Friday, October 23, 2015

Sony A7R II Firmware Ver. 2.0 Update Now Available

Sony have issued an update to the firmware for the A7R II. It adds
  1. the selectable feature for uncompressed 14-Bit RAW image capture
  2. support to output video via HDMI during use of the Remote Camera Control software (still mode only).

Visit for more info on the camera and the update.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Future of photography

A few recent developments have caused me to wonder what the future holds for photography. One of these is the announcement about the Light L16 camera. In case you haven't heard of this camera, it looks like a smartphone (but isn't) and has 16 cameras (geddit?).

Up to 10 cameras fire at the same time and using nifty software the images are combined to produce an image that is DSLR quality with up to 52Mb resolution, according to the company. According to their website you will be able to adjust the depth of field and focussing after you have taken the picture. In addition, you will be able to zoom in with the 35-150mm zoom function and take pictures in low light.

You can read more about the camera on their website at and reserve yours for $199 (but be quick and do it today). Delivery to US customers is planned for late 2016.

Another announcement that got me thinking about the future of photography is that of Canon's, revealing a sensor capable of distinguishing the lettering on the side of a plane around 11 miles (18km) away. In their press release, Canon say this about it:
  • 250MP CMOS Sensor: 30x sharper than 4K, Canon’s latest ultra-high resolution sensor has the world’s highest number of pixels for a CMOS sensor - it can even capture the lettering on the side of an airplane in the sky, from an incredible 18km away.
Think about it for a minute..... 250 megapixels! Just thinking about loading the images into Photoshop give me a headache, never mind the computer specification one would need to cope with editing such images. You can read more about at Canon Europe's website.

Several other recent developments relating to smartphone cameras and video also helped to provoke my contemplation on the matter. So, what, if any, are my conclusions? Well, here is a brief summary of what is, in reality, a work in progress, so to speak:
  1. Where will we draw the line over megapixels? One of my earliest cameras was capable of only 3MP but produced acceptable images. Its not that long ago that most phones (smartphones they were not - at least in the accepted sense) came with cameras that could barely do 640 x 480!
  2. For me, it seems that the biggest issue today is not resolution (in terms of Megapixels) but noise, as well as the speed and accuracy of autofocus. I would rather have a 12MP camera that could rapidly and accurately focus on a moving subject, which could have minimal noise in low light conditions than one that had 250MP and couldn't do all of these.
  3. Portability - I much prefer my Sony a6000 to my Nikon D3100 as even with two or more lenses I can it around all day without my arthritis flaring up in my shoulders and back. However, make a camera too small and it becomes difficult to handle and use. Larger smartphones (such as my iPhone 6 Plus) are light, relatively easy to hold when using the camera and produce very useable images that I can conveniently post to my social media accounts or share via text, email or an app. 
  4. Cost - although in real terms serious camera technology is now cheaper than ever, not everyone can afford thousands of pounds (£) for some serious kit. Maybe the Light 16 camera will be capable of producing DSLR quality images (certainly looks that way going off the gallery on their website) and at an affordable price. If so, then what will the likes of Sony, Nikon, Canon etc do - will we still want their expensive, bulky kit anymore?
One thing is for sure, there are major upheavals coming to the industry and don't be surprised to see some companies disappear (who remembers Kodak cameras?) and for certain types of cameras to disappear in the wormhole of history. Not many people buy film cameras these days and you can't buy a genuine Polaroid these days (yes I know Fuki have their own version but it's not the same IMHO). Also, the consumer will ultimately benefit (unless you have invested thousands in Nikon and Canon, or Hasselblad or Phase one for that matter) with better tech for less money. I can't wait!

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Latest industry announcements

The pace of technological change seems to grow ever faster and it's hard to keep abreast of everything. Even if you try and focus on a narrow area, such as digital imaging, there are so many new announcements almost daily that it's a full time job keeping up with it all.

So, here are some recent announcements that caught my eye. First up is one from Sony (seeing as I am the proud owner of a Sony a6000).

α7S II E-mount Camera with Full-Frame Sensor

The α7S II is Sony's latest offering in its full-frame range and continues the gradual improvement in the features of the range that we have come to expect from Sony. The key features include:

Sony has made much of the sensitivity of the sensor in its full-frame range and the latest model is no exception. Still images: ISO 100-102400 (expandable to ISO 50-409600), AUTO (ISO 100-12800, selectable lower limit and upper limit), Movies: ISO 100-102400 equivalent (expandable to ISO 100-409600 equivalent), AUTO (ISO 100-12800 equivalent, selectable lower limit and upper limit)

4K movie recording now comes with full pixel readout and no binning. By using the XAVC S format,  4K recording at up to 100Mbps bit rate to capture detailed movies with minimal compression noise is possible. Files are saved in widely compatible MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 format.

Image stabilisation has always been a strength of Sony's full-frame cameras and this model is no exception, coming as it does with 5-axis optical image stabilisation built-in. This gives (according to Sony) a 4.5-stop-faster shutter speed for stills, meaning you shoot at slower speeds hand-held and still be confident of getting a sharp image, especially useful in those low light situations where you don't always want to use the maximum ISO the sensor is offering.

Offering Sony's advanced Fast Intelligent AF featuring enhanced accuracy even in the dark and accelerated AF for movie shooting you can be confident of reliable focussing even in low light situations. Also, each of the nine central AF points are divided into 16 segments, helping to ensure accuracy. 

As well as still images benefitting from the Fast Intelligent AF System, movies also benefit from Pro-level features including Gamma (Movie, Still, Cine1-4, ITU709, ITU709 [800%], S-Log2, and S-Log3.

All in all, the camera is geared towards Pro-video as well as stills. You can read more about it at Sony's site here. Price in UK is to be confirmed and it should be available here in UK before end of the year.

Other announcements (in brief):

  1. Facebook launches 360 degrees video - read all about it here. It's here now in the News Feed.
  2. Lenses are already being announced for the forthcoming Pentax Full-frame camera (due 2016). Ricoh have announced the HD PENTAX-D FA 24-70mm F2.8 ED SDM WR, due sometime this October and expected to be around £1000. Read about it here.
  3. Nikon European Film Festival 2015 - your chance to win the Grand Prize of a Nikon D810 film kit plus a trip to the Cannes Film Festival. Enter by submitting a short film of up to 140 seconds filmed in HD on any device. Submissions open on 13 October 2015 and close on 15 January 2016. Read all about it here.
That's it for now. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

My new Photoblog!

Vintage Glass and digital

New Beltane Photography

Hi, I have started a new photoblog so please check it out! I will still be posting here in future as well but this will become a more general digital media and technology blog. My photoblog will focus specifically on my own photography and equipment, as well as software I use. It will also include tutorials and occasionally, some freebies (Lightroom presets I use, stock photos etc).

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Pentacon F1.8/50mm as a macro lens!

One thing you have to remember when using vintage glass on a modern camera is the effect of sensor size. As the Sony a6000 has an APS-C sensor you have bear in mind that a 50mm lens will act as a 75mm lens.

An interesting thing happened the other day. I had the Pentacon F1.8/50mm lens (M42) attached and was visiting Writtle College in Essex. Having noticed lots of nice flowers in the grounds (understandable as they have courses in conservation and horticulture!). I decided to take some pictures and was pleasantly surprised to find that I was able to get quite close to the subject.

Here are some example shots (all at F8):
Pentacon 1.8/50 (M42) on Sony a6000

Pentacon 1.8/50 (M42) on Sony a6000
Pentacon 1.8/50 (M42) on Sony a6000 (100%)

Pentacon 1.8/50 (M42) on Sony a6000

Pentacon 1.8/50 (M42) on Sony a6000 (100%)

Pentacon 1.8/50 (M42) on Sony a6000

Pentacon 1.8/50 (M42) on Sony a6000 (100%)

On the whole I am impressed with this lens. When you bear in mind that none of these images have been retouched in Photoshop etc (not even for exposure or sharpness) I think you'll agree that its a sweet little lens. I am especially with the bokeh and the colour rendition. Not bad for a lens that cost a few pounds!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Rolleinar MC F3.5/200mm lens

The Rolleinar MC F3.5/200mm lens is another lens I picked up on eBay from exposurelock (for £75).

Rolleinar MC F3.5/200mm lens

The lens is pretty substantial but not overly heavy. It is 180mm long (200mm when integral hood is extended). I found it comfortable to use hand-held although for prolonged use I'd probably want to use a tripod. Its certainly one of, if not the heaviest lens in my rapidly expanding collection. However, I am very happy with it's performance. Here is an example of an image I took with it:

Elderberries in Highwoods Country Park, Colchester, Essex

In particular I think it has a nice bokeh and is capable of capturing fine detail, as can be seen in the 100% detail below:

Rolleinar F3.5/200mm 100% detail
 Bearing in mind that I was standing over a metre away from the subject, the fine fibres (spider's web) attached to the leaves and berries are clearly visible. These are very fine fibres, thinner than a human hair!

The image has not been corrected for chromatic aberration and you can see a modest amount around the edge of the berry at the top left of the image above. The only corrections done were small adjustment to exposure and clarity (Auto Tone and Boost in LR6).

Exposure 1/350 sec, f8, ISO 640.