Category Archives: Sony NEX-7

Cameras For Sale

The decision has been made and I’m going to sell off my Fuji X100 and Sony NEX-7 to buy the Fuji X-Pro1.

Why sell the Sony NEX-7?  The first reason is that I’m frustrated waiting for good lenses.  The second is that while it’s overall an excellent camera, I’ve found shooting with the X100 to be more enjoyable than with the NEX-7.  I really don’t need two small cameras and I prefer the Fuji though I feel limited by the single lens.

Why sell the Fuji X100?  A tougher call.  It comes down to the various reviews I’ve read of the X-Pro1, in particular how this sensor represents a big leap forward from the X100’s.  The downside is that at the moment there are only 3 lenses for this camera – but several more planned in the next three years.  I think that Fuji is going to stand behind this format and continue to develop it and I see it as a platform that will take me forward for years much as the Nikon platform does when it comes to full-sized DSLRs.

You can check my ads over on DC Fever – this for the Sony (with 3 lenses) and this for the Fuji. I’ve gotten inquiries and received offers on both but nothing is finalized yet so if you have any interest at all, please take a look.  (By the way, these are only for sale in Hong Kong, I will not ship them.)

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Ch-ch-changes (and a question)

Yes, I know, it’s been two weeks, almost insanely long since I last posted anything here.  Without going into gobs of detail, I’m now unemployed (and quite okay with that).  It’s going to leave me some time to chill out, relax, finally learn Photoshop and do some photo-walks (if the weather ever improves!).   I have a couple of photo-shoots scheduled in the not too distant future and I’m available for more, in case anyone should be interested.

Before I left work, one of my co-workers got the Fuji X-Pro1 and I got to play with it briefly.  I’ve seen some of the shots he took with it – the detail and color are wonderful.  I figure if I sell off my Fuji X100 and my Sony NEX-7 (with 3 lenses), that would give me the money for the X-Pro1 and at least one, maybe two of the lenses for it.  But I’m still on the fence.  I think the X-Pro1 represents a definite advance over the X100.  I’m not so sure versus the NEX-7.  As much as I enjoy shooting with both of those cameras, I would say that shooting with the X100 is more pleasurable; I like the controls on that camera better and I think that would more than carry over to the X-Pro1.  I’m also impressed with Fuji’s new “Q menu” feature.  Well, still considering.

My question concerns Apple’s newly updated MacBook Pro and Air.  My MacBook Air is two generations back and I know that the step up from a Core Duo to a Core i7 would be significant.  But then the question becomes – 13 inch MacBook Air or 13 inch MacBook Pro?  The Air has the advantage of weight.  The Pro would get me an i7 2.9 GHz processor as opposed to the Air’s 2.0 GHz one.

So – is the MacBook Air with a i7 2.0 GHz enough to run Photoshop?  Or am I better off with the 2.9?  Does Apple’s advertised “Turbo Boost” mean anything at all or is that just a marketing gimmick?  Comments and thoughts much appreciated – and bear in mind that I’ll frequently be using it with the Nikon D800’s 70 megabyte RAW files.

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Leica Monochrom & Fuji X-Pro1 & How Insane I Am

While my shopping addiction and camera insanity knows few limits, I have somewhat accepted the fact that the Leica M-9 (and its future successors) will be forever beyond my budget, short of winning the lottery or having some rich relative I never heard of die and leave me all their money.  Nevertheless, the announcement earlier this month of new Leica cameras of course caught my attention, in particular the new black and white only Leica Monochrom.

The Monochrom is essentially a special version of the M-9.  Presumably because it’s being produced in smaller numbers than the M-9, it also costs $1,000 more.  That’s right, the body alone costs $8,000.  There but for the grace of Buddha go I.  Yes, I don’t do a lot of street photography.  I want to do more.  And I love black & white photography, just as I love black and white films (especially when properly transferred to Blu-Ray by companies such as Criterion).  But none of this justifies selling my car in order to be able to afford this camera plus a Leica lens.

Because it’s black and white only, it means it doesn’t need a filter array to collect color information when shooting.  Without that array, what you’re left with is apparently outstanding sharpness not to mention unmatched high ISO performance.  Just how good is it?  Hit these links to see some sample photos.

Shoot Tokyo – these are my favorites

Eric Kim – link in this post to a some outstanding photos done by a Magnum photographer in Russia

Eric Kim again

Photography Blog – here and here 

Steve Huff  – here and here

Leica makes some odd choices though, don’t they?  Stunning lenses, stunning sensor – and then they equip their cameras with the cheapest LCD screen possible.  A friend of mine who is blessed with a Leica M-9 says he doesn’t care, he doesn’t use the LCD screen for shooting.  I suppose that might be true but to me, that’s not the point.  The point is, you charge $8,000 for a camera, everything there should be top of the line.  It makes no sense to charge this sort of money and then slap on an LCD screen that’s inferior in just about every possible way to the screen you get on the back of a $200 Casio.

Doesn’t matter.  I cannot afford a Leica camera body and I also cannot afford Leica lenses.  (Not unless more of you readers start clicking on some of the ads and links here and start actually buying stuff!)(Oh, here’s the link to buy the Leica Monochrom from B&H Photo.)

That being said, I do possess a pretty darned good camera for street photography, the Fuji X100.  The only limitation is that it is a single, fixed focal length lens – 23mm (35mm equivalent is, er, 35mm).  And so because of that, I also have the Sony NEX-7, which of course has interchangeable lenses.

What happened last week was I took a weekend trip, only wanted to carry one camera and one lens, and so I took the Sony rather than the Fuji, and I took the Sony 18-55mm lens, which is not a good lens at all on the NEX-7 but is the only zoom lens I have for this camera.  I didn’t have too much opportunity for shooting during the weekend but I did manage a couple of nice shots here and there.

(Taken at the Greenbelt Mall in Makati, Manila, they were setting up the outdoor area for an event that night.  These guys, a local band that specializes in Brazilian Batucada music, were posing for pictures taken by a friend and I ran over, waved, and got a few shots of them.  They asked me if I wanted to be their manager.)

Actually, looking at the above picture in Lightroom, I’m pretty unhappy with it.  It’s not tack sharp anywhere (cheap Sony lens) and there’s a surprising amount of noise consider it was shot at ISO 200.

It got me thinking, might I be better off with the Fuji X-Pro1?  I mean, if I sold off the X100 and the NEX-7 (and the three lenses I have for it), that would almost give me enough money to buy the X-Pro1 and the three lenses that are available for it so far.  I know that the X-Pro1 has not received universally good reviews – mostly on its handling quirks and not its performance, and since I find the X100 a joy to use, I suspect I’d have a similar experience here.

(Hey! You!  You can click here to buy the Fuji X-Pro1 from B&H Photo. Or you can click here to buy it from Amazon.)

There is no zoom lens available for this Fuji yet, just three fixed focal length lenses – 18mm, 35mm and a 60mm macro.

What there is though is a new adapter from Fuji to put Leica lenses on the X-Pro1.  This adapter includes electronic contacts for passing info about the lens back to the camera.  Pretty sweet and at $200, not too expensive.  Which brings me back to the “I cannot afford Leica lenses” bit.  And also the fact that, so far at least, Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop cannot handle X-Pro1 RAW files, though I expect that will change in the relatively near future.

So relative sanity prevails, at least for now.

Here’s a shot of those batucada guys rehearsing.

They actually sounded pretty good.  Maybe I should have taken them up on their offer to manage them.

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Nikon D800 Tips

Not really much to show at the moment.  Sunday it was raining all day and that night we went to the movies (The Avengers) so not much chance to shoot.

A shot taken outside the mall while grabbing a smoke, a momentary break in the clouds.

Here’s a shot taken through the shopping mall window of something new being built.

Shooting through a distant window may (or may not) be why the image isn’t tack sharp.

The Megabox mall in Hong Kong features one of the city’s few ice skating rinks.  If you’re on the same floor as the rink, you’re observing it through a dirty plastic protective barrier.  If you’re on a floor above, then there’s this huge net that gets in the way.

Just for the heck of it, a few crops from the above picture.

I’m reading everything I can get my hands on about the D800.  It’s interesting to see other peoples’ perspectives (almost universally positive, of course) as well as pick up some hints and tips.

I’d previously linked to this review on the Luminous Landscape site.  There’s a few things worth repeating from that review:

… do spend some time with the manual to familiarize yourself with what the camera can and can’t do. This is probably the most feature-rich camera that I’ve ever used.

– Use the optimum aperture. Apertures above about f/11 introduce diffraction which effectively acts as an unintentional AA filter

– When shooting hand-held use lenses with VR when possible, and also a high shutter speed… 2X or 3 X the reciprocal of the focal length, not the 1/focal length of olden days

– Use the lowest possible ISO, though as we’ll see the camera is very clean up to and including ISO 1600

He’s also got a bit about performing lens alignment that makes sense and I think I might invest in the Datacolor DC SLC100 SpyderLensCal Calibration System (get it from Amazon or from B&H Photo) or the LensAlign MkII Focus Calibration System (get it from Amazon or from B&H Photo).  They’re not that expensive and it looks as if they’ll be helpful.

There’s another new post on Luminous Landscape called An Embarrassment of Riches. Mark Dubovoy’s starting point is that there are some amazing cameras out there in the market now and I agree.  Along with the Nikon D800 I have the Sony NEX-7 and the Fuji X100 and these are easily the three best cameras I have ever owned.  (Do check Dubovoy’s post to see some amazing shots taken with the NEX-7 in Machu Picchu.)

Dubovoy starts by saying that he never liked the film SLR format, that he always thought of it as a low resolution, cheaper approach than medium format cameras.  So why does he like the D800?

For me the Nikon D800/D800E is a game changer.  Why?  Because it is the first 35 mm size camera that exceeds my threshold of image quality for exhibition prints. I have shot hundreds of tests, and in test after test the image quality is surprisingly good. The D800 delivers not just high resolution, but also outstanding dynamic range, extremely low noise and world class color accuracy and sensitivity. I would not hesitate to make 40 or even 50 inch wide exhibition prints from D800 files. Believe me, to go from a large format film view camera to a D800/800E for exhibition prints in a little over a decade is a bit shocking, but such is the incredible pace of innovation in our medium.

I believe that this camera represents the first product of a new era in digital photography.

He also repeats some of the advice from Reichmann’s review:

Shooting at the reciprocal of the focal length of the lens is not good enough-even with a VRII lens.  I would recommend multiplying the focal length of the lens times 3X and using the reciprocal of this number as the minimum shutter speed for maximum handheld quality.

And he’s noticed the same thing that I have about the auto-focus.

The autofocus in the camera is excellent (also the best I have used to date) but it is still not as good as manual focusing using Live View.  I would recommend using manual focus at high magnification in Live View mode whenever circumstances permit.

And he concludes:

The Nikon D800/D800E is an instrument that commands respect and needs to be used with utter care and flawless technique in order to extract all it has to offer.  Those that use the camera in this manner, will be rewarded with superb image quality;  image quality that was heretofore unthinkable from such a small camera.

In financing my D800 purchase, I have to sell off my D700.  (Please ping me if interested.)  This is not an easy thing for me to do.  The camera is fabulous and I had two years of taking (what I think are) great shots with it.  I’d prefer to hold onto it but financially it’s just not feasible.  Nevertheless, I had a difficult time hitting the “publish” button when I posted an ad over on DCFever.

I also momentarily contemplated selling off my Fuji X100.  I don’t absolutely need it.  I could get by with just the NEX-7 as a daily walking around camera.  But the X100 is a very different beast from the NEX-7 and I decided that I can’t part with it just now.

 

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Sony NEX-7 with Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN Lens (Updated)

Okay, be patient with me, I’ve never done this before and no idea if I even did it right.  Comments will be much appreciated.

Today I finally found the E mount Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN lens.  I’ve read some good stuff about this lens and it’s so cheap that I figured it’s worth a try.  I thought I’d run some tests on it and share those with you.

First, the set-up:

As I work during the day, it’s impossible for me to do this using natural light (unless I wait for the weekend).  I didn’t want to use the on-camera flash and I don’t have professional lighting equipment so I used an identical pair of lamps to cast some light on my subject – in this case a portion of my CD collection.  I chose “center” for the auto-focus.

I used a tripod but since I don’t have the Sony Remote Commander (buy it from Amazon or B&H Photo, something I should do myself one of these days) I simply set the timer on the camera to its minimum (2 seconds).  After shooting several shots, I remembered to remove the protective UV filter on the front of the lens and start over.  I decided not to shoot at every possible F stop but to pick the “most popular”.

The shots below were processed in Lightroom 4 using just two steps – correcting the white balance (by using the grey on the No Doubt CD cover) and adjusting the tone via Auto.  I did not touch the sliders for sharpening, noise reduction or anything else for that matter.  The photos were exported from Lightroom with setting of 1024 X 1024 and 100 pixels per inch.  (I mention all this because if someone wants to suggest some way to do things better I’m open to suggestions.)

And now, the test photos, starting with the full images:

So what are you seeing in the above photos?  My eyes frankly are old and it’s kind of late.  I’m seeing a bit of a drop in sharpness at f16 and f22 but across the board they all seem pretty close to me.

Now, let’s take a crop from the center, where sharpness would still be expected across the entire range.

What do you see?  Me, again, I’m seeing a bit of a drop-off around F16 and F22 but all of the other shots are darned close.

Finally, the difficult stuff, a crop from the lower right-hand corner.

Hmmm …. look at the Beth Orton CD on the right.  To my eyes, F5.6 is pretty sharp there, F8 is okay-ish, and then it starts to drop off till it’s seriously fuzzy at F22.

But all in all, for a lens that costs around US$200, I’d say the overall results are quite impressive.

What do you think about this test and its results?  What would you have done differently to test the lens?  Please let me know in comments.

You can buy the Sigma 30mm F2.8 EX DN E mount for the Sony NEX cameras at Amazon or B&H Photo.  (Clicking these links will show your support for my blog and allow me to keep on keepin’ on.  Thanks!)

 

UPDATE:

One thing I didn’t mention in the above review is that Sony also has their own 30mm lens for E mount cameras.  It’s the Sony 30mm F3.5 macro SEL30F35.  Sigma’s lens doesn’t have macro capabilities but I’m not sure I’d want a macro lens at this focal length anyway.  So I opted for the minor difference of F2.8 vs. F3.5.   Photozone has an in-depth review of the Sony lens on an NEX-7 here and the review is pretty negative, rating it just 1-1/2 stars out of 5 on image quality.  “The Sony E 30mm f/3.5 macro lens delivered a rather disappointing performance on the Sony NEX 7. The center image quality is absolutely great but the border- and especially corner-quality is sub-standard. ”  To date they have not reviewed the Sigma 30mm lens.

My buddy Photohead posted a link to my review and some commentary basically wondering why one would need this 30mm lens if one already has the 18-55mm, which I do indeed have.  In response to that, I’d go back to Photozone’s review of the 18-55mm on an NEX-7, which I’ve linked to before.  Their review of this lens is extremely negative, stating in part, “However, its capabilities are clearly overstrained on Sony’s 24 megapixel sensor. In so far it is very surprising that Sony is also offering it bundled with the NEX 7. The quality is rather miserable at 18mm …”

So I think I will get better results overall from this 30mm lens than from the 18-55mm zoom.  Also, after a few days of walking around with the Sony 50mm lens, I realize that its 75mm equivalent focal length is just too tele for a walk-around lens.  This one, I guess it’s a 45mm equivalent length, should suit me better.  More walk-around photos to come, if it ever stops raining.

Personally I think the only realistic alternative right now to the Sigma 30mm would be the Zeiss 24mm, which every review has said is fantastic.  That lens costs 4 times more than the Sigma and is just out of my price range for this sort of thing!

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