Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

Just want to take time and thank all of my U.S. friends, and wish them a happy Thanksgiving. I'll always have fond memories of my time in LA and all of the friends I made over the years.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sony A6000 Autofocus Guide

The Sony A6000 is an upper-level enthusiast's camera wrapped in a mid-level consumer body. There is a lot of extended capability to tap in to, but the potential is somewhat hampered by a user interface that doesn't always separate the casual aspects of the camera from the more advanced enthusiast-oriented functions. This is quite apparent in the way that the camera's autofocus system operates; it's extremely capable but the menu system does not give you an indication as to which methods are best with which situations. In cooking terms, the A6000 user design has many ingredients but is lacking in recipes on how to put them together. It also does not help that the owner's manual is a bit on the short side for a camera with such a deep menu system. Even with minimal user experience the camera is very capable, but a little bit of understanding will go a long way towards getting the most out of its sophisticated autofocus system.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sony a7 II (ILCE-7M2) First Impressions

Sony's A7 will be updated on December 5th 2014 with an upgraded second version, available in Japan only. The new camera will ship globally in early 2015. The second version of the camera improves on the first generation with:

  • 5-Axis sensor-shift image stabilization
  • Improved autofocus speed and tracking
  • XAVC S video codec, 50Mbps
  • S-Log2 picture setting  à la Sony A7s
  • Redesigned front grip
  • Front command dial relocated,  à la Nikon

It's also important to also note what hasn't changed:

  • 117-point phase-detection and 25 contrast detection AF points: This is the same as the A7. By comparison, the Sony 6000 uses 179 phase detection points.
  • Same NP-FW50 battery. For reference, the A7 is rated at 340 shots under the CIPA testing standard
  • Rear control cluster is still the same. More about this later 

Quite frankly, the inclusion of in-camera image stabilization is enough to get many people excited., given how well the system on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 works. Sony will probably be coy, but its very likely that the a7 II's image stabilization system is descended from Olympus technology, given that Sony acquired part ownership of Olympus after the accounting scandal of 2011.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM Review

The Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM  is the professional-level upgrade to the EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro. The build quality is better and it includes image stabilization. (... and being a red ring lens, it actually includes a lens hood, wonder of wonders....) Ostensibly, Canon does not put much thought into the aesthetics of their middle-tier lenses, but the 100mmL looks the part for being a professional-quality lens.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sony A7s High ISO Still Image Quality Review

"Better pixels, not more pixels" has been something of a counter-culture camera refrain in the camera community in the post-Nikon D800 era. For the most part, the manufacturers haven't truly given this to users. Fujifilm has held the line at 16mp for their APS-C cameras, and Nikon only marginally bumped the 12 megapixel count of the D3s to the 16mp D4/Df generation, but nobody has offered less pixels... until the Sony A7s, that is. 

Before we continue any further, it should bear repeating that the A7s' strength is primarily as a video camera. The ability to 4K at extremely low light levels sets it apart from all other videography tools, including the well received Panasonic GH4. This is what business types affectionately call "the unique selling proposition"... it's the only one of its kind, and it's good at what it does. (However, the inability of the A7s to record 4K internally is a hassle for some.) As a stills camera, the A7s is not so much unique as it is superlative. There are other low-light cameras for stills photography; the A7s just so happens to be the best. Or is it...?