. Even though the files are larger, they seem to clear faster to the card. That is a double edged sword as you might end up with more photos than you would actually want, having to go through them, store them and more.
Other than that it didn't feel like a new camera. I did have to decide how to light the couple expecting the baby, and I tried a few things. In a few shots I let the sun light their faces.

 As you can see the photo works as the sun is filtered a little bit by the tress, but the pregnant woman is squinting.
Other shots, the scene was back lit by the sun and ambient light lit their face.

I also used a reflector in some shots, especially when it was just the woman.
 As you can see she also squints in that one, even though I did try the trick of having eyes closed, counting down and then opening the eyes.
For the final couple shot I put them in the shade and used my Yungnuo YN560IV flash hooked to the Godox external PB8205 battery to light their faces. The flash had a softener and Chinese lantern on it to make the light as soft as possible while still using full capacity.
You can see that even though the light was softened since flash is pretty close compared to the sun, there is some easily fixable shadows on his face and on her chest.. That said, her eyes in this photo are wide open or at least as much as is possible when standing in bright day light.
I guess instead of geeking out my new expensive camera, I geeked out on lighting, always the better choice. That said, in future events, the A99ii will let me use existing lighting to light a scene, perhaps with just a little help from LEDs or flashes.
The night job I had that day was working a photo booth at a prom. Not a very exciting job, but it's good to get into the high school market any way you can. For the first time I was supposed to use the HDMI to show the photos to the kids whose photos i was taking, on a large screen. Unfortunately, the A99ii as well as other Sony still camera use a totally different HDMI connector than other pro cameras . So I ended up not using the screen and showing the photos on my LCD screen the old way. Zooming through the photos is much easier and more responsive on the A99ii, so that's a real plus in these types of situations. Ordered a cheap converter on e-bay for future use.
 The other photographer manning a similar photo booth with a Nikon pro camera was using OVF for taking all the photos reminding me how different the Sony brand is. I looked at the at my LCD and so had better more direct contact with my subjects.
Coming up, an evening party at a school, using probably low light photography with available light and an afternoon Independence day party, so tune in for more blog posts.