Close-Up Photography with the Sony A9 + FE 55mm F/1.8

So this is a bit of a joke.  The FE 55mm is in no way a macro lens.  Its closest focus is about a foot away and so with a 55mm focal length it’s basically a normal size image.  The twist is that because the A9 allows autofocus in a magnified view you can get incredibly exact focus on small things like insects from that 12 inches away and then you can crop the image to look like a macro shot.  What follows is a series of images followed by a crop of the focal point.  I found it pretty easy to get even hyperactive bugs like the bees and wasps to end up in focus.  This was my first day with the camera. These photos are just jpgs. I don’t have the latest Lightroom rev that works with A9 files so these are rough pictures and won’t be reworked to their fullest potential.  Tomorrow I’ll see if I can do anything more sensible with it.

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August in the Yard – Closeup Photography – Monarch Caterpillars & Translucent Sprouts

So Camera Girl found two interesting subjects in the yard.  These are all shot with the Sony A7S and the Minolta 200mm F\4 Macro.  This is using the manual focus ring because this is a screw drive AF lens and the adapter only autofocuses motor driven lenses.  But for caterpillars and plants that not such a problem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plug for a Useful Video on the Sony A9

Tony Northrup is a well-known photographer/photo pundit.  He has used all the major camera manufacturers’ gear and has been a pretty honest critic of Sony’s mirrorless cameras over the years.  He is neither a shameless fanboy nor a Sony Hater.  He’s a good source of information.  In this video, he addresses several common allegations against the Sony A9.

I think he’s extremely convincing.  I have an A9 rental scheduled at the end of August for a family gathering but I already feel that he has put to rest the infamous “banding” uproar.  Good for him.  Anyway, if you’ve been following Sony for the last few years and were excited about the specs of the A9 (and the soon to be announced A7 III, A7R III and A7S III) you’ll be interested in getting Tony’s remarks on how these “terrible problems” turned out once he owned his own A9.

Check it out.

A9 Bottom Line

A week ago, I said it would be a week or two to evaluate the performance of the Sony A9 camera.  Well, it’s been a week and I’ve waded through a boat load of reviews, hands-on reviews and technical discussions.  It’s enough.  I’ve got the information I’m looking for.  But, you may say, it’s too soon.  We haven’t seen the raw files opened up in a legit version of Lightroom (or fill in your raw browser of choice).  True, it may be that once you look at the 20 frames per second exposures made with the electronic shutter in fluorescent light they’ll have banding and rolling shutter jello and polka dot noise and blah, blah, blah.  And someone else will discover that at 20 frames per second when the raw files are only 12 bit there is a 2% chance of producing artifacts if you exceed the dynamic range of the camera.  And I’ll say sure.  What else is new?  All this is the same as saying no camera is perfect.  Tell me something I don’t know.  But what I do know now is that Sony has figured out autofocus.  The A9 has very good autofocus.  Is it better than the Nikon D5 or the Canon 1DX?  Will it work perfectly in low light?  Don’t know.

What I do know is that Sony mirrorless cameras will have competent AF from now on.  I have been waiting for that for about seven years.  I absolutely do not need 20 frames per second.  I wouldn’t mind good tracking AF and a silent shutter is a big advantage when shooting an occasion.  I doubt that I’ll buy the A9 (although my gear lust is sorely tempting me right now).  I’ll definitely rent it this summer to calibrate the advantages it provides over my ancient A7S.  I want to see what it does in a normally lit house or a dimly lit restaurant.  I’d like to compare the 24 megapixel files of the A9 with the A7S 12 megapixel files in very low light.  ISO 12,800 is a good setting for astrophotography.  Can the A9 make a good Milky Way shot?  I’ll try to find out.

So, there it is.  Sony has finally crossed the Rubicon.  They have proven to me that mirrorless cameras can fully replace the DSLR.  I’d expect Canon and Nikon will now produce their own mirrorless lines to compete head to head with the A9.  May the best man win.  The web sites and magazines (both print and electronic) will expend millions of words “proving” that x, y or z is the top company and all other options will fall by the wayside and end up on the ash heap of history.  And who knows?  Maybe Sony will stumble and one of its competitors will emerge as king.  Completely possible.  But that’s a problem for another day.  As I said back a few weeks ago, the A9 will determine whether Sony mirrorless cameras can provide a full-frame camera with highly competent autofocus.  Based on what I’ve read it does.  Congratulations Sony.  You’ve succeeded in keeping me aboard.  Next stop, my next camera.

More Spring Photos

Early Spring in a New England Swamp

To paraphrase George Costanza, “Spring, renewal, rebirth, all that crap.”  Stuff is coming up all over the place.  Some pretty, some scary.  Here’s a little cross-section from my neck of the woods (southern New England).  Most are with the Minolta 200mm Macro on the A7S but the first one is with the Loxia 21mm.  Several of these are similar.  I was trying to decide which were better, so feel free to leave your opinions in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading the Tea Leaves – Reviewing the A9 Hands-On Reviews

I viewed the YouTube hands-on reviews by all the Sony guests at their demonstration.  I watched Max Yuryev, Patrick Murphy-Racey, Steve Huff, Jason Lanier, Tony & Chelsea Northrup and Gary at DPReview.  They seemed pretty positive.  But based on my previous experience of the difference between the first hands-on reviews and the performance of the camera in real life conditions I found them inconclusive on the most important point, auto-focus accuracy.

That’s why I was very encouraged when I viewed the video by David Schloss, the editor of Digital Photo Pro.  He’s written in the past ( http://www.digitalphotopro.com/gear/cameras/dslr-is-still-king/ ) about the inferiority of mirrorless autofocus compared to DSLR.

Then in this A9 review (  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVUsA_lSnBw ) he mentions that even the A-6500 autofocus which is touted as excellent is still not as good as DSLR autofocus.  This sounds like someone speaking the straight dope.  And he says the AF on the A9 is flat out incredible.

By the video discussion Schloss is seeing the A9 autofocus on sports subjects like boxers, hockey players and pole vaulters in motion.  Most likely the lighting conditions were optimal.  To my mind this represents a legitimate test of the AF.  This may not guarantee that the A9 can compete with the D5 or the 1DX but it should satisfy my needs for medium level DSLR level autofocus. So, this says to me that Sony has probably reached a very important milestone.  They have leveraged advanced processing and sensor technology to match the simpler DSLR autofocus technology of the older camera makers.  Now they have to make this technology cheap enough to incorporate in the A7 cameras.

So, all this triangulating of reviews is just a game I play until the definitive information emerges in the next week or two.  Once Sony hands out the loner copies of the A9 we’ll start getting real results and informed opinions.  Until then I’ll comfort myself with the voodoo answers I’ve cobbled together here.  If you have a different analysis, feel free to leave a comment about it on this post.  After all I’m not actually Nostradamus or Sherlock Holmes.

Well, fellow Sony camera users, hang in there it can’t be long now.

A9 Bottom Line

The A9 Has Arrived. Halleluiah!

So, SonyAlphaRumors was right. The mythical A9 is real.  For $4,500, even I can become a professional Sony photographer and capture 20 frames of a hummingbird’s wing beat in one second.  I’ve not yet had a chance to go over in detail all the double plus goodness of the specs but I noted that it has a fully electronic shutter and a new type of stacked sensor.  And of course it has all the goodies that Sony has needed forever like dual memory cards and a bigger battery.  The auto focus has 693 phase detection points and supposedly re-focuses the lens 60 times a second!  The ISO maximum is 51,200 but is magically  extended to 204,800 when you want to take pictures in the dark.  It has a minimum exposure time of 1/32,000th of a second, a maximum of twenty frames per second with continuous auto-focus and it can cure the whooping cough in adults.  It is the ubercamera.

Will I buy it? Probably not.  But I will rent it.  My though process is the following.  I want to know if the auto-focus is very good.  The only way to determine that right away is to try the camera.  Once I know that I’ll be able to determine if I’ll continue as a Sony photographer.  If it doesn’t auto-focus as least as well as a conventional Nikon or Cannon camera (not the top of the line mind you, but just a regular old mid-range DSLR from the big two) then I’ll be exiting Sony.  If it does prove to have reasonable auto-focus then I know this improved feature will eventually find its way to the A7 series.  That fact will be enough to keep me in the Sony camp.

Sony has announced the release for June. I’m guessing the rental places will have it shortly after that.  That means I can rent it for a family gathering I have in July.  That should give me all the testing targets I’ll need to give it the thumbs up (or thumbs down).

So now that I’m through acting cool let me say how I feel about this camera viscerally. Man, this sounds like a great piece of tech!  24 megapixels is the sweet spot in my mind for resolution.  Even for landscapes I think it’s plenty enough.  If the auto-focus really is as good as their claiming it will be amazing.  And the 20 frames per second will make action photography doable even for old guys like me.  This could be the greatest technical innovation since sliced bread.  So, thank you Sony.  You finally put your cards on the table and now I can judge whether you have a full house or a busted straight.  For all of you Sony shooters out there, we are about to find out what the future will be for us.  Because over the next year or two, this new tech will begin trickling down to the A7 cameras and Sony will become the premiere camera company (or it will fail and they’ll be cast into the outer darkness along with the Delorean and Betamax).