Photography – Sony – Sony Launches the LAEA5 A-Mount to E-Mount Adapter

There is a small community of photographers who were Minolta and Sony SLR users that still have some very good a-mount glass that they currently cannot use satisfactorily with their E-mount Sony cameras.  These are the lenses that use the old-style screwdriver autofocus connection.  These lenses lack any internal motor of their own.  Currently the only way to use these lenses is with the LA-EA4 adapter that does not use the camera autofocus but has a limited number of autofocus points in the adapter.  Not only that, this adapter uses a beam splitter called a translucent mirror that throws away a third of the light that goes through the lens.

 

I have been waiting forever for Sony to come up with this adapter.  When I was told about the launch of the LA-EA5 it felt like Christmas coming early.  I have been dying to use the Sony 135mm f\1.8 and Minolta 200mm f\4 macro lenses with the autofocus of the A7 III but didn’t think Sony would do this great thing.  But as with all things in life there is always a catch.

If you read the fine print you discover that the lenses without motors only have this autofocus capability on two cameras.  The A7R IV and the A6600 are the latest full frame and half frame cameras in the Sony line up (excluding the professional A9 cameras) and I guess Sony figured it would be easier starting with those cameras.  What I am hoping is Sony will come up with a firmware update for my A7 III to allow me to take advantage of this marvelous present for A-mount lens owners.

I plan to rent the LA=EA5 and the A7R IV and try out the combination with my 135mm and 200mm A-mount lenses to see how good the autofocus is.  If this works out it will be an exciting move by Sony.  After all supporting these old lenses is a low return investment from the point of view of finance but it does demonstrate a smart public relations move for a camera maker attempting to win over the public.

So for any of you A-mount lens owners out there, keep the faith a little longer.  To be continued.

Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens – Lens Review – Part 1

Back in February I rented this lens for a Connecticut Riverboat ride to photograph bald eagles.  Due to my rank stupidity the shutter speeds were too slow to compensate for the vibration and motion of the boat.  But after the trip I tested out the lens and found it was sharp enough to warrant purchasing one at some point.

Well that point is now.  It arrived yesterday and I took some shots of birds, hummingbirds, a blue jay and a swallow.  What it showed me is that a600mm focal length is very unforgiving of vibration of any sort.  This just a quick tease.  Here are my very unserious first shots and comparison photo to show you the size.  Actually for a 200-600mm zoom it’s pretty compact and not very heavy.  But I ‘ll get into all the specs in the next post here’s just something to get my foot in the door.

 

Sony A7 III – A Camera Review – Part 2

Two years ago, almost to the day, I did a review of my brand new Sony A7 III camera.  I was extremely enthusiastic about the capabilities of the camera and described how the autofocus and some of the other features compared to great advantage versus my previous camera, the Sony A7S.  Well, two years is definitely enough time to finish my review and provide my perspective on it.

First of all, for those who are unfamiliar with the saga of Sony buying Minolta, inheriting their digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera project and then almost immediately switching to a mirrorless system it is a tale of woe and of course I was at ground zero for the event.  In 2008 I was shooting with a Pentax DSLR.  It was a pretty good camera and fulfilled my modest needs.  But I read the reviews and knew that out there were new sensors that provided higher resolution and lower noise levels than I could achieve.  Also, I coveted the performance of the Canon and Nikon full frame professional cameras with their remarkable low light capability and the associated ecosystem of fabulous full frame lenses.  But their $8,000 price tags horrified me since at the time I was driving a car that cost me $2,000.  But then an amazing thing happened.  Sony came out with the A-850 DSLR and for $2,000 I could have a camera which had the same sensor as the Nikon D3X which cost over $7,000.  I jumped at the chance and bought it.  And it was a truly great camera.  It produced wonderful images and had a number of Minolta lenses and new Sony lenses that opened avenues for the kind of photography I was interested in.  Plus, Sony was a powerful electronics corporation that produced the best camera sensors and they promised that in the future the advances in low light capability and dynamic range would surpass what was possible with digital imaging and in fact would also surpass what film cameras could do.  At that time, it was still possible to say that the resolution for a film camera was higher than what a DSLR could produce.  This meant that when next year’s model exceeded the performance of my A-850 I could sell it and for a small premium buy the newer model.  All photographers know that over the long haul it’s the cost of the lens system that you acquire that anchors you to a camera brand.  And I went right to work buying very expensive lenses and accessories like a really good flash system.  I was happy in the knowledge that I was investing in a long-term relationship with the Sony full-frame DSLR system.  So, all was right with the world.

And then Sony pulled the rug out from under me.  They announced that they had made their last full frame DSLR and in fact they were preparing to end all DSLR models and move into a mirrorless market with a completely new lens mount and, by the way, no full frame option was on the horizon for the foreseeable future.  The horror, the horror.

After that point I considered switching over to Nikon or Canon.  But my A-850 was a glorious camera and I loved some of the lenses my system included.  So, I figured I’d wait and see.  After that the story is a long and painful affair that meanders through Sony introducing the hybrid DSLT (digital single lens translucent) technology which split the image through a translucent film and thereby losing at least a half stop of light.  And the NEX cameras with their abysmal autofocus which essentially turned me into a manual focus shooter.  All through this I held onto the A-850 because it was still a pleasure to us.  But as time went on the technology of digital imaging was leaving it in the dust.  Even my NEX camera could far surpass the A-850 in low light shooting.  And so, after flirting with some of the earlier A7 cameras I started using the A7S as my main camera and saved the A-850 for occasions when good autofocus was indispensable.  And that brings us up to the A7 III.  When I started using it, I was able to finally say I had a camera that exceeded the A-850 in every way.  And so, I finally sold off the A7S and the A-850 and some of the parts of the A-mount that I wouldn’t need any more and the rest is history.  But that was a solid decade of frustration from Sony.  Job ain’t got nothing on me.

So here is my report on the A7 III.

The Sony A7 III is a remarkable photographic tool.  It is a quantum leap over the A7 I and A7 II cameras in almost every way.  The biggest improvement over those earlier cameras is the autofocus.  All of the earlier iterations of the A7 cameras had seriously deficient autofocus.  One of the worst offenders was my A7S camera.  It was so bad that manual focus was really the only alternative if a critically sharp file was needed.  Some of the earlier A7 and A7R cameras were better than the A7S but none of them had truly competent autofocus.  The Sony A7 III autofocus gives you sharp pictures quickly and reliably.  The A9 professional camera has even better autofocus and I can only imagine that the A9 II must be even more fantastic.  But I don’t usually shoot sports or birds in flight so tracking autofocus isn’t something I use all the time and know how to rate easily.  Suffice it to say I no longer have the experience of looking at photos I took and finding that the pictures are out of focus.  One very useful feature that I believe Sony pioneered is “eye autofocus.”  When this mode is turned on the camera looks for a face and then focuses on the eyes.  For occasions and portraits that’s as good as it gets.

The next notable improvement of the A7 III over the earlier iterations is the larger battery.  The A9 and the A7 III series cameras got a bigger battery and it is night and day over the A7S.  With this earlier camera I bought three batteries just to make sure I wouldn’t get caught with an empty battery but even still I did run into trouble when I needed to take a lot of photos.  The new battery solves that problem completely.  I have gotten well over a thousand photos on one battery and it still had plenty of charge left.

In addition to these selling points the cameras has all the other features that a photographer hopes and expects to find in a modern enthusiast level stills camera.  It has a 24-megapixel sensor with low light capability that even exceeded the A7S for the ISO level at which it could produce a noise free image.  It has two memory slots. It has all kinds of customizable features to take advantage of effects of dynamic range and bracketing and various creative features plus a plethora of programming and tethering options to allow the camera to be controlled via a smart phone or laptop.  I have even managed to use remote control and a custom hack to allow the camera to perform focus stacking.

Okay, I’ve raved enough.  It’s a great camera.  It does everything I need it to do.  I don’t even want the A9 or the A9 II.  Even though I know they are even more advanced and contain even more in the way of customizable features, I don’t desire these cameras as an upgrade.  And this is the first time I could honestly say that about the Sony camera line in the last ten years of owning them.  And that goes for the A7 IV if it comes out any time soon.  I simply don’t need it or even want it.  Sure, I’m saying that sight unseen and maybe they can trigger my gear lust with some feature that I don’t currently have.  One thing that I would be interested in would be an in-camera focus stacking option like Olympus currently has.  That would save me from having to bring along a tethered laptop every time I want to do an outdoor focus stack.  But I’d almost expect if something like that is added to a later camera that Sony might retrofit the older cameras with it as a firmware update.

So, there it is.  The Sony A7 III is a great mirrorless camera with plenty of features and a very nice lens line up available from Sony and increasingly from the third-party lens makers like Zeiss and Sigma.  If you really need a completely pro version then upgrade to the A9 series with even more capability for sports.  But otherwise the A7 III is a great camera.  If you do happen to need more megapixels than the 24 in the A7 III then go with the A7R III or A7R IV.

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!