Cameracraft is received exclusively by subscribers and members of The Guild of Photographers. It’s easy to get single copies or subscriptions from this site, and in addition to the printed magazine digital delivery is an eco-friendly low cost alternative which fully supports our unique magazine.
After our subscribers receive their copies whether digital or printed, we wait a couple of weeks before releasing this viewable and downloadable PDF version. It’s a good quality too with the PDF created at Retina screen resolution so you can zoom in or use a large screen. To download and keep you may need to right-click if the PDF opens in a browser window – it’s normal now to have an extension installed which does this. You will however get a better choice of view modes by saving an opening using Adobe Acrobat. Select Two Page view to see the spreads properly, and expand your window to fill your screen. Don’t select ‘Full Screen’ mode as for some reason Adobe make this disable the two-page view!
Your downloaded PDF will include all email and URL links from the text on the pages.
Luminar Neo has gained a new tool – Portrait Background Removal, enabling the background behind a subject to be made transparent in one click. Careful hair-by-hair selections are done by trained neural networks.
Portrait Background Removal tool can be found in the Luminar Neo Layer masking options.
Remove Background without Layering. Just open Luminar Neo, load an image, and select Portrait Background Removal.
Get clean assets for composing. Any portrait you edit can be exported as a PNG with a transparent background, a great base for seamless photo composing.
Create realistic portraits with AI that’s precisely trained on people. AI scans the image to find and select human figures as accurately as possible. Luminar Neo has an option to edit several images in a click with custom saved Presets, so editing event portraits becomes faster.
Achieve precise selections without extreme effort. The portrait and the background are highlighted in different colours. A Transition Brush refines the edges by removing unnecessary elements where the portrait and background touch. The Object Brush revives portrait details that may have been eliminated by the neural network, while the Background Brush helps to additionally remove parts that aren’t detected by the AI.
Luminar Neo is available as a one-time purchase or as a subscription. The new architecture is flexible, so it can be easily updated in the future. Luminar Neo is available in both the Microsoft Store and the macOS App Store. Luminar Neo works as a plugin, so you can keep your images in your preferred photo editor while still benefiting from its powerful AI tools.
Additionally, the brand-new Luminar Share mobile app allows you to quickly and seamlessly transfer images from your phone to your computer. Take a photo, edit it, and post it to social media without third-party programs that reduce quality. Luminar Share is available on the Google Play Store and the macOS App Store.
Well, I asked for it. Ten years ago I suggested on one of Alamy‘s forums that stock photography was nothing like art, photo club or personal photography. You might have pictures which have won contests, pictures good enough for a friend or two to have asked for prints and still have them on the wall. You might have pictures from a decade or two during which you have happened on some wonderful sunsets or visited great places at just the right time.
But you might not have anything which would work in the stock image market for unreleased editorial or released royalty-free, the two big volume markets which exist.
We are able to offer, now, the complete 28-issue digital archive in page-turn format for the final eleven years of Minolta Image and Photoworld (as it became) from 2002 to 2011. For only £10, a one-off payment, you unlock the complete collection of digital versions of the printed quarterly magazine.
This collection forms a fascinating document, showing the transition from the last heyday of Minolta to the merger with Konica in 2004 and the launch of the Dynax 7D, through the takeover by Sony in 2006 and up to the launch of the NEX E-mount system in 2010 and beyond.
The enigmatic beauty of the caves of Vatnajokull, one of the largest glaciers in Europe, is revealed in all its frozen, icy splendour through astoundingly sharp and detailed photography.
The sensor sits at the heart of every camera and defines its capability to capture the amount of light and detail that goes into photographs. Advancements in Sony’s sensor technology are enabling photographers to take pin-sharp photographs in the most challenging low light conditions with the latest cameras from Sony, which formerly would not have been possible.
Stunning photo series heroes Iceland’s otherworldly ice caverns, with the cave’s bright blue and bubble-like walls resembling an almost underwater scene. Images also capture flowing waterfalls, and crystal clear crevasses and icy tunnels within the frosty fortress.
This incredible photo series displays the immense intricacies of never-before-seen ice caverns in Vatnajokull, Iceland – only made possible through Sony’s new sensor technology, allowing incredibly detailed low-light photography.
Photographer Mikael Buck and renowned local guides Einar Runar Sigurdsson and Helen Maria explored the frozen world using Sony’s latest digital cameras including the α7R II featuring the world first back-illuminated full-frame sensor which brings together ultra-high resolution and ultra-high sensitivity, the RX10 II and RX100 IV which feature the world’s first 1.0 type stacked Exmor RS CMOS sensor that truly shine in low-light and high contrast conditions. The images were taken without the use of any external sources – just the natural light that filters through the ice caves.
Within the photo series, barren caves have been brought to life, making visible the intricate curves of the natural sculptures, the delicate structure of its icicles, and the smooth and the marble-like texture of the cavern walls, which are formed through constant movement. Images capture the misty waterways that flow within the frosty fortress, as well as the ice-cold waterfalls that cascade down and transform the cavern’s bright blue walls. Buck has also captured images of a skilled local climber ascending the icy walls to showcase the scale of the majestic blue cave.
Helen Maria of Local Guide – Iceland’s oldest mountain guiding company – comments: “I have been exploring these ice caves for years with Local Guide. Being here in them is a truly wonderful opportunity. Knowing you’re experiencing such a fleeting phenomenon makes it even more special – the opportunity to help capture this nature in all its intricate glory and now in more detail than ever thanks to Sony’s sensor technology is a truly magical experience. This series of photographs has done it justice like never before, and I hope many more people will be spurred on to visit as a result.”
Yann Salmon Legagneur, Head of Product Marketing, Digital Imaging for Sony Europe, commented, “These images wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago without having to take bulky kit, lighting and other accessories to the glacier – all of which would have weighed down a photographer. The sensors inside Sony’s α7 and RX cameras ensure that all a photographer needs is a small form factor camera and with its low light photography capabilities and they can then capture incredible images like these.”
As the global number one in Sensor technology and production with approximately 50% global market share, Sony is proud to continue to push through the perceived boundaries of sensor development and thanks to advancements in this field, images like this are now possible. Sensors are such a vital part of camera performance and being able to release two new advanced sensors this year is enabling Sony to continue its growth in the digital imaging industry.
In addition to being able to capture incredibly detailed low-light photography, sensor technology featured in the RX10 II and RX100 IV cameras also allows photographers, hobbyist and professionals alike, to capture moments not always visible to the human eye, with 40X super slow motion video capture at up to 1000fps.
Today I visited the press preview of Photography: A Victorian Sensation at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. It’s a major exhibition which actually goes beyond the wonderful huge collection of mint condition Daguerreotypes and other early examples, ending with a Nikon D5500 as an example of today’s tech.
You can visit this entirely free if you are member of National Museums of Scotland. For non-members, it’s £10 (adults) £8 (concession), or £6.50 (children 12-15) and free for under 12s, until November 22nd. The museum itself is free entry, and if only one person in your family wants to see this (Exhibition Gallery 1, Level 3) there’s plenty for others to see and do.
I wanted to see the Nikon – I had helped the curator with this, putting her directly in touch with the right individual at Nikon, after a mutual friend in Edinburgh asked for assistance. Why not Sony? Well, the museum acquires representative technology for the permanent collection, and specifically wanted a DSLR not a DSLT or mirrorless – and the Nikon fitted well with a 1990 first generation digital camera displayed close to it, another Nikon. No doubt at some future date, mirrorless will be so much the flavour of the era that they acquire a Sony.
It’s a superb show, with wall-high prints blown up from unexpectedly early originals. Although it is not a huge exhibition area, I would recommend sparing half an hour for the casually disinterested family member, an hour to two hours for this who actually look at the exhibits, and half a day for anyone who wants to access the touch screens, study the work and really learn something. The good thing about the museum is that if you DO have family members who want to do something else, there’s plenty to see and much of it is rather fun, whether Dolly the Sheep or the kids’ painting and crafts corner. It also has a café which is not overpriced and Edinburgh’s Old Town tourist attractions are a five minute walk from the door. Parking cost me £2.60 for one hour on a nearby meter, paid by mobile phone, and there are cheaper options.
One of the best bits must be the use of touch screens (above) which replicate a cabinet (as below) of small original works. Tap the corresponding thumbnail, and it fills the screen. Do an ‘expand’ gesture with two fingers (or hands) and the super-high-res copy of the Victorian work – often only a few centimetres wide – expands to show microscopic resolution. Daguerreotypes, in particular, are almost grain-free and reveal as much detail as Sony A7R II… who needs 42 megapixels when you have countless megamolecules?
The exhibition includes National Museums Scotland’s extensive early photographic collections, including Hill and Adamson’s images of Victorian Edinburgh, and the Howarth-Loomes collection, much of which has never been publicly displayed. The cartes-de-visite and cabinet photographs below emphasise the huge volume of these portraits produced 150 years ago.
Highlights include an early daguerreotype camera once owned by William Henry Fox Talbot; an 1869 photograph of Alfred, Lord Tennyson by Julia Margaret Cameron; a carte-de-visite depicting Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a middle-class couple and an early daguerreotype of the Niagara Falls. There’s a special niche for Eastman and his Kodak.
You are also be able to visit a ‘stylised recreation of a Victorian photographer’s studio’ – er, not exactly a re-creation, as stylised is certainly the word! Victorian props and costume details can be used, and you can take a photograph, which will be displayed in a photomontage at the end of the exhibition. The lighting, however, appears to be Godox Witstro or a similar battery flash mounted into a big Elinchrom Octa.
At the press day, model Bronwyn Mackay was dressed in Victorian costume. My photo of her (top), not in the studio setting but holding a stereoscope with part of the display behind her, was taken using my Sony A6000 with 16-50mm OSS lens. Bronwyn is lit by the new ICE Light 2, which I’m holding in my left hand. The camera is at ISO 3200 and the lens at f/5.6, but it’s still a marginal 1/13th exposure, as the lights are low in the room and the ICE light is at minimum power to balance the shot and prevent distress to the model.
I am told there is a book and a smaller catalogue (neither available when I visited) and we’ll be looking at the book, for certain, in Cameracraft magazine.
It’s a funny word to use, because the mirrors involved are transparent and not translucent (which implies passing light but not in an image-forming manner). Translucent means semi-opaque, letting light through in the way that an opal perspex sheet or Kodatrace foil does. Transparent means something you can see through.
But now, thanks to the wonder of changing language, translucent is also going to have to mean transparent, or semi-transparent. Pellicle, semi-silvered, whatever term you wish to use.
Unfortunately, for this writer the misuse of the word translucent stands as one of the biggest schoolboy howlers ever imposed on the entire world by the ignorance of a corporation. It’s such a glaring error I can hardly bring myself to use the term – others, like Dave Etchells, have happily assimilated the new meaning into their technical lexicon. And as the video above shows, they’ve made it into a trademark, a permanent part of the future of this technology.
Wiki, and pretty well every dictionary ever published, disagree with Sony’s imaginative use of a word from which they have now removed its exact meaning:
Wikipedia: “Transparent materials are clear, while translucent ones cannot be seen through clearly.”
Adjective: (of a substance) Allowing light, but not detailed images, to pass through; semitransparent. (the semi bit of semitransparent cited here seems to mean semi-detailed, vaguely delineated – not slightly darker; otherwise the primary definition of the word is diluted). There has been some heated argument on dPreview forums about this post of mine (my view is shared by many). No-one has made the point that words evolve to have useful exact meanings. Transparent and translucent are words which may once have shared a common poetic meaning in 18th century descriptive writing, but whose meanings were refined with the progress of science and technology. This process in the course of over 200 years resulted in a useful distinction between the meanings of transparent and translucent. Sony’s commercial misuse of the word Translucent is damaging to the English language and to the scientific and technical lexicon; it predisposes future confusion about the meaning of the words. It is also a fait accompli; there is no turning back, since Sony’s corporate stance is much like that of Mrs Thatcher; no u-turns and never admit to be being wrong. They have also no doubt invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the consultancy involved, and the registration of the term as a trademark, the creation of branding artwork. They could have branded the mirror TransLumina® or, more usefully, just called it a transflecting mirror – transmitting-reflecting. That term is already used to describe the sort of mirrors used in ‘Big Brother’ with cameras behind them.
As to whether it’s a true pellicle mirror (a thin stretched film of vacuum coated Mylar or a similar polymer) no-one seems to be clear. It moves out of the way to allow sensor cleaning but could be relatively fragile. It certainly does not need to move to allow 10fps (Alpha 55) or 7fps (Alpha 33) continuous shooting. Sensor dust is often created within the camera by wear and tear on the shutter mechanism, so access for cleaning is essential and the mirror can not be designed to seal the sensor chamber. The Alpha models still have a shutter, that’s the next thing we shall see eliminated. That old rumour of the 15fps silent shooting Alpha DSLR seems to be more than a rumour; we are almost there.
For many users, the critical advantage of all four new Sony models will be HD Video with sensor-based in body image stabilisation. This will enable all kinds of lenses from macro to ultrawide or soft focus, manual adaptations and Minolta AF legacy glass to be used for video with confidence.
Welcome back the circular polariser, unlike mirrorless ILC cameras these new models will not allow the use of linear polarisers without AF efficiency reductions, but exposure should be unaffected as the sensor itself provides the metering with 1200 zones.
This will be one of the tests reviewers need to carry out on the new pellicle mirror Sony Alpha 33 and 55 models – to confront them with not only polarising filters, but conditions in which light is naturally polarised. How will they render sky gradations or reflections off water?
Two further Alpha models are being released, which are essentially updates for the 500/550 – the Alpha 580 which will hit the shops before the winter buying season, adding 16.2 megapixels and a 15-zone AF module, HD 1080p video and (non-video) Contrast Detect AF with all Alpha mount lenses. The 560 will not arrive until some time in 2011, using a 14.2 megapixel sensor. Versatile features
More of a landmark than a benchmark, the inclusion of 10fps continuous shooting with active phase detect AF and 16.2 megapixel file size in the Alpha 55 is unprecedented and possibly unforeseen by competitors, in this class of sub-$1000 consumer DSLR (let’s continue to use the term, since they are clothed as DSLRs). The dual format card drive supports the 30Mb/s transfer rate of the latest Class 10 SDHC cards and Sony’s fastest MemoryStick Pro Duo generation. The HD video also has a reasonable 17mbps bitrate.
The new technology has been well documented before the launch, but the fine detail of the new cameras is now clearer. The Alpha 55 is some markets will incorporate GPS geo-tagging for stills and videos (we wait to see whether raw files are tagged, and how accurate this is – the accessory Sony geo-tagging system available to date has only permitted JPEG tagging, and has not been accurate enough to know which street in a town the picture was taken in).
Rumours that the 33 and 55 bodies would be SSM/SAM only, with no internal focus drive, were unfounded as Sony states clearly that both are compatible with ‘the full range’ of over 30 Alpha lenses (indeed, the product shots of the 33 and 55 alone show the 18-200mm SAL DT lens fitted). The 55/33 1080i/60p (1080p in AVCHD camera archive format) video claims ‘smooth, precise’ phase detect auto focus during video shooting, but makes no reference to this being limited to in-lens motor lenses. Therefore we can assume it works with in-body AF drive lenses as well, and you just have to edit the soundtrack.
The new ISO 25,600 mode does not imply a radical sensor change as it is only available using Multi-Shot Noise Reduction, which requires a burst of 6 frames at the 10fps/7fps native maximum speed of the camera, and can not save raw files. The ISO range of the sensors is 100 to 12,800. Is this range quoted as absolute, or after accounting for the semi-silvered mirror light losses? If it’s the range before allowing for the mirror, then the 14.2 megapixel sensor of the Alpha 33 may be more like the Nikon 3100’s sensor than the NEX (ISO 200-12,800) is. Thom Hogan has shown pixel dimensions and size data which support Nikon’s claim to have an entirely different sensor fab line of their own, compared to the A550/NEX sensor. But how about compared to the A33/560 sensor?
The 55’s new 16.2 megapixel CMOS will probably appear in the forthcoming Alpha 700 successor, which it is believed will form the main Sony exhibit at photokina (Cologne, September 21st-27th). Both models have a new 15-zone AF sensor with three cross sensors, but not f/2.8 sensors – all are designed to operate at f/5.6 virtual aperture. However, there is a hidden clue that the cross sensors may be f/3.5 capable, as the high-speed shooting modes with continuous AF set f/3.5 by default on any lens capable of this (if the lens is, say, only f/5.6 then the largest aperture is always set). Setting f/3.5 implies that this confers an advantage in focus sensitivity over f/5.6, f/4 or any other particular aperture – and that f/3.2, f/2.8 or wider would bring no benefit. That points to some of the sensors having an f/3.5 virtual aperture.
The new cameras are known as SLTs – Single Lens Translucent – instead of SLR. See my intro. Did they have no English speaking staff on their team? I’m sure there is a German word which describes their mirror correctly. I’d rather have the right German word than the wrong English one. Ah well, as the bloke leaning on the pub bar says, durchsprung vor technik…
Confusing aspects – Auto HDR is said to be available in P/A/S/M modes. I guess in M mode it must leave the aperture alone and change just the shutter speed. Regular bracketing is still limited to a disappointing 3 exposures at 0.7 EV intervals, maximum.
But you’ll love the direct D-Range button which gives access to D-Range and HDR options directly, and the direct Finder/Screen button which toggles between using the very high resolution EVF with its ‘virtual 1.1X’ 100% view of the subject – effective visual scale, larger than the Alpha 700 and larger than any previous Alpha digital model except the Alpha 900 and 850. That’s one of the benefits of the EVF, a relatively tiny display is viewed through a high magnification ocular and ends up with a ‘window’ on the world which beats the tiny tunnel vision of optical finders. Technically it is very similar to the last EVF produced by Konica Minolta on the Dimage A200, with the benefit of five years’ further development. It has the same 60Hz refresh rate and visually almost raster-free RGB.
Where the A550 and its earlier stablemates vary slightly around a viewfinder with an effective 0.50X scale (relative to a full frame 100% view using a 50mm lens), the A55 and A33 provide an effective 0.73X and that’s impressive. The ocular is set well back (remember the Konica Minolta A2, and the Sony Cybershot DSC R-1?) because it is a telescope design. This also gives it a very narrow range of possible eye positions, a common feature of EVFs. The eyepoint is close, and you must position your eye precisely.
The rear screen uses the same type of (Schott?) reinforced glass with (3M?) resin gel adhesive as Canon’s 7D – this totally seals to the LCD module itself eliminating air gaps, and improves contrast. It is a technology first seen in the 7D and becoming standard across the industry though the NEX has shown Sony to have the best implementation so far. It is scratch proof, by the way, and it can be cracked by impact like any other screen.
The tilt-swivel action is borrowed directly from the Nikon D5000. In fact, it’s so identical in articulation it even included the amazingly silly front facing mode where the screen is obscured by your tripod, hanging under the camera and preventing it from being placed on a flat surface for self-portraits or videos. But it has the same benefit as the Nikon, the screen can be flipped to face the camera and protected completely while you use the EVF.
Functions familiar from the NEX including Sweep Panorama and Sweep 3D Panorama are built-in and accessed from the main mode dial, which also provides physical settings for all the main modes. Depth of field preview is restored – with the usual button – because is can now actually work. It was always useless in real terms on optical viewfinder cameras, as the focusing screen never represented wide apertures correctly.
Now, with an EVF, for the first time ever an eye-level Alpha gives absolutely perfect and precise previewing of depth of field and bokeh effects whatever aperture you are working at – even at f/1.4, which was never possible and still isn’t with the A850 or A900 for that matter (which is why their Preview mode is useful).
You can also preview the exact image appearance. By pressing the AE lock button, the auto gain of the EVF or rear screen are turned off and replaced by an exposure-compensated view. So if you dial in -1 EV (using the adjacent dedicated button), and change the WB, and use a different picture style with more saturation and contrast just pressing AE-Lock will immediately preview your image with these adjustments applied. And you can enlarge in the usual two steps to check auto or manual focus.
The finder and screen also have a Nikon-style two axis spirit level (flight simulator horizon) display to help you get your horizontals straight and your verticals parallel. It can be activated on either, and does not have to appear on both simultaneously.
For movie makers, the binaural stereo microphones are a great move. Even on the NEX, the two small top aperture mics give excellent stereo. The 33/55 mics are placed either side of the ‘prism’ housing, rather like the ears on your head. This will give the stereo image created by these cameras a really natural quality. Natural, that is, to a pygmy marmoset monkey… but still, I will wager, the best stereo image of any DSLR/HybriD. And Sony provide a stereo 3.5mm mic jack socket, though without any manual control of gain levels.
I’m sure we will have to buy the A780 to get that. Click the picture above for a big version. Who says Sony does not have a range to match Nikon or Canon, whether or lenses or of cameras? From the left, the cameras show the current range before we even see the magnesium-bodied Alpha 700 replacement arrive. A900, A850, A580, A560, A55, A33, A390, A290. – David Kilpatrick
Read Sony Press releases and full technical data: Alpha 33 and 55 Press Release Alpha 560 and 580 Press Release
My review of the Sony Alpha 550 was supposed to appear at the end of November, allowing one week abroad in good weather with plenty of subject-matter, in Tenerife. Sadly that trip had to be cancelled, and the Nikon D3S arrived for review on the day we were meant to have travelled. So, with far too much work to do on the D3S, I’m “going to press” here with my initial thoughts based on a fairly short time using the Alpha 550.
There are 11 pages in this review, please use the Next Page navigation at the end of each page to continue reading. A sponsor link appears before the end of each page – “Get camera lenses at Shopping.com’s affordable deals.” Our thanks to Shopping.com for spotting and sponsoring this review! This review has been updated August 2010 – see the second to last page for new Adobe Camera Raw Process 2010 results, a massive improvement with Alpha 550 files.
Peter Crouch cuts a striking figure on the football pitch at the best of times and when recently asked to train the UK Sony ‘Twilight Football’ team ahead of their big game on the 22nd September, the outcome was some simply stunning imagery. (Editor’s note – continue reading to see the ‘stunning imagery’… but have somewhere handy to put the hair you tear out) Continue reading »
Sydney, Australia (July 29, 2009) – WorldNomads.com announces the launch of a once in a lifetime travel photography scholarship – the opportunity to join an on-assignment National Geographic photographer in Antarctica for two weeks.