Category Archives: Gear

Sony RX100 Mark III

I finally got the Sony RX100 Mark III. The improvements over my old Sony RX100 Mark I (much faster lens, EVF, tilt screen and lots of other small things) were too many and I felt offered good reasons for an upgrade. It was just a matter of when I was going to pick it up, I suppose.

I realized that as capable a camera as the Sony RX10 is, it’s just too big and heavy to be an every day walking around camera. Looking back through my photos, I saw that while I had shot a lot with the RX10 when I first got it (it was the camera I brought with me to Paris for my honeymoon), I hadn’t really touched it in several months. So as much as I liked it, selling it off made sense.

I’m just “getting to know” my new RX100 and I am liking it every bit as much as I hoped I would. The only annoying bits I’ve found (so far) are Sony’s menus (as always) and the weird fact that when you pop the EVF back into the camera body, the camera shuts itself off.

Anyway, a small series of photos – not great photos but I think they show what this camera can be capable of.

They’re tearing down a house in my village. The house is less than a year old and was never occupied. I think that it was built without a government permit, the government found out and ordered it to be torn down – at least that’s my best guess. I came out of my house one morning and saw that the demolition had begun.

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I came home around 8 PM and took a few more shots.

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That shot above is at ISO 4000. If you zoom in on it, it’s a bit noisy, but still quite acceptable.

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The shot above, believe it or not, is at ISO 8000. Very noisy now, the fine detail is all but gone, but yet as a simple image documenting something on the street, it’s still quite good enough. At least I think so.

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This final shot is taken using the camera’s built-in pop-up flash. That little flash is insanely powerful.

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Every day, a little bit more of the house is gone. I just hope that when they finish tearing it down, they cart off the debris and don’t just leave it lying there in the lot. Given that this is Hong Kong, it’s a distinct possibility.

Meanwhile, I’m quite pleased with the Sony RX100 Mark III. Now I just gotta get out there and find some good stuff to shoot with it!

 

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Think Tank Photo My 2nd Brain Briefcase

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I’m a huge fan of the bags from Think Tank Photo. I’ve got six of them! Now they’ve got a new line of bags called My 2nd Brain that are not camera bags – they’re sized for laptops and tablets and the other bits and bobs one carries around during a typical working day. The My 2nd Brain line has been expanded to include a briefcase, available in 3 sizes and 3 colors. Head on over to Hongkie Town to see my review of the Think Tank Photo My 2nd Brain Briefcase 13. Spoiler alert – if you love Think Tank’s photo bags, I think you’ll love this briefcase too.

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Some Photo News – Sony and Amazon

I don’t do photography news type items here very often. While doing so would give me a higher ranking in search engines and bring more people to the site. but I found that when I was doing it, people would come and look at that one particular item and then leave without looking at anything else. I’m not criticizing them for this – I do the same thing. But the primary purpose of the site is to display my own photos so I’m not going to spend a lot of time and effort on posts that don’t serve that purpose.

That being said, now I’ll contradict myself and post two bits of photography news that I think are worth sharing.

The first bit is Sony’s upcoming RX100 III.

I’m a fan of what Sony is doing with cameras these days. They are one of the few companies that seems to be attempting some degree of innovation in the field. When I bought the Sony RX10, primarily to use as a travel camera, I thought I’d sell off my Sony RX100 (Mark 1, I guess). But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. The camera, for its size, is just so good and so I kept it.  I mean, full manual controls when I wanted them, shoots RAW and fits in my jeans pockets? Just too useful to part with.

The Sony RX100 II came out and I didn’t see enough there to warrant an “upgrade.” A newer sensor, a tilt screen LCD and a hot shoe just didn’t seal the deal for me.

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Now Sony has announced the “mark 3″ for the RX100 and I’m pretty definitely planning on buying it. While it features the same 20.1 megapixel 1 inch sensor as the “mark 2″ (which is the same sensor that’s in the RX10), there are a number of other notable changes that I think will make it worth spending the money.

The original RX100 has a Zeiss lens that is a 28-100mm equivalent zoom, with maximum aperture starting at F1.8 at the wide end but rapidly shrinking to F4.9 at the tele end.

The new RX100 III has a zoom lens that is only equivalent to 24-70mm. But, and here’s the big thing, it now starts out at F1.8 but at the tele end it’s now F2.8. That’s a huge positive difference for me right there. I can live with less on the tele end if it means I’m getting F2.8 instead of F4.9.

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Also notable for me is the addition of a pop-up electronic viewfinder. That will be a big help for me.

The Mark III keeps the tilt screen that was added to the Mark II but loses the Mark II’s hot shoe, not a biggie for me.

This comes out in June at a list price of US$800 (same as the Mark II but $150 more than the Mark I) and I’ll start eating cheaper lunches now.

The second item concerns Amazon. Last week they somehow managed to game the U.S. Patent Office. They patented the idea of placing an object on a table in front of a white cyclorama, placing a light in front of it, and taking a photo of that object. Unless I’ve seriously misunderstood this, what they’ve basically done is to take something every commercial photographer has done for the past 100 years and said, “No one else has patented it, so why don’t we?”

Anyway, Stephen Colbert does a great job of ripping them a new one over this. Click this link and enjoy!

 

 

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First Impressions on the Sony DSC-RX10

Sony’s new DSC-RX10 may not be as much of a game changer as their new A7 and A7R cameras, but it’s not too shabby, either. (Photos of the camera are grabbed from various spots on the web, other photos are mine)

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When the RX10 was first announced, I didn’t think too much of it. Then a friend of mine bought one and let me play with it and I realized that this camera would suit me on many levels. One week later I succumbed to temptation and bought one.

The Sony DSC-RX10 features a Zeiss 24-200mm equivalent zoom lens that is F2.8 across its entire range, coupled with the same 1 inch sensor to be found in Sony’s RX100 Mark II pocket camera. My initial thought might have been, “Why put such great glass with such a small sensor?” Thinking about it more, the answer became obvious – a larger sensor would have meant larger and heavier glass to achieve the same aperture, and would have made this too large and heavy. It also would have increased the cost significantly.  At US$1,300 list price, it’s certainly not cheap. But with a 24-200mm F2.8 zoom lens, I think the price is relatively reasonable.

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Anyway, what I’m finding so far is that there is a lot to like about this camera.

  • Of course, the lens – I don’t have the most critical eye and won’t run this through batteries of scientific tests – basically I’m finding it sharp across the entire range, perhaps not as sharp as my Nikon 24-70 or 70-200 lenses, but each of those lenses costs more than this entire camera. And a lens hood is included.
  • The EVF (electronic viewfinder) is so good that I forgot it was an EVF and thought it was an optical viewfinder. And thank goodness there’s a diopter.
  • A PASM dial, an aperture ring on the lens and an exposure compensation dial gives me all the controls I want at my fingertips, and without digging through levels of menus. (The outer ring on the lens is for zooming, but if you switch to manual focus that becomes the focus ring, and you zoom via a lever in front of the shutter button).
  • Focus peaking
  • That LCD panel on the top of the camera (with a little button that lights it up)
  • Tiltable large clear LCD screen on the rear of the camera
  • Weather-sealed!
  • A “deep” grip means it’s comfortable to hold and shoot
  • Focusing may not be the fastest in the world but mostly I’ve found it to be quick enough for me
  • While the camera is certainly not light, the weight is reasonable.
  • My friend says this shoots amazing video – I haven’t tried that yet

My biggest gripe so far? Start-up is a bit on the slow side. Also, one has to charge the battery in the camera via the USB cable (or buy an external charger).

So while many are tagging this as an ideal travel camera, for me it may be an ideal every day camera. What I am looking for is something small and light enough to have in my day bag, but versatile enough that I can go into a club and use it to shoot bands at night. And here’s how that is working out:

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That shot above is the all-girl band currently playing at Hong Kong Cafe (formerly Neptune II) in Wanchai. It’s ISO 3200. And since Lightroom can’t yet deal with the RAW files from this camera, that shot is from the JPG, with a bit of post-processing tossed in.

The other thing for me is that while cameras such as Fuji’s X-Pro1, Sony’s NEX-7 and Olympus’s OM-D E-M1 look might attractive, I don’t want really want a second interchangeable lens system. I don’t want to have to go out and buy a range of lenses when I’ve already invested in a full range of Nikon lenses for my D800. This camera also addresses my major gripes with the RX100 – limited zoom range and a lens with a maximum aperture that drops to F4.9 as soon as you start zooming.

I’ve only had the camera for 4 days so it’s too soon to tell for sure. And of course I didn’t get a loaner or a freebie, I spent my own money on it, so I’m predisposed to liking it. Even so, I think this is going to work out fine. Here’s a few more very random shots from the past couple of days.

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(I admit I wasn’t paying close attention to the settings on this shot. I was in aperture priority mode and shooting from the hip so didn’t realize this was at just 1/40th of a second. BTW, this is also ISO 3200.)

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So this now becomes the camera I will carry on a daily basis. I’ll need to decide if I should sell off my Sony RX100. Given that Mark II is out and mine is Mark I, I don’t think I could get a lot for it and it could still be very useful to have a camera that fits in my jeans pockets. Then again, the camera on my iPhone 5S might be good enough in that regard.

 

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Mixed Feelings About the New Nikon Df

I’m a Nikon shooter and it’s a given that when Nikon announces a new full frame DSLR I’ll be following the news closely. I have to admit that I felt a bit disappointed when I first read the details on Nikon’s new Df camera.

At any rate, for those who haven’t seen the info elsewhere, here’s the details:

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(images all grabbed from here)

Essentially, the Nikon Df is Nikon taking the sensor from the D4 and putting it into a body that resembles their classic F series film SLR cameras. Here are some of the key specs:

  • Solid, magnesium-alloy construction with weather-sealing
  • 16.2 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor (same as the one in Nikon D4)
  • ISO sensitivity range of 100-12,800 (boost down to ISO 50 and up to ISO 204,800)
  • Shutter speed range of 30-1/4000s, flash sync-speed 1/200s
  • 39-point AF system (same as the one in Nikon D610), 9 cross-type sensors, focuses down to f/8
  • 2016-pixel RGB image sensor, full non-AI-S lens metering
  • EXPEED 3 processor
  • Large 3.2″ LCD screen with 921,000 dot resolution
  • Pentaprism optical viewfinder with 100% coverage and approximately 0.7x magnification
  • SD card slot
  • Maximum continuous shooting speed up to 5.5 frames per second
  • Measures in at 143.5 x 110 x 66.5mm
  • Weighs 760g with battery and memory card
  • $2749 body-only, $2999 with the new Special Edition AF-S 50mm f/1.8G lens

(specs from here)

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I think that in the wake of some of the major mirrorless camera announcements recently (I’m thinking especially of Sony’s AR7 and Olympus’s OM-D E-M1) people were expecting that this might also be a mirrorless camera with an electronic viewfinder.  So when the official announcement came out revealing it was a “traditional” DSLR with no EVF and no video capabilities, some people were outraged.

You think “outrage” is too strong a word for a reaction to a press release? Don’t forget how passionate some people get about gear. Like this guy:

Time to get off the fence I think. I absolutely hate it and wouldn’t be seen dead carrying one …

Well, fortunately, there are no Gear Police forcing you to buy and use gear you don’t want.

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I think a lot of people have forgotten about Nikon’s D700. It’s only out of production a couple of years, but when it was first released, people went nuts for it. Why? Because they took the sensor and guts out of the expensive D3 camera and essentially shoved them into a D300 body and sold it for not quite half the price of the D3.

When the D4 came out, everyone thought Nikon would do something to follow up on the D700, but that never happened. The D800 and D600 (and now D610) were clearly not that camera. So one might say that the Df is.  Because it’s got the same sensor as the D4 at not quite half the price in a body that may not be small or light but is definitely smaller and lighter than the D4.

Here’s the other thing for me. The reason I loved shooting with the Fuji X-series cameras was the beauty of the control layout. I like dials. I don’t like digging through menus. It made me feel very connected to the camera and the whole shooting process. The Nikon Df will shoot G series lenses, which have no aperture ring, but every other key function has a dedicated dial (and presumably aperture is adjusted via the unlabelled wheel top right rear).

An EVF, perhaps a hybrid viewfinder such as one finds on some of the Fuji X cameras, would have been exceptionally nice, especially given that Nikon’s LiveView is problematic. Video? Not an issue for me; I think in the year and a half that I’ve owned my d800, I’ve shot under 5 minutes of video.  Not pocket-sized? Not meant to be.

Reports are that initial pre-orders are low. I have no way of knowing how many Df’s Nikon was expecting to sell.  I have no way of knowing if Nikon is expecting this to be a best-seller or a niche product, which is really what it is.

Will I buy one? No. But that’s because US$3,000 for a second camera is totally beyond my budget.  Would I like to own this camera? I think the answer is yes. I think that if they didn’t goof up the insides, then the D4 sensor, smaller body, extensive controls and smaller price should add up to a device capable of creating some great images.

 

 

 

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