Monday, 11 July 2022

Gear Musings

E-M1 Classic, m.Zuiko 75/1.8

Looking at shots like the above makes me second-guess my choice to go all-in on Sony.

The reality is that I would probably be completely happy with the results from a modern 20MP Oly body and 2-3 Pro lenses. IE the setup I had almost put together before I got the A7RIV.

I'd probably also be perfectly happy with a Z7 and a 14-30/4 S, 24-70/4S and 70-300E

The real challenge remains finding a paired light carry body and setup that I was happy with. The first option gives me the E-M5.3 or upcoming OM-5 as the obvious choice. It's an easy one. 

The Nikon gives me the Z50/Z fc/Z30 options. Limited lenses and of course 2 sensor sizes, but the lenses would be fine on a Z7 in DX mode.

Sony gives me the A6x00 line. Same basic problems in terms of sizing as the DX options, but WAY more lens selection. Worse EVF's and ergonomics though. 

This is a frustration to me. Especially because my brain starts pulling me in various directions even though I'm perfectly happy with the A7RIV itself and my lenses too. It's times like these I wish my brain would let me go dual-system and be happy, I'd get another X-T2 and use that as a light carry camera, shooting Fuji in the city and Sony elsewhere. 

Monday, 4 July 2022

800Km and 229 Images


A7RIV, Tamron FE 70-300
Chickory Flower along the road at Snake Creek

Yesterday was a good day. I left just after 7AM and headed eastwards on the 401. Jumped off the 401 onto the backroads midway between Belleville and Napanee, headed to Buttermilk Falls, which is a neat little spot, quite pretty, then went north on 41 to Denbigh, west on 28 to Hardwood Lake, then peeled off onto backroads and went north by north east to Killaloe on 60. West to Barry's Bay , southwest on Siberia Rd and Panineau Lake road until I met up with 62, crossed and went down Boulter Rd to McArthur's Mills where I met up with 28 again and headed west through Bancroft to Paudash, where I turned onto 118 and drove up to Tory Hill, then south on 503 to Kinmount with a brief stop at Furnace Falls, West on 45 to Hwy 35, south through Coboconk to the turnoff for 8, west to 12, south to 48 and home. Got home a little after 9pm, for a 14 hour day.

All in all, about 800Km though some of the prettiest country southeast of Algonquin Park. 

I stopped regularly for photography, with the last stop at McArthur's Mills. Furnace Falls was a washout as there were folks picnicking right where I wanted to setup and rather than bother them, I just had a break then headed onwards. Ended up with 229 shots, although most were 3 shot brackets (my standard when shooting landscape).

I also stopped to assist some stranded motorists on 503, they had a blowout and didn't know how to change a tire. Got them sorted and on their way and headed onwards. That does remind me that I do need to start putting together a recovery kit for the BWT, their situation could easily have required a pull (they were on the soft shoulder, luckily not soft enough for their car to get stuck and need a pull out).

Driving like this is a major stress relief for me, at least once I get off the major highways. There's nothing like the calm of an open road to carry my troubles away. Yesterday was mostly about this, although Photography was also part of it. I deliberately didn't do any hiking though, that's for another time.

In terms of photography, I came home with a bunch of river/wetlands shots. I do love shooting these subjects and they do well in regular daylight, at least before noon and after 3-4pm. 

I'm still thoroughly enjoying the A7RIV, the more I shoot it, the more I find it just fits. It really doesn't get in my way and aside from the LCD articulation and function lockouts when writing files, there's just not much wrong with it. And the files are amazing. I'm closing in on 3k shots on it, and it's just doing the job without complaint. 

I need to get out more, especially for golden hour shooting. The work from that Algonquin outing last February remains the absolute best work I've shot. If I want to produce more work of that level, I need to be there when the light is that good. 

Thursday, 30 June 2022

Been Away for a While


A7RIV, Tamron SP 90mm f2.8 Nikon AF

So it's been a good while since I've posted. That's because I haven't really been doing much in the way of serious photography since the end of February, a 4 month drought.

I should break that drought in the next few days, finally getting out for a photography-dedicated trip over the long weekend.

What has been going on? A little local photography and some other stuff, I'm actually up over 2500 frames on the A7RIV just from around the nieghbourhood shooting and taking pics at a few RC events.

I have already failed goal #2 for 2022 though, just have spent a lot of time hermited up this spring, there's been weeks where I didn't leave the house except for groceries. 

Overall, I'm still happy with the Sony, and short of an A1, there's really nothing on the market that would make me look elsewhere right now. 

I do expect to slowly grow my lens collection though, but I'm going to try my hardest to end 2022 shooting the A7RIV, and I think that's very achievable even with my brain's odd behaviour.

Monday, 28 February 2022

2022 Goals


Olympus E-M5II, m.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 PRO

I've not yet published a review of my 2021 Goals or a new set of goals for 2022.

First, 2021 in review.

1. Goal 1 - 10,000 frames on one camera. Miserable failure, I did 3300+ on 2 different bodies and broke 10,000 total frames, but there were too many bodies and while I shot half the year with a single body for the most part, the E-M5II, I didn't get close to it.

2. Goal 2 - Get out at least once a week with the camera. Mostly successful. I did pretty well at this until October, but I really hermited up in Nov/Dec and wasn't leaving the house much at all. When I did, the camera usually came with me.

3. Goal 3 - Post an IG post for every deliberate photography outing. This I succeeded at and I'm pretty happy with that.

For 2022 My goals will be similar. In fact I'm going to try goals 1 & 2 all over again.

1. Goal 1 - 10,000 frames on one camera. The A7RIV puts me in a much better place to achieve this. For the first time in a long time I can realistically see myself shooting the same camera in December that I did in February.

2. Goal 2 - Get out at least once a week with the camera. This is quite achievable if I don't hermit up for an extended period this year.

3. Goal 3 - Raise my posts to likes ratio to 70% or higher on Fred Miranda. I've been active there for years, but because I mostly am active in gear threads historically, until recently my post to like ratio was under 50% until recently. I'd like to get that up to 70% in 2022. That's a stretch goal (I'm at ~12400 posts and ~6400 likes right now)

Friday, 18 February 2022

Lenses and Rumours

A7RIV, SLR Magic 18mm f2.8 Cine

Picked up a couple cheap but good manual lenses this week. 

First one is the one used above, the SLR Magic 18mm f2.8 Cine. It's a compact and medium speed UWA with a low price and reasonable performance. And it takes 62mm filters, so it can use the filters I'd bought for my now-departed 12-40 Pro.

It won't win any awards, but it's also not going to generate much in the way of complaints. A thoroughly competent lens as far as I've seen so far. As such, it will be the core UWA for hiking for now.

Handling is the one thing I'll have to get used to, as a cine lens it has a declicked aperture and geared focus and aperture rings, instead of a rubber focus ring and ribbed aperture ring. That does give a more positive grip when gloved, but it's a tad rough on the fingers otherwise. I'm good with the physical handling, but I've never been a fan of declicked aperture rings even though I understand the benefits for video.

The other lens I picked up is something of a re-acqiusition. I've owned at least 3 variants of the Tamron 90mm macro before, in Adaptall-2, Nikon AF and Pentax AF forms. I bought a Nikon AF one, but the older version rather than the late screwdriver version I had last time. This will be a macro/compact telephoto for me. I know it works well for me on both FF and APS-C and expect I'll use it a lot in the coming months.

That gives me both a good hiking kit of the 18, 28-60 and 70-300 and a compact 3 prime kit of the 18, 45 and 90. With the latter I can use APS-C mode to make it an 18/28, 45/68 and 90/135 setup.

Oh, and SonyAlphaRumors just noted an interesting rumour for a refreshed A7C, with the A7RIII's 42MP sensor instead of the 24MP it currently has or the 33MP in the A7IV. That makes a lot of sense to me, the 42MP sensor is excellent and a lot of folks like it, but the only body options are both aging. Going with this sensor in the A7C refresh would both give the A7C more differentiation from the regular A7 line and give a modern option for those who like the mid-40MP sensors. It would become even better at being the hiker's landscape camera, especially if the A7RV grows in size & weight again, which I expect. This would be the perfect pairing with Sony's compact G primes, especially if they extend the line (I'd like to see an 85/2.8 or 135/2.8 and a 16-18mm option from Sony).


Wednesday, 16 February 2022

A Few Thoughts on the A7RIV


A7RIV, FE 28-60mm f4-5.6, sunset in Western Ontario

After two weeks with the A7RIV, there's a lot I like about it, and a few things I don't like.

I'll start off with what I don't like.

1. Dust. The bloody sensor is an absolute dust magnet and I'm doing a lot of spotting in post. This is a huge change from the Oly stuff which was almost immune to sensor dust, and the Nikon and Panasonic stuff did pretty well too. Endemic Sony issue they need to fix.

2. Poor handling of manual lens data. The workflow is pretty much a. Set Steadyshot focal length. b. Set minimum shutter for Auto ISO (if you use it). c. Wonder which lens you used when doing post. The gold standard here is the newest Oly bodies which not only let you set a menu of manual lenses which you can select from and which both IBIS and Auto ISO respect, but a custom text name for the lens as well, useful when you have multiple lenses at one focal length, such as my 2 135mm options. This has been a complaint since the A7II and Sony really should address it. Nikon should as well, as while they do a lot better than Sony, in fact they do everything right except the fact that if you aren't using an electronic adapter, Nikon Z bodies don't write EXIF data from non-CPU lens data.

3. LCD Articulation. My usual complaint for any body with no articulation or only single-axis articulation. A7RIV is single-axis and should be 2 axis like the X-T2 or Z9. 

4. Invalid Operation Button - really annoying pop-up messages when you accidentally hit a function that's disabled in the current setup (AF when using an MF lens is the most common for me).

Now on to what I do like:

1. Battery life. I shot 512 shots last weekend over about 14 hours. Came back with 76% battery. That's DSLR-level life. Impressed. Plus I can charge on the go easily thanks to USB-C and USB Micro B ports that are charge capable (yes, the current Sony bodies have both a Type C and a Micro-B port, the latter is also the remote release port). I'll buy an extra battery, but I don't see it being critical in the field unless I'm doing long-exposure work.

2. IQ. Yeah, it's immense. More per-pixel noise than some other high-MP bodies, but with so many pixels it's not an issue. DR is great, the colours are nice and wow, 3shot/1 stop brackets to mild HDR delivers so much IQ it's crazy. I prefer shooting bracket sets when shooting winter scenes due to the huge DR of these scenes.

3. Handling. I actually really like the ergonomics of this body. Not perfect, the body would benefit from an extra 5-10mm between the mount and grip, but very good and I'm not missing the G9 or Z5 when I hold the A7RIV. Button layout is excellent, I can always find anything. Biggest complaint is that like the G9, I can't re-assign the Record button.

4. EVF. Marginally better than the Z5 in practice. I still think Nikon has the best EVF display profiles, but the better display on the A7RIV offsets the better profile on the Z5.

5. AF. I've never worked with AF so good. The tracking is so excellent that I just use AF-C in Flexible spot mode, lock on and recompose and let the camera sort out focusing. Works brilliantly. I'm actually surprised about how quickly this became part of my workflow. I treated the Z5 like a DSLR for AF, it worked, worked well but I mostly stuck with AF-C and ignored the tracking modes aside from using face detect a few times. I didn't even bother with tracking or AF-C on the m43 bodies. Sony has been a breath of fresh air, although I suspect an Z6II or Z7II would be pretty similar for tracking today.

Things I'm ambivalent on:

1. Card usage. No lossless compressed and 61MP 14 bit files means the A7RIV absolutely chews through card space. I shot an entire 64GB card last weekend for 512 shots. I'll need to acquire more cards, my current set was doing fine with the low-MP bodies I've been shooting since I sold the D800 a couple years ago.

2. Write speed. Those big files take time to write to my UHS-I cards. Time to move from cheap UHS-I to more expensive UHS-II cards. A couple 128GB cards will do for my uses though and I only need 1 in the short term. That's good because these aren't cheap. I'll pass my now obsolete 32GB cards to my partner for her A7II. Note that a lot of camera functions lock out when the buffer is writing, so fast cards benefit all users, not just those who hammer the buffer.

So far I'm really liking the A7RIV if you can't tell. It's well suited to the way I work, and the few issues I've encountered I can work around pretty well.

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

OM-Wow - The OM-1 is Launched


E-M5II, m.Zuiko 12-40mm f2.8 Pro

So the new OMDS 'Wow' camera has been announced. It's called the OM-1 and it's a real nice set of upgrades.

But very few of the changes would have benefited my work and the price increased over 20% as well vs the E-M1.3 that this replaces as the flagship camera (I expect the E-M1X to just fade away like the Pen-F did)

It's faster, better sealed and upgraded all around, but only performance changes to the computational features that interest me (LiveND and High-Res). LiveND now can do 6 stops and High-Res post-processing is twice as fast. Oh and a claimed 1 stop better DR from the new sensor.

That's nice, but frankly I'm getting a bigger boost for my work from the A7RIV, so I have no desire to reverse course on my switch to Sony. 

That said, this is clearly the best crop camera on the market by a fairly large margin. While some have claimed the D500 still held that crown, IMHO the E-M1.3 was already in that position in most regards.