Whiling Away the Summer Days

As July draws to a close, I’ve been indulging in inconsequential trifles.  Yesterday I watched the remake of “Total Recall” with Colin Farrell and Jessica Biel.  The original with Arnold Schwarzenegger was a silly movie.  So was this.  But I think I liked the recent one better.  Not that it was any more sensible or was a masterpiece of cinematic brilliance but it was entertaining.

Then tonight we watched the first episode of the spy series “The Old Man” with Jeff Bridges.  And once again it wasn’t deathless theater but it was very entertaining.  We’re also watching the “Justified” sequel I guess you could call it.  Now, I really liked the original series a lot.  I don’t know that I’ll like this as much but it’s well done and definitely in the same vein as the earlier series.  So lately I’m not hating tv.

And since it stopped raining every minute, I’ve had a chance to get outside and do some macrophotography of bugs and flowers.  And that’s a lot of fun.  I’ve been testing out the advantages and disadvantages of using continuous autofocus with fast moving insects.  The primary disadvantage is that for the Sony A7IV camera magnified view is unavailable in continuous autofocus mode.  So, for instance, if you’re trying to get the eyes of a bee or butterfly perfectly focused you have to guess if the autofocus is precisely on the eye.  In single-shot autofocus I can engage a 5.5X magnified view that will let me see whether the eye or whatever else I’m trying to nail is perfect.  But often when these critters are crawling around, they can move out of focus almost immediately.  Plus, the magnified view ends as soon as the shutter is engaged and so it’s necessary to reactivate it after every photo.

Based on what I’ve seen in the last couple of days I’m starting to think that continuous autofocus is the way to go.  Especially if I use high speed multiple exposures (spray and pray mode).  This ends up filling up my memory card (and hard drive!) but the chance of getting the perfect shot is much more likely than with the single shot autofocus and single exposure mode.  Plus, it’s easier and as I’ve always admitted I’m an extremely lazy man.

And I’ve continued on my program of getting together with the grandsons one by one.  Last Saturday I had the twelve-year-old fellow over and he wanted a Star Wars marathon.  Luckily this was the “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.”  I had forgotten just how bad the Ewoks were.  I also forgot just how goofy the scripts were.  Harrison Ford spends most of his time hammering away at some control components of the Millenium Falcon while whining about how it wasn’t his fault.  But we bonded over our shared belief that Imperial Stormtroopers were all pathetic losers without any detectable skills as warriors.  And finally, I rediscovered my disdain for Yoda.  As far as I could determine he was always wrong and of no value as a teacher or anything else.

On the upcoming Saturday, the sixteen-year-old is coming over and I believe it will be a “Lord of the Rings” film festival.  That should be fun.  For dessert he’s requested original Klondike Bars, of which I wholly approve.  It should be epic.

So, all of these things provide a welcome distraction from the slow-motion train wreck that is our national government.  I sometimes wondered what it must have been like to live through the more terrible chapters of the Roman Empire.  I think I now have a better idea.  Joe Biden is Tiberius and I guess Hunter is Caligula.  The FBI is the Praetorian Guard and we’re the rabble existing on bread and circuses.  But even if Tiberius was as sexually depraved as Joe, at least he was an able military leader.  Watching what Joe is doing to our foreign policy, or allowing others to do to our foreign policy, is frightening.

But enough doom and gloom.  Though we are perched on the slopes of Vesuvius we will eat, drink and be merry.  July is almost consumed but it will be relished to the dregs.

Sony A7 IV to Get Focus Stacking

So I check out the Sony camera rumors at (where else?) sonyalpharumors.com pretty regularly.  So what do I see today?

And at the bottom of the short article it says

One reliable source told me that the Sony A7IV will get a new firmware update 2.0 within the next couple of days! Another source told me that the new firmware update will include Focus Stacking.

Now focus stacking is a wonderful option for a macro-photographer.  Instead of hooking up some hokey laptop program or a manual focus advance trigger you just select the focus stacking option and let the camera do the work.  Now Olympus gave this option to its customers years ago.  But Sony, this giant electronics powerhouse isn’t up to the simple firmware update it would take.  So seeing this really got me excited.

But sonyalpharumors is called rumors for a reason.  I’d say the chance of focus stacking being in the update is 10%.  But hope springs eternal.  So fingers crossed.

 

Update:

This was a total myth.  Nothing came of it.  The only hopeful sign is that Sony is now beginning to provide some upgrades to their cameras on a pay basis.  Maybe that presages a larger effort to provide firmware upgrades that people would pay for.

 

Active Insect Macro Technique on Sony A7IV – Continuous Auto-Focus vs. Single Auto-Focus and Magnified View

When I was using the earlier Sony A7 cameras for insect macrophotography it was always a struggle to manage to get good focus on active insects like butterflies and bees.  When magnified view appeared in the A7S (and elsewhere) I started using that to get really close focus on the heads of bees and other small critters.  But the challenge was to perform the magnification button clicks and focusing before the little buggers moved on.  And another complication is that only single auto-focus and manual focus work with magnified view, not continuous auto-focus.

So recently I decided to try using continuous auto-focus instead of magnified view with the active insects.  And I’m satisfied that, all things considered, this is the better technique.  Probably those coming from camera models with a longer history than Sony of competent auto-focus are not surprised by my finding.  After all, continuous auto-focus isn’t a new technology.  But it is to me.  Having competent auto-focus on a Sony A7 camera is a relatively recent phenomenon.

What I think are the big advantages of this technique are really just the lack of the disadvantages that the magnified method has.  With the continuous autofocus method there is no rush to try to restart the magnified view after every capture.  This alone is worth a lot.  Between continuous auto-focus and multiple shooting modes I can take a dozen shots in the three or four seconds it takes to get two shots using magnified view.  And sometimes that is all the chance there is to get the shot.  Looking at the results confirms that the number of keepers is much higher.  Not to mention how much lower the annoyance and frustration levels are when shooting this way.  It makes it easier to keep a handle on the environment and react to the movements of the insects faster.  And this should be obvious.  When in magnified view there’s no way to find the bug when it flies to a new location.  You’re force to take the camera off your eye to find the insect again.  Often, you’ll have to back it out of magnified view and start over once you relocate the target.

So, here’s my restating of the obvious but if it helps anyone else out there in Sony camera world then good.

Macro Autofocusing with the Sony A7 IV.  Some Tests and Thoughts

Lately I’ve been changing the way I take macro shots of active insects like bumble bees.  Previously I have used magnification and single AF.  This works well for slow insects.  But not as well for fast moving butterflies and bees.  So talking to someone who does a lot macro he recommended continuous autofocus.  So I tried it.  One problem is that magnified view doesn’t work during continuous AF.  But what I did find was that the keeper rate did improve greatly for fast movers like bumble bees.

And that got me thinking.  A-mount lenses also don’t have magnified view in AF modes.  So it occurred to me that these lenses would also become more accurate in continuous AF macro shots.  So I tried out the Minolta 200mm f\4 macro lens and it worked quite well on larger insects like bumble bees and dragon flies.  Then I tried it on really tiny flies and this was haphazard.  For these I found throwing it into manual focus and using magnified view was the only way to get really tiny critters in perfect focus.

 

And that is limiting with live creatures in the outside environment where every puff of breeze ruins the focus.  So this leads me to think that the 200 macro will be limited to larger insects.  The Sony e-mount 90mm macro will be much better for the really tiny things.  And for slower insects I’ll use magnified view and single AF.  For faster bugs I’ll go with continuous AF and spray and pray I get the perfect shot.

Guest Contributor – TomD – Sony A7 IV Camera First Impressions

Tom | Flickr

(Editor’s Note – I’ve decided to collect Tom’s observations into a separate post and I’ll update it as they come in.  I’m very interested in these observations as I wait for my A7 IV to wend it’s way through the delivery chain. – photog)

 

The A7IV showed up unexpectedly early last Friday the 24th. Your’s?

Cameras are so complicated these days at configuring one to my preferences is almost like moving to a new house.

Sample below, some of the wife’s yard decoration.

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DSC00104.jpg

,,,

 

I haven’t had a chance to wring it out yet. Other than the impression that focus seems to be instant in all circumstances and that the form factor is more comfortable in my hand, I don’t have a lot to report.

To someone who has had a succession of now 8 Sony cameras, the much-ballyhooed new menu system just means that I have to relearn the menu system. The function button above the control wheel thankfully still gives immediate access to 95% of the functions that I use the most. And you also still have 7-8 buttons and controls to which you can assign functions.

I’m looking forward to playing with the face and eye tracking.

Still playing with the camera, it will take a while.

Just learned a couple of things, my camera, at least, does much better images with the exposure dial kept to -.7.

Tried several exposure stacking series and found that, in aperture priority, the camera mostly but not always creates the different exposures by varying the ISO. All the other Sonys have always varied only the shutter speed. One series inexplicably varied both ISO and shutter.

Big disappointment: My LA-EA 4 does not function at all with this camera.

On the other hand, the focus on my 90mm f2.8 macro has always been sluggish and hunting on my other cameras but it is instant and responsive on the A7IV. The eye autofocus is unbreakable on my animals around the house

 

30DEC2021 Update

Here is a a shot of mine wearing a 28-70 f2.8 lens.

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DSC03882.jpg

 

Sony A7 IV – The Unboxinification

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

 

The Eagle has landed.  After a day of doubt and hand-wringing over duplicitous freight and shipping dealings, the package arrived intact and seemingly unharmed.

Now comes the fun part.  I will start playing around with old lenses and new lenses and settings and adapters and just plain messing around with autofocus and hi ISO picture quality and all manner of to-doings.  I may neglect some of my duties to God and Country today but who could blame me.  This is my kid under the Christmas tree moment.  “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

LA-EA5 Compatibility – The Last Piece of the Puzzle

So recently I’ve been looking at the Sony A7 IV camera as the natural replacement for the my Sony A7 III.  It ticks all the boxes.  It’s got a sensor that is very close to the A7 III great sensor but with a few needed improvements thrown in.  It’s got better autofocus and tracking capability, improved menus, a fully articulated and touch sensitive LED, more megapixels and a better viewfinder.  It’s got a lot of other jazz that’s associated with video but since I don’t do video it’s just noise to me.  That’s everything that I could ask for in a camera.  But the one extra thing I was hoping for was that it would be able to autofocus my old motorless A-mount lenses with the LA-EA5 adapter.  When Sony introduced this adapter they didn’t enable all their cameras to use this feature.  And for me that was a sore point.  I have a couple of A-mount lenses that are extremely good and making them autofocusable would make them much more  useful to me.

So it was with great joy that I saw this link on another photo site.

ILCE-7M4 – Lens|Compatibility Information

The A7 IV will allow me to autofocus these lenses and now I just have to sell a kidney to buy the camera.

Huzzah, huzzah!

 

Sony Unveils the A7 IV Full Frame E-Mount Camera

Sony announced the upcoming A7 IV e-mount full frame camera.  The preview I saw at the B+H Photo site was pretty impressive.  It’s supposedly has most of the autofocus and other upgrades of the A1 top of the line camera in this new standard camera.  It’s even got the reversible LCD screen which people making vlogs really want.  I has bird eye auto focus tracking and all the other stuff that nature and sports shooters want.  They claim tha the AF capability rivals the A1.  That probably will have to be confirmed in the field.  I’ve seen reality sometimes lag behind such claims.  But that being said, I’m sure that the Af on this new camera will blow away what I can do with the A7 III.  I would like to find out if the LA-EA5 will be able to use non-motorized lenses on this camera but that is sort of a minor point that reflects my senitmental attachment to a couple of old A-mount lenses that I own.  The price is $2,600 which I guess is sort of expected.  Ouch!

The release date hasn’t been announced.  But it is fairly certain that I’ll trade in my A7 III for this camera.  It just makes sense.  For you Sony shooters this is an interesting moment.  Do you need the latest and greatest?  Personal choice.

 

Testing the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro and Sony 135mm f\1.8 A-Mount Lenses with Sony LA-EA5 Adapter on Sony A7R IV Camera – Part 5 – Conclusions

I’ve long since sent back the Sony LA-EA5 adapter and the Sony A7R IV A camera to Lensrentals.com and I have begun to review all the photos I took for sharpness and other criteria but the information I gleaned from this test are not dependent on the very detailed examination of individual files.

The questions I was trying to answer were:

  • Does the LA-EA5 provide modern autofocus capability to the Minolta and Sony A-mount lenses that do not have motors built in?
  • Will these motorless lenses prove capable of capitalizing on the enhanced autofocus functionality in real world situations?
  • How does the A7R IV A camera compare to the A7 III with respect to tracking autofocus?

So, what did I find?

Well,

  • The LA-EA5 does allow for some of the modern autofocus modes to function with these a-mount lenses. You can run tracking autofocus and you can use eye autofocus and most of the modes that you can use with normal e-mount lenses.  One very disappointing exception is that the magnification setting that I like to use so much while making macro shots is disabled while in autofocus.  It is only available in manual focus.  And with this one exception the usefulness of the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro lens is greatly reduced for me.  I very often like to magnify the head of an insect to get perfect focus on the eye.  Well, forget that.  So, you can see that this first answer has been far less than a complete success.  The lenses will allow me to take advantage of much better autofocus than currently available with the LA-EA4 but a key function is unavailable.
  • So, for the autofocus functions that these lenses are provided with how do they perform in real world conditions? Well, once again, it’s a mixed bag.  For relatively static subjects like a hummingbird hovering around a flower bush the autofocus worked quite well.  With the flexible spot it actually stuck with the bird as it moved around the viewfinder.  It succeeded in maintaining sharp focus on the bird.  With dynamic subjects like bird in flight or, in my case, dog in run, it was a complete failure.  Even if the tracking autofocus kept up with the subject, the lens couldn’t focus and capture the subject successfully.  My keeper rate was zero.  This was not a completely unexpected situation.  I’m actually quite satisfied with the additional capability that the flexible spot and tracking modes provide for much less dynamic subjects.  But I can understand why this will be a disappointment to folks who were hoping to use the old lenses for sports or wildlife.  Of course, I’m sure that for those who possess much better technique in those photographic specialties than I possess there may be some methods of extracting better results than my abysmal record but I wouldn’t want to raise hopes too high about these types of applications.
  • With respect to the comparison of tracking capabilities between the Sony A7 III camera and the Sony A7R IV A, it’s the difference between night and day. Of course, that because the A7 III doesn’t really have tracking.  It has the flexible spot autofocus setting which does allow for the camera to try and follow the subject inside the viewfinder but as noted it’s quite limited to slow moving objects.  The A7R IV A actually does track objects.  From what I understand it’s quite rudimentary compared to cameras like the Sony A9 and Sony A1.  From what I’ve heard these cameras have keeper rates that approach 100% for birds in flight and other very challenging applications.  But the A7R IV A is still orders of magnitude better than my A7 III.  But the disadvantage of the A7R IV A is the much larger file size.  The 24-megapixel files of the A7 III are plenty big enough for most of my uses.  The 60-megapixel sensor in the A7R IV A is a bit much for my tastes.  Of course, your mileage may vary, especially if you specialize in landscape and sport.

So there you have it.  I am actually looking forward to having the LA-EA5 available to me on the next Sony camera I own which I hope will be the A7 IV.  Of course if Sony decides not to allow the A7 IV to autofocus motorless A-mount lenses with the LA-EA5 I will give up photography and take up Chinese calligraphy instead.  But that’s just me.

Testing the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro and Sony 135mm f\1.8 A-Mount Lenses with Sony LA-EA5 Adapter on  Sony A7R IV Camera – Part 4 – The Verdict on Tracking

This will be a short post.  I just want to put this question behind us.  I’ll summarize my observations.

The tracking and eye tracking does work on the A-mount motor-less lenses.  But the autofocus on these lenses cannot keep up with an even moderately fast moving object.  Even a person walking toward the camera will have a very low keeper rate.  With a rapidly moving animal like a dog running it’s hopeless.  The software is doing its part but the mechanics of the autofocus system is just too slow to keep up.

Now I happen to want to use it for something much less demanding.  For butterflies, bees and hummingbirds the animal is hovering or flitting inside a very small area and this allows the lens to reacquire focus quickly enough to be useful.  But this is a much less demanding application of the tracking program.  It is sort of the exception to the failure of these lenses to track.

I’ll be performing more tests once the weather over here improves on hummingbirds and butterflies with the tracking program.  But I felt it was important enough to break this information out separately.