An Interesting Boat Ride, an Epic Photographic Fail and a Lens Review

Last Saturday I went on my much-ballyhooed Bald Eagle photographic trip.  The trip was very interesting.  The boat leaves Essex CT and travels up and down the Connecticut River with the guides pointing out to the participants a number of bald eagles flying over head and perched in the surrounding trees.  The tour personnel were very courteous and helpful.  The day was sunny and cold but mostly the environment was reasonable for a February day in Southern New England.

I rented the Sony FE 200-600mm f5.6-6.3 G OSS lens for the occasion and mounted it on a monpod with a trigger-controlled lens head.  I took over 1,300 photos.  There were less than a hundred that were even acceptably sharp.  This is a failure that I may never live down.  It’s like landing on the moon, taking a million shots and on the return trip discovering that you left the lens cap on the whole time.  What I did was leave the ISO at 100 and the camera in aperture mode.  That left the camera no choice but to lengthen the exposure to as long as 1/100th of a second.  With a 600mm lens on a moving boat that translates into motion blur.

The sheer bone headed stupidity of this blunder is breathtaking.  Every time I looked through the eyepiece the exposure time was staring me in the eye.  To ignore it for two hours is either the sign of advanced senility or the work of an intellect on par with that of a sea slug.  I will never live this down.

After going through all thirteen hundred files I picked the two or three that were least blurred as exhibits A, B and C.


The next day when my morale had slightly-recovered I went out to the local lake with the 600mm lens and took some shots at the correct exposure time.  And I found the lens quite sharp.  These shots were taken at distances between 800ft and 1200ft.  I decided to use a tripod instead of the monopod I had on the boat.  Although I failed to take advantage of the eagle boat ride I at least was able to decide that the Sony FE 200-600mm f5.6-6.3 G OSS lens is a very good zoom.





FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS Super Telephoto Zoom Lens compared to various A mount and FE lenses

I rented the Sony 200 – 600 mm zoom for an upcoming bald eagle photographic trip.  I put it next to some of my other lenses for a size comparison.  Darn thing weighs almost 5 pounds so it’ll have to be a monopod for me because the trip will be pretty long.  Look how small the FE 35mm f\2.8 looks.  I’m interested in this lens but I’m hoping it’s sharp enough to warrant the $2,000 price tag.

Using the Sony FE Telephoto 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS as a Macro Lens

I pride myself in not having much in the way of conventional sense when it comes to photography.  I started very late in life and self-taught myself the little I know the hard way, by making an enormous number of mistakes.  So last summer I rented the Sony 100-400mm GM lens and in addition to taking shots of birds in trees and other obvious telephoto targets I tried my hand at using it as a macro lens.  Now it wasn’t really a macro.  Each of these photos is a massive crop from the original file.  But I wanted see if I could get the resolution and focus needed to take insect photos.  The answer is yes and no.  Yes in the sense that if you’ve got blazing sunlight you can shorten the exposure enough to make up for the difficulties of a long lens and monopod stability (or instability) without the ISO going too far up.  But no, in the fact that you can do the same and better with a 90mm f2.8 macro lens without having to stand in the next county.

The results are respectable and show that the lens is very sharp.  And I’ve become more appreciative of my macro lenses.  I’ll put up a second post later on the more conventional telephoto capabilities of this lens.


17JUL2019 – OCF Update

As the days of my vacation dwindle down I am reminded of the importance of prioritizing tasks.  Yesterday I returned the lenses and teleconverters to the rental company, taking a flurry of photos right before packing them up.  Just as a preliminary statement without actually having analyzed any of the files I took with the Mitakon SpeedMaster 50mm f/0.95, I will go out on a limb and guess that I won’t want to own this lens.  First off its a manual lens (which isn’t a deal breaker by itself).  Secondly the aperture is not only manual but it doesn’t register on my Sony A7 III files.  And thirdly, I’m kind of a sharp lens junky.  This lens is not that kind of lens.  At f/0.95, sharpness isn’t even a possibility.  So, I’m guessing I’ll be giving it a pass.  But that’s not to say I might find some applications where it makes sense to use it.

I will also review the Sony 100-400mm GM zoom lens.  This is a very good and useful lens that I’m very interested in.  There will be a lot of comparisons between the 400 with and without the 1.4X and 2X teleconverters attached.I’ll have a lot more to say about these combinations but one thing I will state upfront is that telephoto work is a lot more than a honking big lens.  Technique is everything.  Using monopods, tripods, teleconverters, polarizers and using the correct camera modes for ISO, exposure and focus are every bit as important as the lens.  And hand holding a very heavy lens is an art in and of itself.

The political news cycle is jam packed with important and bizarre occurrences so I actually have to show restraint and concentrate on the most entertaining items.  Otherwise I might overload on SJW outrage and lose my sunny disposition.

On the review front, today I’ll be reviewing the last episode of Twilight Zone, Season Four.  That will be the last of the hour long episodes and back to the half hour format that I think works best for this genera.  So that means we have about ten more weeks of TZ articles.

Last week the first phase of ShatnerKhan began.  And as expected it was cheesy and pathetic.  It exceeded all expectations.  I will write up this first volley soon and all will be amazed at how truly sad an acting career can be.

Stay tuned.

After you’ve read enough sexbot articles on Drudge maybe switch to something interesting


Lens Review – Sony FE 100-400mm f\4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens – Part 1 – First Impressions

Sony’s 100/400 is listed as a GM or G Master lens.  That implies a premium or professional grade model.  I will attest it is a very well made lens.  It’s a metal construction unit and has plenty of heft to it weighing in at over three pounds.  Playing around with the autofocus I noted that the A7 III and the 100-400 are well matched and focus on distant and close objects quickly and accurately with no hunting.  And using a 400mm lens without a tripod (I used a monopod and sometimes handheld) I was impressed with how the image stabilization (IS) performed.  Using the A7 III’s magnified view on close objects without a tripod maximizes the shake observed through the viewfinder but with IS engaged I was very pleasantly surprised to find that once the trigger was half-pressed the shake disappeared.

I tested the lens out as a dragonfly and butterfly chaser.  Understand, it’s not a macro lens.  Maximum magnification is only about .3 but with the electronic magnification in use I can focus on the eye of an insect to perfect focus without a problem.

I like the rotating tripod collar.  It makes portrait shots easy and I used it to move the collar out of the way when I wanted to hand hold the lens.

And first impressions, the lens is very sharp from 100mm all the way to 400mm.  I’ve always been a prime lens snob.  But I have to admit that being able to zoom the lens to quickly frame the shot the way I want is very convenient and actually improved a number of my compositions.  The colors look good (as far as my color blind eyes can tell) with nice rendering of the flowers I’ve been shooting.  I’m very interested to see how the 1.4 and 2.0 teleconverters match up with this lens.  I want to shoot the 100-400 with them to have something to compare to the new Sony 200-600 lens that’s coming out soon.

And here’s a very unfair test of the lens.  This distance would have needed a 1200mm focal length to get any detail.


After you’ve read enough sexbot articles on Drudge maybe switch to something interesting


Sony Super-Telephotos Announced

Sony has just announced their new super telephoto prime (600mm f/4) and zoom (200 – 600mm f/5.-6.3).  Of course, the 600mm f/4 is completely outside of the budget of anyone except the wealthy or the dedicated professional photographer (~$13,000).  But the 200 – 600mm zoom is $2,000 which is possible.  What I’m thinking of doing is renting the 200 – 600 and the 100 – 400 zooms and using the Sony 1.4X and 2X teleconverters compare the quality of the images between the zooms.  After all, a 100 – 400mm zoom is a pretty useful thing whereas the 200 – 600 zoom is a beast.  Now, the 100 – 400 is actually $500 more expensive than the 200 – 600 so I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that the 100 – 400 could match the 200 – 600.  Either way it’ll be an interesting experiment.  The 200 – 600 comes out in August stay tuned.


After you’ve read enough sexbot articles on Drudge maybe switch to something interesting

Sonyalpharumors Thinks There is a New Sony Wildlife Lens Coming Out Next Week

Our wacky friends at Sonyalpharumors have an SR4 (almost a certainty) alert out about a new lens that they think will be a long telephoto 400 – 600 range).

(SR4) Sony likely to announce a new new wildlife/sports lens on June 5/6!

I find that very interesting.  I’m in the market for a long lens and I have toyed with the idea of getting the Sigma 150 – 600 but I’d love to see Sony give us a native lens.  I figure the native autofocus would be amazing.  What might also be amazing (in a bad way) is the price.  Sony lenses have e a pretty stiff premium and anything north of $4K would start seeming exorbitant even to me.  But I’d still rent it to try it out so bring it!

Sony E-Mount Macro Lens Decision

I’ve been investigating how I wanted to do certain close-up photography work on the Sony E-mount.  Transitioning from the Sony A-mount I had the Minolta 200mm f\4 macro lens.  This is a superb lens but it has a screw drive autofocus system which is not accommodated by the LAEA3 adapter and if used with the LAEA4 adapter forces me to have the so-called “translucent mirror” of the adapter in between the lens and the sensor.  So I went around looking for other options.  I rented the Sony 90mm f\2.8 macro lens.  It is excellent and has an excellent autofocus response with the Sony A7 III camera.  But it is less than half the focal length of the 200mm lens.  I looked at adapting the Sigma 180mm f\2.8 macro in Canon mount with the Sigma Canon to E-Mount MC-11 adapter.  I rented this combination and found the autofocus inconsistent at best.  Finally I tried to find the Sigma 180mm f\2.8 in A-mount and see if the LAEA3 combination would autofocus better.  The A-Mount is not a very popular one so none of the rental places had this lens.  I called up B&H Photo who had the lens and asked them to mount it on an A7 III with the LAEA3 and test the autofocus.  They said the autofocus was fair but completely blown away by the native Sony lens performance.  When I heard this I knew it was time to give up and go with the Sony 90mm f\2.8 macro lens.  I’ll always have the Minolta 200mm for times when I want the extra reach but autofocus is not critical.  But for hummingbird and butterfly shots the autofocus of the native sony E-Mount lenses is more important than the extra focal length.  I ordered it from B&H last night.  Case closed.

Macrophotography and Me – Part 1

We’re entering the winter months in New England (also known as frozen hell) and at that point shooting outside is not only less interesting but also much less comfortable.  Luckily, macrophotography is something you can do from the comfort of your nicely heated home.  I like to do macro indoors in the winter.  To accommodate this, I look around during the year for interesting subject matter that I can bring inside for the winter and also try to improve on the set-ups I use to make indoor macrophotography more convenient and effective.

For instance, real macrophotography (which involves at least 1X magnification) requires extreme stability because even a tiny vibration will be noticed when apertures are small and magnification is high and exposures can be long.  One of the things I have lacked in my equipment is a table top tripod.  Up to now, I’ve compensated by setting up my full-sized tripod near a table and stood up while working.  I will be the first to admit that this isn’t a comfortable arrangement but I was always preoccupied with lens and camera buying priorities.  But now that I’ve got the A7 III I’m where I need to be for camera and even my Minolta 200mm f\4 macro becomes convenient enough for indoor macro work.  So, it’s time to look at the table top tripod.  The other thing that I wanted to add to my set up was a macro bellows.  It’s a bellows with a camera connection on one side and a lens connection on the other.  This allows you to increase the magnification with even non-macro lenses.  I’ve just purchased the Fotodiox Macro Bellows for the Sony E-Mount.  This adds 150mm of extension when completely extended.  And just in case I want to go completely macro crazy I can add my Kenko Extension tubes.  That adds another 68mm of extension.  Between the two extenders I can reach a little more than 2X magnification with my Minolta 200mm macro lens.  And with shorter focal lengths I can probably do even better.   If I add a lens reverse mount then I can take a wide-angle lens like my 10mm and get some really ridiculously high magnification but that may be a bridge too far right now.

I’ve got to mount all this paraphernalia on the table top tripod with my 200mm macro and camera to really test its stability.  I’ve selected the JOBY GorillaPod 5K Stand.  The sales literature says it can hold eleven pounds.  Between the camera, lens and macro thingamajigs it won’t add up to eleven pounds but it will be four or five I’ll bet.  If it turns out that this is not stable enough, I may have to add a rail to stiffen up the set-up but at that point I might as well paint it with purple polka dots and donate it to the circus with the other clown props.  Stay tuned and I’ll follow up with some photos of the rig and macro shots that I take. It may be interesting or ridiculous but I’m sure to learn something.

Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens for Canon – Lens Review

Previously I rented the Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Sports DG OS HSM Lens for Canon.  With both lenses I was using the Sigma MC-11 Canon to E-mount adapter to shoot them on my Sony A7 III.  My impression of this lens is positive.  It has good sharpness even at 600mm and autofocused well on the MC-11, Sony A7 III combination.  Comparing this lens to the Sport version I would say that you are looking at a number of trade-offs.  I’ll start off by saying that both of these lenses are good.  Both have good image and build quality.


But the Contemporary lens is half the price ($990 vs. $1,800) and 2 pounds lighter (4 ¼ lbs vs 6 ¼ lbs).

Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens for Canon with Sigma MC-11 converter on the Sony A7 III
Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens for Canon with Sigma MC-11 converter on the Sony A7 III
Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens for Canon with Sigma MC-11 converter on the Sony A7 III
Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens for Canon with Sigma MC-11 converter on the Sony A7 III
Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens for Canon with Sigma MC-11 converter on the Sony A7 III

On the flip side the Sports lens is a solid metal lens and has superior image quality.

A7 III with Sigma 150 – 600mm MC-11 adapter
A7 III with Sigma 150 – 600mm MC-11 adapter

Comparing their image quality, I would say the Sports lens has decidedly better contrast that holds up better at high light levels.  So, there you have it.  If either a 6 ¼ lb weight or an $1,800 price tag is too much for you then you will get a good lens for your $990.  But for the best image quality you’ll have to go for the Sports lens.