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 http://www.sony.co.uk/electronics/interchangeable-lens-cameras/ilce-7rm2 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 http://light.co/ 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.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Mamiya Sekor 50mm F2 lens on Sony a6000

Continuing my experiments with vintage glass attached to modern digital camera (namely my recently acquired Sony a6000), I took some test images with a Mamiya Sekor 50mm F2 lens. Below you can see some images along with 100% detail sections. First up is an image I took of raindrops on our kitchen window during some heavy rainfall.

Mamiya Sekor 50mm F2 - window with raindrops

Mamiya Sekor 50mm F2 - 100% detail
As you can see from the detail, the image has not been edited and you can see the colour noise. Even at this pixel-peeping level I think the image is pretty sharp, bearing in mind that it was raining heavily so the drops were running down the window pane pretty fast and 1/60 sec may not have been quite fast enough a shutter speed. The image was shot at F8. Using a manual lens on a digital body means the camera doesn't record the aperture.

Next up is an image of a mechanical digger, shot locally on an out of town shopping complex which is having some construction work done.

Mamiya Sekor 50mm F2 lens on Sony a6000
100% detail
As you can see the image is sharp and the colours are true to life. Again, the image has not been retouched, not even for exposure of colour rendition. Pretty impressive in my book!

Finally, here is a grab shot of my MacBook pro laptop screen. It was taken in dim ambient lighting and focused using Focus Peaking and the manual focussing magnification option.

All in all I am very impressed with the quality of the lens and shall be keeping it as a portrait and general purpose lens.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Vintage glass - more steps on the journey

Today I managed to grab some close-ups of my daughter's face with two of the lenses I recently bought:
  1. Carl Zeiss Sonnar F2.8 90mm (Contax G fitting)
  2. Fujita F4.5 135mm (Exakta fitting)
Here are some test shots I took on both. You can see from the two images that the Carl Zeiss has better colour rendition, something to be expected when you consider that even though both lenses are second-hand, the Carl Zeiss cost me almost six times as much! The Fujita is also an older lens and simpler design. It's also very tiny!

I have also included 100% details from each image.


Carl Zeiss Sonnar F2.8/90mm
Carl Zeiss Sonnar F2.8/90mm
Carl Zeiss Sonnar F2.8/90mm
Carl Zeiss Sonnar F2.8/90mm @100%

Fujita F4.5/135mm
Fujita F4.5/135mm

Fujita F4.5/135mm
Fujita F4.5/135mm @ 100%

Personally, I think they are both sharp. Each image was taken at F8 and 100 ISO. I will be posting some more images later.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Canon 120MP DSLR Under Development

Canon developing next-generation imaging devices to expand the possibilities of visual expression

United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, 8 September 2015 – Canon Europe, a leader in imaging solutions, today announces that its parent company, Canon Inc., is developing a Cinema EOS System 8K camera and professional-use 8K reference display that will support the production of next-generation 8K video content, along with a still-image single-lens reflex camera equipped with a CMOS sensor featuring approximately 120 million effective pixels. Through the Company’s proprietary imaging technologies, Canon provides still and video input and output devices that will contribute to the development of imaging culture.

For more info read the article on Photography Bay website: Canon 120MP DSLR Under Development

Vintage Lenses - continuing the journey

Over the past couple of weeks I have bought a quite a selection of vintage lenses (plus several camera bodies, flash guns, filters etc). Most have been sourced from eBay, though a couple of lots came from CashConverters and one from Etsy.

My intention was two-fold:
  1. Explore different vintage lenses with a view to using them (with an adapter) on my Sony a6000;
  2. Get hold of some quality glass at a lower cost (in most cases at much-reduced cost).
So far I have bought several lenses including:
  1. Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar F2.8 50mm (two examples in M42 fitting)
  2. Vivitar  70-210mm F4.5 zoom (in PK fitting)
  3. Vivitar Series 1 VMC Macro 28-90mm F2.8-3.5 (OM fitting)
  4. Carl Zeiss Sonnar F2.8 90mm (Contax G fitting)
  5. Carl Zeiss Biogon T* F2.8 28mm (Contax G fitting)
  6. Tokina 28-70mm F3.5 (Minolta fitting)
  7. Rollienar-MC F2.8 135mm (Rollei QBM fitting)
  8. Rolleinar-MC F3.5 200mm (Rollei QBM fitting)
  9. Praktica Pentacon MC F1.8 50mm ( 3 examples, two M42 and one Praktica Bayonet fitting)
  10. Nikkor AF 35-70mm F2.2-4.5 (Nikon F Mount)
  11. Sunagor Auto F4 200mm (M42 fitting)
  12. Minolta MD F1.7 50mm (Minolta fitting)
  13. Sun Auto F4.5 85-210mm (M42 fitting)
  14. Vivitar F2.8 28mm (Praktica Bayonet fitting)
  15. Prakticar MC Auto F4.0-5.6 70-210mm (Praktica Bayonet fitting)
  16. Super-Paragon FMC Auto F3.8 80-200mm (M42 fitting)
  17. Fujita F4.5 135mm (Exakta fitting)
In terms of prices, most were under £50 (spme as little as £20). I also managed to get a job lot of 7 lenses, along with a Praktica BX20 body and two flashguns for £35.00 plus P&P (less than £5 a lens!). The two most expensive ones were, not surprisingly) the two Carl Zeiss lenses for Contax G. These cost me a total of £334 inc P&P, plus the cost of an adapter (£26.90 knc P&P). However, to buy the modern versions of these lenses in the Sony E mount would cost much more. For example, the Sony E 24mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens costs £679 from Clifton Cameras, whilst the Sony FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS costs £989 (and it's not a Carl Zeiss!). When you consider that these lenses are probably, to all intent and purposes, as good as their modern equivalents, I made a saving of £1,334!

With so many lenses to test it will be quite a while before I work through them all. I have made a start (as you can see from earlier posts) and intend to get through them all in the coming months. I envisage that I will keep a selection (the Contax G lenses are definitely never going to leave my hands, not whilst I live and breathe, so don't even ask!), but the rest will be listed on eBay at some point, along with my test results (including test images).

In the meantime, I have added some images taken on the Contax G lenses:

Carl Zeiss Biogon F2.8/28mm
Carl Zeiss Biogon T* F2.8/28mm

Carl Zeiss Sonnar F2.8/90mm
Carl Zeiss Sonnar F2.8/90mm

Monday, September 07, 2015

Vintage Glass:Sample Images

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I am experimenting with vintage glass on my Sony a6000. In that post I included an image from my CZ Tessar  50mm F2.8 lens. Here are a couple more:


This first one is almost as it came out  of the camera, with some minor tweaks in Lightroom. These were mainly colour correction (though some magenta/blue remains) and mild sharpening.


This second version is a crop of the one above with more extensive correction in Lightroom and Focus Pro 2, mainly to bring out the face on the left whilst blurring the others so they are less distracting. I have also dealt with the magenta/blue tinge.

Personally, I am happy with the results, especially bearing in mind the following:

  1. The lighting in the room was a mixture of natural daylight and fluorescent tubes;
  2. It was essentially a grab shot;
  3. It was difficult to manually focus in the less than adequate lighting, even with focus peaking activated.
Here is another shot, this time instead of square crop I have included a detail preview (100%):


Same lighting conditions again and once again modest colour correction, sharpening etc.


This is a 100% preview of part of the image. Again, it was a grab shot and no doubt I could have got a sharper image given time. BTW you may have spotted that on the last image there are details of the shutter speed and ISO (1/125 sec and ISO 200) but no F-stop info. That is because with vintage glass attached via an adapter there is no communication between lens and camera as regards aperture. In this case it was F5.6 (if I recall correctly).

Finally, here is a picture of the Carl Zeiss Tessar 2.8/50 (mine is an earlier version but uses the same lens design):



 


Saturday, September 05, 2015

Vintage glass married to new digital technology

Recently I decided to explore the fascinating subject of marrying vintage glass to modern digital cameras. By this I mean the use of adapters to attach lenses from the 'good old days' of film photography to a modern digital camera. In my case this would be a Sony a6000.
Now you may be asking 'why?". Why buy an expensive new camera and then try and add old lenses onto the front? After,the combination would surely look ugly and anyway, aren't modern lenses so much better than the ones from the days of SLRs and film? Well, yes and no. Yes, the combination can look ugly and there may well be a mismatch between the size and weight (old lenses tend to be somewhat solid - very little plastics in the older ones). No, modern technology isn't always better. Some of the old lenses were very high quality glass and of solid design (both in terms of construction and in terms of the elegance of the lenses configuration). In fact, so desirable are some of these old lenses that they go for prices close to (or in rare cases more than) the cost of a new lens! However, the fact is that some very good lenses are available at very cheap prices. All you need is an adapter for your camera that can take a particular lens.

So for example, it's possible to add an old Yashica/Contax lens to a modern camera like mine. In fact there is a whole host of combinations available. So far I have bought lenses in M42 screw, Exakta, Rollei, Contax G, P/K-A and Mamiya 645 mounts. Some of these are lenses from the days when the DDR (East Germany) made lenses under the Carl Zeiss name. Now modern lenses under the Carl Zeiss name can cost a pretty penny - more like hundreds of pounds actually! yet I picked up a Carl Zeiss Jena DDR Tessar 50mm/F2.8 lens for £30 plus P&P. It also came with a functioning Praktica MTL5 SLR!  The one below is the MTL 5 B version with a Helios 44mm F2.0 lens. Mine is the earlier version (MTL 5) with the CZ Tessar  50mm F2.8 lens.


It was made @ 1983-1985 in East Germany. This was the sort of camera my friends bought when I was a lot younger! we couldn't really afford anything more expensive. In fact, all I could afford was a Halina Paulette Electric (even cheaper than anything coming out of East Germany). In fact it cost £10 in 1967 and with I got a case, flashgun and slide viewer (with batteries)! I still have all those slides (Kodachrome 25 and 64) that I took on it and it was capable of taking some very decent photographs. if I get myself another slide scanner one day I will post some examples.


I have been trying it out on my a6000 and to say I am impressed is an understatement. Now, granted, it doesn't perform as good as a modern Zeiss Touit f2.8 50mm E-Mount. but when you consider that lens costs @ £630 you can see why I'd want to try out a Carl Zeiss lens costing less than £30! If you are wondering how good (or bad) this lens can be then here is an example image.


This was taken today at ISO 100 (ASA in old money!) at F8 and 1/350 sec. Now bear in mind I used manual focus and exposure control as with an adapter there is no communication between the lens and camera. You can use manual or aperture with some but it's best to stick with pure manual in my limited experience. Also, note that as the Sony a6000 comes with Focus Peaking to help with ensuring correct focus. The image has not been corrected (Photoshopped) in any way. I have included the full size image converted straight from RAW to JPEG for your evaluation. Not bad for a lens that cost less than £30!

I deliberately shot at this angle to the sun to see if there was any flare and also to see how the combination of lens and sensor coped with shadows and highlights. I think the combination works quite well. Now here is the same image corrected in Lightroom. Note: I only corrected for exposure (using LR default for Auto Tone) and added a little bite with LR Punch setting. No sharpening was undertaken at all.


This has brought back some of the shadow detail so that it's possible to see details of the inside of the shop (our local pharmacy). Overall I am quite pleased with these first experiments. More images and thoughts to come in future posts.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

More shots form Portugal

As promised, here are some more examples of images I took in Portugal over the summer:






I'm back!

It's been a year or so since I last posted. A lot has happened in that time (too much to detail here). A lot of it is tinged with sadness, such as the loss of my dad and my father-in-law. I have also left my job of 8 years and am currently taking a sabbatical - originally for 3 months but looking more like 6 months. On the bright side of life though we managed a family holiday to Portugal, where I took plenty of photos on my new Sony a6000. I have included a couple of photos from that holiday below.

 

One of the many picturesque squares in Lisbon, Portugal














Harley Davidson motorcycle in street, Cascais, near Lisbon, Portugal.

If you would like to view more of my Portugal images be sure to check back here or visit my Redbubble and Photo4me galleries:

In the near future I will be posting images from various vintage lenses that I have recently bought. I will be using them on my Sony a6000 (using various adapters that can be bought cheaply on the web). I will be reviewing the lenses and adapters as well as posting test images so if you are interested in using vintage glass on your modern DSLR or mirrorless CSC then be sure to visit soon!

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