Guest Contributor – TomD – 27FEB2024 – The Best Camera is the One You Carry

Tom | Flickr

TomD

That looks to be a fossilized “rolly polly” insect. The ones that roll up into small armored balls. I ate one one, thinking it to be a chocolate chip fallen from my cookie. I won’t repeat that mistake, ever.

BTW: Below is a side by side photo of my new “carry around” Sony A6600 next to my “main camera” Sony A7IV.

A7IV Vs A6600.jpg
A7IV Vs A6600.jpg

Down here in Florida where self defense is considered to be a right, there is a maxim among the people who commonly carry weapons. That the best weapon for self defense is the weapon which you are most likely to have with you.

The same principle applies to cameras. If I’m going somewhere on a photo shoot, I’ll very probably have the larger camera with me. It is the more capable but not to the degree you may suspect. But the other 99.999% of the time, the bulk and cost precludes it as a constant companion as I travel about. But the smaller camera fits in my console or even a pocket with a smaller lens. And I constantly find photo subjects for which I wish I had a more capable camera than a cell, even my capable (for a phone) Pixel.

I used to get really good early dawn shots while going to work, when I worked.

At one point, I had an earlier version of the A6600 but I gave it to my wife when she dropped and destroyed her camera. I asked for it back but was cursed at.

Guest Contributor – TomD – 03JUL2023 – Sony Lens Options

Tom | Flickr

TomD

DSC03736.jpg
DSC03736.jpg

We’ve both use the same camera body but your lens collection tends to the telephoto side compared to mine. I was left totally without anything longer that 105 mm when I moved to the A7IV and found that my old A mount 70-300 would become pure manual focus, even with the latest Sony adapter.

I grew up with manual focus but, back them, cameras had a split image focusing system to tell you when you were in focus. That consisted of twisting the focus ring while looking through the viewfinder until the upper and lower parts of the image perfectly aligned. Looking thorough the old Sony lens in the new body gave me no focusing information at all. So, bleah to that.

I thought about getting a new e mount version of the same lens but I thought $1300 a bit much for as little as I use long telephoto. But, I concluded, paying 40% of that figure for the Tamron version, which had good ratings, to be an acceptable bet.

Below is a shot of a female Cardinal that I photoed in my yard this AM at a range of around 70 feet. Even at 300 mm, this is a big crop.

Quick aside: The split image focus system is a spinoff originally derived from the Dreadnought era Naval gunnery optical rangefinders that prevailed in all the worlds navys in the until the advent of radar ranging during WWII.

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.

 

22OCT2022 – OCF Update – Sony Photography

 

Politics has been so all consuming lately that I haven’t had a chance to write about anything else.  But in the last month or so there’s been a lot of buzz about Sony’s imminent release of their latest update of the high resolution camera, the A7R V.  When I’m interested in breathless reporting I go to sonyalpharumors.com and listen as Andrea tells us confusing and sometimes inconsistent things about the future.

The Sony A7R cameras are very nice pieces of kit and using them for macro is a very attractive proposition with their 61 megapixel sensors and other high resolution accoutrements.  But 61 megapixels is a little bit more than I think I need.  Plus the price tag is now coming in above $4,000.  And for a man of my limited means that’s beginning to seem high.  Plus I do a sort of mixed landscape, macro, walk-around photography that seems to play to the Sony A7 IV all-around camera sweet spot.  So let’s just say that my interest in the Sony A7 V hullabaloo is more on the academic side.

But what did intrigue me was the talk about AI based autofocus.  And here’s why.  I’ve been hearing and reading from various sides that phone cameras are catching up with dedicated professional cameras.  And the reason given for this is that phone cameras have highly intelligent algorithms that provide very precise autofocus and excellent sharpening and color representation.  And that as we reach the limits of what lenses and mechanical devices can do for optical focusing and image stabilization it will be this advanced artificial intelligence that will render phones as the future of photography.

Now, currently I don’t think things are really all that simple.  In fact I’ve spoken to some photographers who have very good phone cameras and they say that although they get very nice shots from their phones, they wouldn’t put one of these files up against a full frame landscape shot as a source for a large print or even as a basis for a cropped photo.  Apparently there is a bit of surface magic going on that doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny.

But that being said, I am positive that adding a strong algorithm to a very good camera like any of the various Sony A7, A9 or A1 cameras would be a very useful and fruitful step.  For things like birds in flight and sports tracking it would be a step in the right direction.  Just like the eye-AF function was a game changer for good focus, having a program with many times the speed of human reflexes concentrating on evaluating the auto focus and recognizing the changes to the image and anticipating the expected changes to the focus result would improve results greatly.  Even for something like fast moving insect macro photography, having the latest algorithm to optimize the changes in focus point would provide a much higher rate of success in something that has a very short time window.  I could imagine that specialized algorithms might be available for individual subjects like birds in flight or hovering hummingbirds or even butterflies on flowers.

As you can see I’ve let my imagination run away with me but I’m sure there are sports photographers salivating over the idea of an algorithm specifically formulated for football wide receivers running for catches down the side line.  Or how about one specially formulated for NBA stars pretending to be fouled to obtain a penalty shot?

Anyway, I’m intrigued by just what AI may have in store for us in the future.  One thing I hope is that a lot of it might be available as a firmware update to our already very capable cameras.  But honestly I’m not very aware of exactly what capability my camera’s “Bionz-XR image processor has.  It may be a genius or a dolt.  So I’ll have to wait and see.

Meanwhile my present camera has been doing a splendid job of taking all the pictures I ask of it.  At this point I have no need of an upgrade.  All I ever watch nowadays is the new lens info.  And even that is sort of a reflex.

So I’ll just see where everything goes and enjoy photography for what it is.  Fun.

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.

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.

DSC00104.jpg
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.

DSC03882.jpg
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 1 – The Eagle Has Landed

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”

He chortled in his joy.

 

So the box with the camera and the adapter arrived.  I’m charging up the battery and figuring out what shots I’ll try today.  It’s cloudy day but there should be more than enough light for most outdoor work.  This should be fun.

 

Here are the camera and the adapter (Sony A7R IV Camera, Sony LA-EA5 Adapter)

 

 

Here is the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro and Sony 135mm f\1.8 A-Mount Lens on the adapter and camera

 

 

And here is the Sony 135mm f\1.8 A-Mount Lens on the adapter and camera

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5