Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 G OSS Macro lens review

In the last few weeks I’ve found myself replying to Facebook Sony user group posts where new owners building their systems have asked about the Sony 90mm f/2.8 G OSS Macro FE lens. Over the months before this, I’d seen so many comments saying this was the best ever Sony and perhaps the second best lens ever.

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The Fotodiox Tough E-Mount

Machined from brass and chrome-plated, in the tradition of lens mounts from 50 years ago and not necessarily the best solution for precision or lifetime wear, Fotodiox’s TOUGH E-mount is a replacement body mount bayonet which you can fit to your existing A7R, A7, NEX-7, A6000 or any other metal-mount E-mount body in a few minutes. You need a clean well lit work table, a small engineer’s or large jeweller’s crosshead screwdriver, and a similar flathead screwdriver or old credit card.

The NEX/A bodies are fitted with a three-part lens mount. Here’s what a bonded, single piece, original Alpha lens mount looks like when removed from an old Minolta 7000 –

originalminoltaamount

This mount is stainless steel, which would be prohibitively expensive for a small shop engineering replacement on the E-mount. It’s in two parts, a front surface and the inside with a bonded bayonet spring pressure action, a thin shim with bent ‘arms’ forming three pressure points to hold the lens tight to the mount.

From Fotodiox comes this neat box taking 10 days to the UK from USA –

fotodioxpackage

Since I also ordered a focusing Leica M to E adaptor, my overall value was marked as $80 and I had an £8 admin charge and a little over £7 in VAT to pay.

Inside, the TOUGH E-Mount is boxed and bagged without instructions. For these, you visit the Fotodiox site and watch a video:

http://www.fotodioxpro.com/tough-emount-from-fotodiox-pro-replacement-lens-mount-for-sony-nex-emount-camera.html

Here’s the rear face of the Fotodiox mount, which does not have any second layer of spring metal to grip the lens:

toughemount

However, as we will see, this component (fixed to the mount for the A-mount design) is a separate loose item which sits in the camera body mount recess on the E-mount, and performs exactly the same function. You could probably remove it and bond it to the new mount.

So, why replace the E-mount on a £1200+ camera body like the A7R, which has a magnesium body casting into which the lens mount is anchored by four screws? The reason given by Fotodiox is that an intermediate plastic moulding is used behind a simple unprofiled mount face, so two parts make up the overall thickness. The tensioning ring sits behind the plastic ring, forming a three-part sandwich to make up the mount. The front mount is a relatively soft, crudely CNC lathed alloy.

oneyearemount

Here’s my camera after 10 months of use. This camera has shown signs of light leaks, and has not been sent back for a fix. The mount flange is a completely flat item, relatively thin, and the leaks may be partly down to slight distortion of the front plane face, as shown by uneven wear from lens mounting.

emountwear-closeup

Here’s a detail. You can see the lathe circles on the mount face, and you can see where the metal has abraded and either collected plastic from a plastic lens mount (most likely my MEIKE extension tubes) or paint from a cheap adaptor (my Novoflex and Fotodiox adaptors don’t use paint, they are anodised).

The mount is very simple indeed. It can be removed from all the cameras without disturbing the electronic contacts or the lens release mechanism.

removingmount

Fotodiox video shows the camera on its back and warns about dropped screws etc. I just prefer to unscrew each screw in turn with the camera held vertically on my table, so that if the screw drops it won’t go inside the camera. Care is taken not to allow the spring loaded lens changing pin to disassemble itself, but that’s really very easy.

toughtversusoriginal

One removed, you can compare the Sony ‘washer’ (which is really more or less is!) with the Fotodiox mount – a much thicker unit, stepped to fit the recess on the camera body. A point worth noting is that the original mount has no recesses at all to fit over the four threaded posts on the camera body. Its position is maintained by two pins (at 9 and 3 o’clock) which engage in two holes on the otherwise plain flat rear face of the mount. The Fotodiox mount not only engages with these pins, as it replaces the plastic secondary mount shown below, but also has holes into which the threaded posts fit. It is better proofed against rotation.

plasticnbayonet

You now see the plastic middle part of the sandwich. This is secured by a very thin double-sided tape in places. A flat blade screwdriver or a suitable cut piece of old credit card (or indeed a guitar pick!) pushed gently under the plastic at various point all round will free it. It lifts out easily. Unless you are amazingly clumsy you are not going to go anywhere near the sensor but if you have a clean 40.5mm filter or lens cap around, you can pop it in to cover the sensor safely. I used a 62mm filter to place over the whole mount when checking instructions and looking at the parts, as I don’t want to risk hairs and dust covering the upturned unit.

plasticremoved

Underneath the plastic component you’ll find the third part of the mount, the thin flexible stainless steel tensioning ring which acts to pull the lens tight against the front face of the mount. You may note that if your lenses ever begin to seem slack, it would be easy to re-tension this ring by a gentle bend to the three arms. The four screw holes are in metal posts mounted directly into the magnesium body. The plastic ring can be argued to have no effect on precision, as the original mount rests on these posts, leaving the plastic and the stainless tension ring more as a ‘lubricated’ assembly with a little ‘give’, affecting only the tightness of the lens to the body. The plastic has no sacrificial role, as it does in many lenses (Sigma, Tamron, Nikon, and Canon all use plastic to create weak points where the lens will break on hard impact rather than having it shear the body mount off the camera – not sure about Sony).

fittingnewmount

The final step is to place the new mount, aligned with its white dot and cut-outs and screw holes, in the only position it will fit. Please note that the TOUGH wording goes inside and is not shown on the camera front! Again, I don’t place the camera on its back, and prefer the control given by holding both the camera and the screwdriver (which if properly chosen will support the screw). No pressure is needed to locate the screws for a few turns. I rotated the camera so that the screw hole being worked on was always below the sensor. Finally, when tightening up each screw in turn to a firm fit, the camera was laid on its back and my 62mm filter was placed to cover the mount opening, held firmly. You can also just place a finger against the screwdriver on the ‘inside’ while tightening up, so that if for any reason it slips, you block it from entering camera.

mountfitted

Once fitted, there’s little more to say. It looks a touch classier than the cheaply machined soft metal Sony original, it is a snug and perfect fit, and lens mounting has a slightly more solid feel without resistance or any scraping sensation. Fotodiox may be taking the mickey by suggeting you give the old mount to the cat to play with, of course you should keep it carefully. While doing this I discovered that the original old Minolta SR bayonet shares the screwhole locations and almost perfectly matches the overall size of the E-mount. I could actually take a Minolta SR bayonet off the front of some old extension tubes and fit an E-mount in place. This would serve no purpose but it’s a fascinating hint at the pedigree of the new system – it has a three-flange bayonet so similar to the SR mount, introduced 52 years after Minolta’s SLR debut!

Everything worked perfectly as expected once fitted (see notes below). Cost – $39.95 plus shipping. I consider it a good upgrade.

Notes on infinity focus, fit, and light leak issues

While Sony native E mount lenses seem fine, some of my third party adaptors are not fitting well, and very short focal length lenses show that the infinity focus may be affected. If you use lenses 12mm to 20mm on adaptors, proceed with caution. I am not able to get the Kipon tilt shift adaptor to mount without a forceful twist, though a similar age Kipon shift-only adaptor is happy enough (just no longer able to hit infinity with my chosen 20mm lens).

Infinity collimation after tests and measurements – I’ve now checked infinity focus using stars. I’m just OK on all but one lens and adaptor combination, and all Sony E or FE lenses are fine, as they have loads of spare adjustment (no hard infinity stop – they will all focus way beyond infinity and can handle big differences in camera assembly accuracy). Same with LA-EA3 and LA-EA4 adaptors and Min/Sony A lenses, the worst case lenses hit infinity at exactly infinity, most focus just past.

Kipon Nikon Tilt-Shift – extremely tight fit, so tight it has to pulled off the camera physically. Here I’m thinking that some very gently polishing or ultra fine emery (the sort I use for polishing guitar frets) might ease the adaptor.

Novoflex Leica M adaptor – will not bayonet-lock with the new mount, can’t work out if the flanges are obstructing the full turn or the locking pin hole is slightly off position. Fotodiox helical M adaptor locks perfectly. All other adaptors fit and lock comfortably.

Checked my Kipon shift adaptor for Canon and it’s 21.34mm from rear to front flange, and the lens won’t focus on infinity. My plain cheap Canon FD adaptor is 21.16mm and the lens will hit infinity perfectly. On the original mount, the shift adaptor was just OK to infinity – not for stars, but for landscape. So maybe 0.1mm actual difference in front face register to sensor on the Fotodiox Tough mount, compared to the Sony original.

Light leak issue – a day later I had bright full sunshine and was able to position the camera with the mount getting direct sun, and give exposures of 30 seconds to 1 minute with the lens completely stopped down and blocked off, and the ISO set to 1600. The results proved that it’s not the camera mount assembly which has most effect –

40mmon2875mm

The pure black exposure above is from the 28-70mm kit zoom set to 40mm, at f/25, with the lens cap on.

40mmonLeicaadaptor

This result is from a Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 mounted using a Novoflex Leica M adaptor, at f/22, with the lens cap on. Simply swapping the Voigtlander adaptor for a Fotodiox helical focusing Leica M adaptor, which has a far wider flange and double the ‘bearing surface’ on the mount and it also a much firmer overall fit, produced the same solid black as the 28-70mm. The 10-18mm also produced a solid black though it was clear that the lens cap lets in a bit of light at the spring clip positions.

To double check, I fitted a disc of Rosco Black Cinéfoil (totally lightproof heavy metal foil you can cut with scissors) into another mount so it sat behind the back of a 50mm lens. This was a Ukrainian shift mount and Zenitar lens. This mount also has a large, black anodised rear surface. No light was admitted. I found that most of my third party adaptors let in light, usually the small angled line/crescent top right, and so did the Sony LA-EA3 and 4. The Novoflex has me surprised and baffled as it let light in over a wider pattern, and it seems to be the best engineered adaptor I have, but the well for the bayonet locking pin is shallow and perhaps too precise as the pin does now not engage (you can feel it just begin to hit the lock position).

(don’t read beyond this point if you don’t like seeing measurements…)

This adaptor works perfectly on other NEX/E bodies and worked perfectly before changing the mount. Relaxing and re-tightening the mount fitting screws, to be doubly sure of correct seating, did not solve the problem. The pin recess in the Novoflex adaptor is 2.30mm wide, and in all the other adaptors measured and also on Sony lenses, from 2.36mm to 2.5mm. The slight wiggle present on Sony lenses when fitted seems to be down to approx 0.07mm tolerance allowed for the locking pin to engage, as this is the part of the mount which limits or fixed the position of the mounted lens. Lenses and adaptors tested, when mounted with the locking pin depressed, can move around 0.5 to 1mm beyond the optimal mounting position.

It looks as if the locking pin mechanism is one area identified as a source of light leaks, and that if the pin is not allowed to engage fully (recess too shallow or not accepting the pin) more light will be admitted. All my manual adaptors varied in the depth and exact design of the locking pin well – 1.1mm deep on Kipon, 0.69mm deep on Fotodiox, 1.23mm on Novoflex, 1.1mm on Sony G 10-18mm, 1.18mm on Sony 16-50mm PZ. The 28-70mm which had perfect light sealing also has an unusual locking pin hole, almost perfectly circular not an elongated oval like all the other lenses. This was 1.2mm deep and with a 2.5mm radius. It is obviously perfectly placed and very precise despite this being a non-G, non-CZ, cheap Sony kit lens.

Anyway, 10 seconds with a Dremel and the Novoflex adaptor is now a perfect locking fit ready for another test if the sun comes out again this year.

Sony did say, back in 2010, they would make the E-mount specifications public for all to use. If anyone has information on what tolerances were specified, please let us know!

Update 30/10/14: using a high intensity single LED torch, the Novoflex adaptor problem was eventually narrowed down to light leaking through the mount between high-grade Leica mounts (Cosina Voigtlander, and Carl Zeiss) and the adaptor. Tightening the flange pressure did not cure the fault. No leak is present when using a low-cost Chinese M adaptor on a screw thread lens, which is a firmer fit. The Nokton and Tele-Tessar lenses also show no leak with the Fotodiox adaptor. It’s just an issue with these mounts – probably from the same source, as Cosina assembles CZ Leica mount lenses – and the Novoflex.

Absolutely no light leak can be identified on the A7R body with the new mount fitted. All leaks turn out to have been down to third party adaptors. The LA-EA3 and LA-EA4 give no light leaks, same for all E/FE mount Sony lenses. The Kipon Tilt-Shift (Nikon, $200+) has so many light leaks I can’t map them – every stage of the unit from the lens mount to the body mount, and all the moving parts, admit light; unit dangerously tight on Tought-E mount. Kipon Shift adaptor (Canon FD) admits light freely, especially when shifted. Canon FD plain adaptor, low cost – leaks at body mount. Cheap Minolta MD adaptor – no leaks. Cheap Nikon adaptor – OK at the body mount, lens release catch admits light freely (repaired using black putty compound but ineffective, still leaks light). Cheap tilt MD to Nex adaptor – one strong light leak in mount between some lenses (chrome flanges) and the adaptor, but otherwise light-tight to the body and in its tilt mechanism. Low-cost L39 to NEX adaptor – no problems at all. Ukraine/Kiev/Zenitar 50mm tilt combo – perfect, no leaks in any position. Samyang 12mm f/2 – small local leak at mount (top right crescent issue). 28-70mm FE – absolutely light-tight, no issues. 10-18mm Sony G – ditto, no light leak at all. 16-50mm Sony PZ – no light leak. Tamron 18-200mm – top right crescent issue. Fotodiox Leica M helical, with any lens, no problems. Focus brand Canon EF to FE mount AF adaptor – no leaks. Original 1st gen Kipon 42mm tilt device – no leaks at all.

– David Kilpatrick

Alpha 77/65 Firmware Update to 1.03

After a little over a week of using the the Alpha 77 in firmware version 1.02 (as delivered in UK in late September), our Alpha 77 body locked up during a concert gig shoot when using the SAM 28-75mm lens which had been fitted for the first time that day. It is not possible to say whether the lock-up was caused by the lens, but after resetting the camera using the recommended button press and switch off/on procedure, no settings were lost and it returned to normal operation.

The reset procedure has now been officially published by Sony, at the end of the instructions for installing Firmware Version 1.03. At the time of writing this upgrade only appears to be found on Sony Asia websites. It is an international upgrade and not specific to the region. Here is the reset or recovery procedure to use if your A77/65 locks up and its screen menus disappear. Typical symptoms include loss of the lens aperture display (A77 top screen, blank dashes appear as if a lens is not fitted), the ability to view some menus but not change parameters, input from most buttons not working, and a visible faint light appearing in the EVF after the camera is turned off (unless the battery is removed entirely).

We recommend, before doing this procedure, that you turn the camera off and remove the battery for a few seconds.

  1. Turn ON the camera.
  2. Press MENU, Play, MOVIE buttons simultaneously.
  3. While Pressing these buttons, turn OFF the camera.
  4. Release your fingers, and wait over 30 seconds.
  5. Press MENU, Play, MOVIE buttons simultaneously again.
  6. While Pressing these buttons, now turn ON the camera.
  7. Release your fingers.

Please try again to perform updating procedure after camera is rebooted.

The download process is not a load-to-card firmware, it is an update performed by either a Mac or PC with the camera connected by USB cable. It is necessary to have the camera either AC adaptor powered or with a fully charged battery, and the computer should ideally be running a clean state without other processes (i.e., not rendering, downloading, exporting, playing Flash or other media, performing backups). Sony recommends closing all programs but for many users this will not be a practical option. As long as all I/O and processor intensive tasks are shut down you should be able to keep essential programs, such as Sony’s web page on your browser, running. If in doubt follow Sony instructions and close all programs, do a restart, then run the firmware updater. We had so many programs running on the Mac it proved necessary to do a clean restart before running the updater.

Please note that the downloaded updater program is over 68MB and the updating process for the camera takes over 5 minutes.

The Alpha 77 firmware updater page for Mac OS is:

Europe/UK link – just change the camera name box for A65, this link gives access to all upgrades associated with each model:

http://support.sony-europe.com/dime/crl/slt/slt.aspx?site=odw_en_GB&m=SLT-A77

Asia link (works with all regions):

http://www.sony-asia.com/support/download/474605

For Windows PC:

http://www.sony-asia.com/support/download/474591

The A65 update is here:

Mac OS:

http://www.sony-asia.com/support/download/474599

Windows PC:

http://www.sony-asia.com/support/download/474564

 

Alpha 550: sky noise, exposure and Auto ISO

My review of the Alpha 550 has caused controversy because of the blue sky noise. I might as well say that over the last week, I’ve used the 550 in a wide range of conditions – some very bad conditions included – and its failure to match ISO 100 finesse would not worry me at all. The performance at higher ISO settings is so much improved it’s worth putting up with the minimum of ISO 200, and a touch more noise than the best ISO 100 results from the Sony CCD sensors.
Even so, something was clearly happening during the period of sunnier weather used for my earlier A550 tests. I used Auto ISO initially, because I had not realised how readily the camera will select settings right up to 1600. Auto ISO has thrown up some surprises. Here’s something to consider:
autoISO0-200variations
Please note that although ‘process’ symbols are shown with these Adobe Bridge/ACR images, the defaults were restored and then each picture was set back to defaults. They are all shown relative to each other in density, the image preview built by ACR. There is no question of DRO or any other tonal setting interfering with the apparent exposure – DRO does not affect the .ARW file, ACR discards any DRO generated embedded preview in my setup prefs, and DRO was not being used anyway.
It has already been noted by other reviewers that the A550 has considerably more headroom without clipping, even compared to the A350 which was already a top-ranking camera for dynamic range. This is what I meant when I compared its default images to Canon with Highlight Tone Preservation switched on, or KM/Sony older models using the Hi200 setting. This can mean that the A550 is really ISO 100 at its lowest on-sensor gain setting, but the exposure system is programmed to underexpose by a stop and the post-processing (BIONZ) is set up to boost the gain.
Why would Sony do this? Perhaps they read the many posts referring to the Alpha 900 and 700 ISO settings. The on-sensor gain controls the main ISO steps, but a rather cleaner post-process gain adds the 1/3rd step intervals. Experienced Alpha 900 users set ISO 320 manually because the sensor is at its optimum at roughly ISO 160 (DxO tests bear this out). The standard ISO 200 setting can produce more noise than ISO 320 because two different digital stages are used to produce the gain.
In search of superior high ISOs, they may have realised that the early gain stage (on the chip assembly) is inferior to the later BIONZ processor, and you can indeed get better high ISO by underexposing a lower ISO setting, then processing it with clipped blacks. That’s a Nikon technique, which has served them well. It’s also a technique used by experienced DSLR owners.
Now consider the four shots above. They are all taken at ‘ISO 200’ but the camera was set to auto ISO. Other shots in the same set show ISO 250, 500 etc confirming the auto ISO was in operation. They are taken in the afternoon in Scotland, so it is fairly near to the end of the day for sunshine by 14:49hrs, around an hour away. But the two locations at 50 minutes apart, 14:00hrs and 14:49hrs, should not have the extreme variation in exposure shown here.
Just what is going on for an exposure of 1/400th at f/11 to look correct at ISO 200, with the dark sandstone buildings of Jedburgh at the end of October? 1/400th at f/11 is the ISO 200 exposure for full sunshine in midsummer (aka f/16 light). You hardly ever find f/16 light in Britain unless you are on the beach, surrounded by pale concrete, in a field of golden corn or out on a lake.
50 minutes later, exposures range from 1/60th at f/11 to 1/100th at f/11 – that is, more or less, from two to three stops more. In fact these exposures are in line with what I would expect, it’s the 1/400th at f/11 which is the odd one out. I have no evidence to suggest that my CZ 16-80mm has an aperture which fails to stop down consistently.
Now look at some sky samples:
Here is an in-camera JPEG version which shows less noise – the in-camera process is equal to using much stronger NR in raw conversion than I would normally choose for ISO 200:
incameraJPEG-iso200clip
Now for the same processed from raw – notice that despite the noise, it is slightly more detailed or sharper:
skyiso200-400th-f11-acr5p6-default
This is a reprocessed second version of the original noisy sky instance. Here, I have used Adobe Camera Raw 5.6r1 defaults, which include some basic sharpening and also 25 on the chroma NR scale. No exposure adjustment is made at all. This view, by the way, looks more or less due north and it is not a case of a brighter sky underexposed; also, the stone and the chimney pots look normally exposed.
skyiso200-100th-f11-acr5p6-default
This is the 1/100th at f/11 shot, processed exactly the same way. It’s interesting in that I expected to see much lower noise, but in fact it’s much the same. The sky density is similar as well. The view is slightly more towards the east. While my Alpha 380, 200, 100 and even 700 shots are capable of showing blue sky noise at ISO 100 and as much as this as 200 it’s not as obtrusive.
skyiso200-60th-f11-acr5p6-minus1evcorr
Finally, this is the 1/60th exposure – perhaps more what would be expected at ISO 100 in this light with f/11. Here, I have set -1 EV exposure reduction in Adobe Camera Raw to get much the same final sky tone density. The noise is lower.
Checking other images I’ve taken since, I am now suspicious about the Auto ISO function in the Alpha 550, and whether it reports the gain applied to each shot accurately. It’s hard to reconcile the same ISO 200 setting shown in EXIF with the range of exposures encountered, and the actual exposure of the raw file. Yet ISO 250 was also selected for this shot taken a few minutes before the chimney shot:

This is also included in the main report (click image to view full size on pBase). If I darken the sky as much as the other examples, I get noise similar to the 1/60th ISO 200 clip, or better.
Since making these tests, I’ve started using the Alpha 550 only on fixed ISO settings, with some misgivings as intermediate gain like ISO 250 or 320 might possibly be yielding better results. I just feel something is happening in the BIONZ stage, perhaps involving analysis of the Auto ISO images and compensation for deviations from the reported EXIF Auto ISO setting. This is just a hunch. Fixed settings seem to be equal to the worst case from Auto ISO. Here’s a textbook example, 1/125th at f/16 for a blue sky on November 3rd, facing due north, at 14:19hrs, ISO 200 fixed setting, ACR 5.6 defaults as above:
iso200fixed-125th-f15-acr5p6default
The answer seems to be to overexpose your manual ISO 200 shots by not simply one stop, but as much as two stops when shooting raw. At least if Adobe Camera Raw is used, recovery of normal tones (not burned out highlights) will fully restore the exposure from 1 or 2 stops over depending on the subject.
Here is an overexposed image, taken at 1/80th at f/10, ISO 200, in mid-day sunshine:
1p7stopsover
Below is what the sky looks like in a normally exposed image (1/250th at f/10), processed using Adobe Camera Raw defaults (including sharpening at 25/1/25/0 and NR at 0/25), looks like:
iso200-normalexp-250th-f10-acr5p6defaults
And here, finally, is what an adjusted ACR process from the overexposed image looks like with sharpening turned off, NR set to 25/50, exposure and brightness determined by the simple process of using Auto (which can be set as a default in ACR if you want to consistently make generous – over – exposures ‘to the right’):
plus1p7exposure-iso200-80th-f10-acr5p6adjust-nosharp-NR2550
This is much more how I expect to see a sky looking from the base ISO of a 2009 DSLR release, viewed at 100 per cent. From this stage, different types of sharpening can be applied to suit resized versions for different purposes.
Results with other raw converters, as more become available for the Alpha 550, may be finer in noise structure than ACR or may offer less scope for overexposing – ACR is well known for its ability to recover highlights. I do not intend to go much further into this with tests of converters, but I hope I have shown how the ‘true ISO’ of the A550 is difficult to pin down especially in Auto ISO mode, and how it is possible to benefit from the great high ISO performance of the camera (just use it!) and at the same time secure good low ISO results for travel and landscape shots where a clean blue sky is important.
It’s important to note that in-camera JPEGs will not necessarily show similar noise levels. If they do it’s not so easy to fix without using NR software. I prefer to shoot raw for many reasons.
So, why not be very happy with the Alpha 550 as a choice? Here are two pictures. You can view the full size Alpha image, and the Nikon D3S image resized to match 14 megapixels, by clicking on the smaller size here. Of course the Nikon image is better, though 1/250th at f/5.6 and ISO 400 is more of a step away from 1/250th at f/9 and ISO 200, and I’m not sure the light was SO different on the two occasions:
Alpha 550-250Sigma-iso200-web
Nikon D3S-400mmf2p8Nikkor-iso400-web
– DK

Alamy blacklists compact and bridge digitals

In an unusual move, probably designed to cut down the work of rejecting submissions which fail to make the grade, the on-line picture library Alamy has published lists of cameras (by make) which will NEVER produce a file acceptable to pass their Quality Control. It includes all the Sony Cyber-shots ever made as far as we can tell! They say: “Check your camera – do NOT submit any images from camera models featured on the list below. Camera models featured on this list do not produce files that are capable of passing Alamy’s QC standards.”
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Expodisc white balance with the KM Dynax 5D

The custom white balance function on the Konica Minolta Dynax 5D could not be quicker to use; turn the left hand top dial to the custom symbol, press the button in the centre of the dial, press the shutter after aiming the camera at your white or grey target. Custom WB is now set until changed with a new reading, or returned to fixed or Auto WB.
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Firmware v4 for Alpha 700 – high ISO NR ‘OFF’

Sony has released – without announcement – a new firmware version for the Alpha 700 which includes an OFF function for high ISO. This is presumed to be in advance of tomorrow’s press conference, where the Alpha 900 will be revealed. Journalists could be expected to ask questions about the NR, and the lack of firmware upgrades to the Alpha 700, and they have acted just in time for this launch and photokina to remedy the situation. Article with image samples and download links:

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Alpha Live View in the studio – solved!

One of the problems with the Alpha 350/300 is that the Live View is linked to the settings when you use Manual exposure. It provides a form of metering, a relatively accurate preview of under or over exposure. This makes it impossible to use Manual with studio flash (AC mains strobe) setups. Currently, there is no menu setting to turn off ‘exposure preview with manual’ and enable ‘auto LV gain with manual’. But there is a solution.
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ACR 4.3.1 hasn’t solved A700 high ISO mush problems

After reading Andrea Nivini’s article in Italian Tutti Fotografi, December 2007, which launches an attack on Adobe’s Camera Raw plug-in and its handling of many camera types – but specifically, the Sony Alpha 700 – I decided to check out whether the December 5th release, ACR 4.3.1, fixed the problems. Continue reading »

True detail vs. fake sharpness

It’s the same on every web forum – if you post a digital picture which would be acceptable to a photo library or professional buyer, half a dozen grumpy one-liners will come out saying ‘That don’t look sharp to me’ or ‘there must be something wrong with your XXX’ (fill in D300, A700, E-3, D3, 40D as required). Then someone posts a hugely messed up image and people say ‘Wow! What sharpness!’… Continue reading »

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