Friday, March 31, 2017

Western Power Meets Eastern Power - The Fujifilm EF-X-500 Stun Gun

Those of you who know me as an old cynic may wonder where that character trait began...I can tell you frankly. I was a trusting and kindly soul until the day I took up flash photography - once I read my first advertisements for electronic flashes the world turned dark.

It was not always thus. I had been shooting flash bulbs up until the late 1960's and they seemed to have a pretty predictable light output. The backs of the cardboard cartons containing M3, Press 25 or AG1 bulbs had charts that listed distances and apertures and the only thing you had to note was the size of the reflector in the flash gun. You fired them off and got what you expected - and occasionally you got a surprise as one went off in your parka pocket.

The first Honeywell, Braun, and Vivitar electronic flash lights all had exposure charts or calculating dials on their outer cases with guide numbers for the various films...and they were all inflated. You did well to open up anywhere from half to one-and-a-half stops from the chart. If the film you were using was rated in a similarly optimistic fashion ( Looking at you, Fujifilm...) you were better off setting a brush fire and photographing by the light of the dancing flames.


Have things improved? Is the new EF X-500 flash more powerful than the EF 42? Is it powerful enough? How does it stack up against a studio strobe unit measured in watt/seconds? Or joules?
And why do they all have different measurements when they talk about their flashes? Is it the old pea and shell game like the hifi industry advertisements during the Wattage Wars?

These questions should yield to science...and I am a graduate of the Suckitansee Technical School. I own studio flashes, several EF 42's, and a bran-new EF X-500. I can also rustle up a Minolta Flash meter and a studio assistant at short notice.

The basic test rig was a dark section of the studio back yard - open ground so that the pattern of light from the various flash tubes was minimally affected by surface reflections. Of course there were different reflectors around the tubes - these are noted in the results. The flashes were fired directly downrange and the results noted on the Minolta - it was not affected by ambient light.
The neighbours were probably ropable at all the flashing, but after the lightning storms of a few weeks ago they should be used to it. I have done worse things in that back yard.

Here's the digested results. The range was 10 metres, the ISO set on the Minolta at 200 ( basic sensitivity for an X-Trans sensor ) and we fired enough times in each division to get a consistent result.

The units of measurement are in metric gerbils ( MG ). As none of the other tech sources could agree a standard I made my own - they give as good a comparison as anything.

a. Elinchrom EL250 run flat chat

    bare tube                      40 MG

    18cm reflector              57 MG

     21cm reflector             80 MG

b. Elinchrom EL500 run flat chat

    bare tube                       57 MG
    18cm reflector               80 MG

    21cm reflector              113 MG

c. Fujifilm EF42 1/1 manual

    bare tube                         40 MG

    W/A panel                       28 MG

     Mag Mod Scoop            20 MG

     Mag Mod Dome            30 MG

d. Fujifilm EF X-500

    bare tube                          40 MG

    W/A panel                        28 MG

     box diffuser                     28 MG

As you can see, there is not a great deal more power being ultimately pumped out of the EF X-500 compared to the EF 42, but it is coming out with a lot more options for control, and with a lot better recycling time. I would be willing to bet on a similar battery consumption for both.

The other interesting measurement concerns the mag Mod accessories. They are essentially for use in a reflective environment - where they do extremely well, I might add. Wasting their output in open air is pointless, apart from the slight broadening of the illuminated surface.

In summary, if you can do the job you envisage with an Elinchrom 250, you can do it with the EF X-500. If you need more grunt, you need the EL500 or modern equivalent.

And no, I did not dig out my box of flashbulbs with the Edison bases and fire one off. But I will one day, and we'll see how many metric gerbils it puts out.

Grateful thanks to Igor, my faithful assistant, who coped with the humidity, darkness, and dodgy science.          

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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Fill Up At the Fujifilm Pixel Pump Today...

Well, that's what the images of the new Fujifilm EF X-500 flash reminded me of after I took their pictures for this column. I kept feeling around the left hand side for the filler hose...

The real reason is I wanted to show you the easy menu system of the flash. The menu of the previous flash was only a two-button affair, but that meant that you were condemned to following through a whole series of things that you did not want before coming to the bit you needed. The new flash uses more buttons and a control dial but lets you in and out far quicker - and it lets you do far more things.

a. Standard - 91 octane - you set to set your own level from full blast to 1/512  of the power. Or you can just leave it on TTL and see what you get. The oblong lighted button under the Mode sign opens the page and you whizz the control wheel round to whatever you want. Then punch either the page button or the central wheel button to set it in place. No waiting ten seconds while the computer thinks about it.

b. Ethyl - 95 octane - the next push on the page button sets up the zoom for the flash tube - you can run it from a 24mm wide angle to a 105mm portrait length. Again there is the Auto zoom option if you are changing gears frequently.

c. High Test - 98 octane - the page button will also take you to the LED light. This light glows just under the main flash head and can be operated separately or together with the flash. It acts as a quasi-modelling light or can be run up to quite a fair power as a video light. Again there is an intensity control and arrangements for this light to assist with illumination for auto focusing.

d. Oh, I almost do you know when the flash is receptive to change and when it is locked? The part of the screen that contains what you are trying to adjust - in this case the power of the manual flash - is rendered black when it is active. Once you hit the page button or the central wheel button it is locked in and turns white.

e. Aviation Petrol - 100 octane - now it gets fun. See the thing that says Multi? That means the flash is going to fire like a stroboscope while the shutter curtains are open and you are going to get multiple images recorded on one frame. It is either going to be art or science.

You get to choose how many times the flash goes off and how it is spaced out - the Northeast corner of the green panel contains two figures; the left one is how many times it fires, the right one is how often. You can set the power level as per usual on the scale below these. This is a manual operation - not TTL.

f. Diesel - this is the setting for the flash when it is going to serve as a slave in a flash group. The amber colour is a distinct warning that you have clicked the switch on to the next segment. You'll see that it shows as Manual but you can also switch it to TTL. I am in several minds about this - the times I have tried to run systems where they had a degree of autonomy have always seemed to contain the most out-of-control light levels. 

I have decided that I know what ratios I want and am prepared to dial them into the various group flash guns. The number of times that I have had to deviate from the plan are minimal, provided I have had time to test out the shots before the actual action start`s.

g. Cognac - when you have finally decided to be the boss. This is the master position for the flash - it can run up to three other groups of flashes, with multiple flashes in each group. As you can see, there is TTL, or otherwise. The degree of control may be far more than you can sensibly manage in any one shooting session, but if you find the combination that works, you can lock it in for future reference. The flash gun will return to previous settings after it is turned off and on.

PS: You don't get discount pixels at Camera Electronic but the restrooms are clean...

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Working Life Of the Fujifilm EF X-500

No, I don't mean how long it will continue to work - goodness, if you treat a flash right you can get decades out of it. Exercise it regularly and don't drop it off a cliff...

I mean... how does the performance of the new Fujifilm EF X-500 stack up in a working situation - where you have to use it to satisfy the client...rather than your desire to fiddle with new gear. Let's go out on different jobs:

1. The Event.

The party, ball, graduation, awards ceremony, etc. The grip and grin, speeches at 8:00, 2000-shot corporate gig where you stay sober and everyone else doesn't. The you-get-paid-if-anyone-buys-a-picture job.

Well, you are going to need to shoot those 2000 shots consistently - well-exposed if you can, but at least all the same. The last thing in the world that you want to do is sit there pushing sliders on a computer later. If they are going to be similar poses and groups you can probably trust the TTL to give you a good run off the faces and clothing - formal males suits are going to have similar reflectance and even the ball gowns tend to be alike. If you are going to do the Mardi Gras resign yourself to having the exposure system overwhelmed every now and then.

The TTL can be skewed, however, if needed...say a situation with high-reflectance stage costumes in a great many of the shots. Dive into the page button and then the +/_ exposure compensation button. twist the control wheel for up to 5 stops plus or minus output. This is vastly better than the Fujifilm EF-42 flash that only allowed + or - 1.5 stops. The fact that the X-500 does in in one dial turn vs the the 8 button presses and 20 seconds waiting time of the older flash is really significant.

Likewise the recycling time - I count 2.5 seconds on fresh batteries from a full manual dump to recharged. The EF-42 could barely manage in 6-8 seconds. Some events are very much run and gun and if your flash is not ready almost instantly for a follow-up shot, you either have to talk like a parrot to keep the subjects still for that 8 seconds or lose them entirely.

2. The Wedding.

This is like a corporate event but with a CEO in a white dress ready to explode if anything goes awry. You can multiply the pressure as much as you like - pressure to shoot far too many pictures, to be everywhere at the same time, and to do things as fast as possible. Plus the pressure to have multiple sets of equipment ready to go at a moment's notice. In that respect the new flash is a bit more expensive than the old one, but weddings are not the time to skimp.

Will you get a chance to use the multiple flash capability of the X-500? You have three groups at your disposal from the main X-500 control panel - they can be manual, TTL, or a percentage TTL that you can alter as you go on. The big group, the bridal waltz, the speeches, the formals - they all lend themselves to the studio-lighting approach of multiple groups.

As a wedding pro you will have also worked out how flash modifiers and stands can be used in these situations. You do get a flash foot with the EF X-500, of course, but you need to match it to some suitable stands. You also need an assistant, but then you knew that after your first wedding...

3. The Grande Portraite.

Funny how the mighty all want to look good, but grant portrait photographers tiny little windows of opportunity to actually do the job...Time is money is power is prestige...

Well, if you are going to play their game, play it fast. Main and fill and as many flattering shots as you can suggest in your 15 minutes with His Moneyship or Her Publicityship. The Mag Mod flash attachments may well help, as will the facility for multiple groups of lights. The fact that these are speed-lights with no extra battery packs is a blessing - less to haul in and out. The rapidity of recharge and of control changes is also vital when you are dealing with people who have decided that they have so much money and power that they need not be patient...

4. The School/ Santa/ Sports Carnival Portraits.

These are easy - just work out your main/fill multiple group setup in advance, sandbag the stands down, and take your medication. It will all be over in 6-8 hours. The fact that you can expect about 600 full-bore TTL shots out of a set of lithium batteries us a good thing - it will go down to about 150 with regular alkalines. If you plan to do your Santa photos from an armoured emplacement you may be able to arrange for a 6V power feed and the auxiliary plug of the Ef X-500 will allow you to shoot an unlimited number.

Note: there is a thermal protection circuit in the Ef X-500 that will shut it down if you have been shooting far too much far too fast. It will come on again when the temperature goes down.

5. The Advertising Business.

Well, as the sky is the limit for ideas, ( but rarely paid at stratospheric prices...), you can use a brace of EF X-500's for a lot of stuff. They have the sort of manual power control that dials down to 1/512th of full power, so that they can be used for tiny little multiple flashes. If your camera will do it, you can shoot multiple shots in a fraction of a second for stroboscopic effects. You can stop peak action at high shutter speeds - again if you are using the X-T2 or X-Pro2.

On a good day you can get a picture at 1/4000 of a second and capture a frame of art directors midway between changing their minds.

6. The Science Lab.

Here's where those tiny slices of light are the most use - scientists are always trying to take pictures of little specimens or delicate surfaces that wash out under stronger light. Three of them with TTL/ group are controllable and precise and a lot less of an impost on the department's budget than trying to do the same thing with studio flashes or portable battery and head kits.

Field workers can break these a lot less than they could a suitcase full of heads and batteries. And electricity in the sticks is more likely to be available in AA form than mains power.

7. The Real Estate Business

Hello 3:00 AM again...well, if you need to light up an interior there is nothing better than three speed lights and some Mag Mod Domes. The EF X-500 so equipped and hidden round corners and behind furniture is the answer for making pokey dark interiors look livable. You can group control them to balance the result and you can put dedicated gels into the mag Mod holders to try to match whatever the dawn or dusk is trying to do.

Try everything. If the images don't work there is always tomorrow and the owner of the place won't mind keeping everything off the tabletops for another day...

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Speed Light In The Studio - Fujifilm EF X-500 Makes A Debut

The use of speed lights in indoor situations is sometimes looked upon with condescension - there are so many dedicated strobe units that run off power packs or as monoblocks that the studio shooter comes to think of that as the only legitimate way to proceed - how very limiting this is....

I decided to wring out the new Fujifilm EF X-500 speed light by making it do what my normal Elinchrom EL250 and EL 500 lights do - make artificial sunlight for my model car dioramas. This is pretty stiff going as the Elinchroms - and any other dedicated studio strobe systems - have the advantage of lots of light shapers and dedicated control systems.

In the case of the Fujifilm I elected to use it to simulate street lighting on an industrial site. This is because of the small nature of the flash tube in the housing - it can achieve far sharper shadows than the larger tubes and reflectors used in studio strobes. The fact that I had only one flash to illuminate the transport yard was made up for by use of white Foam-Core sheets as reflectors. Steve Sint is emphatic in his books about the use of single light sources and reflection boosters.

Connection between the camera near the model and the Fujifilm EF X-500 up on a light stand like a street lamp was achieved with one of the Captur sets from the shop. The one I have is a non-TTL version that sends a radio signal from hot shoe to hot foot. The fact that the hot foot has a tripod thread in the bottom means you can rig the thing up anywhere that you can sling a 1/4" bolt.

Not surprisingly, it works...and the shadows cast from the model edges are sufficiently hard and sharp to match in with the scale of the scene. People have an instinct for shadows that even they might not realise - they can zero in on false lighting even if everything else is perfect. It is the same with their ability to see whether a person in an image is real or just a scale model - it takes a master miniaturist to fool the human instinct for a face.

The Fujifilm flash can also be utilised with modifiers like the Mag Mod diffusers and gels. It is a tight squeeze to put the rubber belt on the removable bezel, but once on there it need not be taken off. I elected to warm up the scene for a late afternoon look with some of the orange gels that clip onto the basic Mag Mod set.

But how can you tell where the flash is going to go before you shoot it? After all, that is the great selling point of the studio strobe systems with modelling lights - you can position the things precisely and look at the shadows as you do. Well, the Fujifilm flash has an LED panel under the main flash head that can be switched on independently of the flash tube. It has a considerable range of brightness that is controlled on the back screen and as long as the flash head is pointed forward, it approximates what the discharge will do.

I used it to determine where the street light would flood in through the overhead skylights of the Mangina Transport before I triggered them off. A little long exposure made sure that the shop lights would also register. If you look carefully you will see that the floor in the MT shop is clean...but this will change very shortly. I used to work as a labourer at a construction site and can testify that repair shops dealing with earthmoving equipment are rarely clean...

Verdict for the EF X-500 in a studio situation? Good on-site substitute for the Elinchrom EL250. It will make photography at exhibitions a lot easier.

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Monday, March 27, 2017

The Fujifilm Flash Comes Of Age

If you are opposed to the use of electronic flash in any form for your photography - for artistic, technical, or cultural reasons, this will be a thin week.

If you are dedicated to a camera system other than Fujifilm, you might also wonder whether you are going to get much on your plate. Have faith - there are a number of good lessons here for you as well that you can apply to the equipment of your choice. The close approximation of some flash systems will let you benefit.

We showed the externals of the Fujifilm EF-X500 flash on the 6th of January this year - the column got a large number of readers. I've added a couple of the images to help illustrate this series but this week is dedicated to what the thing actually does - and did - in my studio.

A quick basic recap for those who don't want to plough through the Jan 6 post: the flash is a classic TTL hot-shoe electonic flash with more power than the previous Fujifilm offerings. It contains provision for commander and slave operation, manual working, and multiple-flash ( high speed ) applications. It has a video light built into it. It is dedicated to the Fujifilm X-series of cameras. And up until this week I had only ever fired it once in the X-system.

Okay. First test was to open the battery compartment and put in four AA cells. Don't laugh - some manufacturers make the battery door so thin and cheap that you hesitate to get your nail in there to prise it open. No such problem with Fujifilm, and they have had the good sense to make the stacking order in the compartment simple - batteries down in the front two wells - batteries up in the back. It means you can change the blessed things in the dark without having to see some little diagram. As well, the design of the casing means the whole flash will lay on it's left side on a flat surface to do this - no juggling act.

Clip it onto the X-camera.? Now we have a metal shoe to do it with and a lever lock for the front pin. Much better than the plastic shoe and wheel of the EF-42.

Can you hold the flash from the front as you use it without impeding the function? Yes, but be aware that there is an LED panel at the top and the communication port for the wireless control down the bottom.

Is the tilt a locking mechanism? Yes. The rubber button pressed in lets it go freely. It locks into horizontal and vertical. The swivel has a firm detent.

Is this a power port? Yes, it is, and apparently they are going to produce an external battery pack to aid the flash. Wedding and event shooters may rejoice. Until it arrives, we are going to use AA lithium cells.

Setup. Well you can specify a great many things that suggest alternative uses for the flash. It will power off in one hour if you want, or you can power off in 8 hours. I think this accommodates the people who are going to be shooting time-lapse sequences. It will sit there as a remote flash for 10 minutes before giving up or you can ask it to stay alert for 60 minutes. It is all a matter of using up battery power. Try asking ME to stay alert for 60 minutes at a wedding...

The actual menus that apportion the flashes when you are in TTL mode can be sent out to 3 groups - normally this is a daunting set of commands to order up from an LCD screen. In this case Fujifilm have made it " almost " intuitive . I think they have benefited by waiting and watching other Japanese makers invent the language of menus. It only foxed me once with a strange use of English.

The weight of the flash is about 120 grammes more than the previous EF-42. As a trade-off, you get a much improved feel of build quality.

The front bezel around the flash tube is held on with two metal detents. Takes a bit of a struggle to get it off, but once done, you can slip on a box diffuser. It does as much as these designs ever do, and if you slip it forward from the detents, you can get a useful spread of light. Still not as broad as a Mag Mod, so you may still want to add this to the setup.

 Tomorrow - first studio shoot. Have I bought the right thing?*

* Yup. I sometimes spend my own money on the things I review. Once you find a good thing - stick to it.

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Sony Week - Part Five - The Repair Department Secret

Be prepared to be frustrated - I am going to tease you unmercifully in this column.

Normally I don't do this - the idea, after all, is to entertain you and win your loyalty to Camera Electronic. To entice you to come on down and leave your money on the counter. So I don't berate you and I don't make false promises - and I don't dance around telling you that I know something that you don't. Until now.

Oh, it's not just me. It's the staff in the Camera Electronic Repair Department too. They know something that you don't.

Okay - the Sony connection first. Great cameras that they are, Sony mirror-less digital camera bodies have the same basic problem that all other cameras with removable lenses - dust and particles will eventually get into them and onto the sensor. Be you ever so careful or ever so obsessed, the dust will eventually beat you. And as all digital camera owners will discover, you need a sensor clean.

Up till now, there have been any number of sensor cleaning tips, kits, bits of equipment, and rituals devised for cleaning sensors - some of them have worked, most of them have not. Some have ruined sensors. This is particularly noticeable for people who have tried to do it as a home-job.

Sony mirror-less sensors have been a particular problem. I was alerted to this by one of the scientists in the CE Repair Department who was able to show me any number of anguished posts on the internet forums about it - and equally anguished emails passing back and forth amongst professional repair firms in other parts of the world. Many professional people seem to have spent a lot of time trying to clean Sony sensors and ended up with them just as dirty as before.

Well the two scientists in the CE Repair Department conducted a series of practical experiments to solve this and have devised a procedure that DOES clean the Sony mirror-less sensor completely - and can do it easily in the future. I was not initiated fully in the arcane ritual of it...being frightened of the bubbling vats and whirring flywheels - but that does not stop me from reporting their success. They are not going to release the secret - they are going to keep it as a working procedure for the Repair Department at the normal commercial price. It will be known as The Secret. It is a multi-stage process.

Note: The Secret does not involve those little rubber pads on the end of sticks that some people think are marvellous. They look like an invitation to disaster. About like poking your sensor with a wet Gummy Bear...

I can also confidently rule out steel wool pads or a wood chisel.

SO....take a look at the images that your Sony mirror-less camera has been pumping out recently. If there are little grey balloons in the sky, you need The Secret. Bring the camera in to Camera Electronic Repair Department next week and they will make those balloons go away. If the grey balloons have replaced the faces of your brides, grooms, newborns, or family members, bring it in NOW!

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sony Week - Part Four - The Local Tourist

It is no fun being a local tourist - particularly if you have lived in the place for 53 years. The exciting mustn't-miss glamour spots of the 1960's have not worn well. Some of them peaked when the America's Cup races were held and some of them have yet to do so...So finding iconic world-beating landscape award-winners on a cloudy Tuesday at 2:30 is somewhat problematical - particularly if you want to get off Leach Highway before the rest of the world gets on it at 3:30...

In most Australian cities you can at least find a dramatic view around the war memorials - they are grassed and lit and maintained. Thus I used the naval memorials up on the hill as my base to view. If the council had not been cutting the grass and if the wind had not been blowing a gale it might have been idyllic.

As it was, it provided a good workout for the 28mm f:2 full frame lens and the 18mm f:1.8 APS-C lens. In this case, as with the studio shots from yesterday, I eschewed using RAW for either camera  -it was easier to set a fair comparison in train by putting them both to JPEG. I also used a programmed or auto setting for both and selected 650 ISO. AF was in operation for both, and as there was a good amount of light under the clouds, the speed of focusing was no problem for either camera.

Against the light shots are tough - the camera sees what we refuse to see and renders it as flat or overblown in highlights. It's no good hoping for good light if the geography of the place puts you looking into it anyway, but you can tantalise yourself by moving round the other way when the sun breaks through the clouds - as seen in the torpedo shot.

Technical note: This is an ex-US Navy torpedo that was not fired at Japanese ships and did not explode. As opposed to the ones that were fired at Japanese ships and did not explode. I recommend RUN SILENT RUN DEEP as a reference for this question.

But back to the cameras. They both shot fast and accurately. They both turned in files that benefited from the "automatic haze removal " feature of the Photoshop Elements 14 program. But look at the difference between the full frame and the APS-C in the image of the HMAS ADELAIDE ( L01) tied up at Victoria Quay. Here's the force of the newer sensor, greater resolution, and larger surface area of the sensor all combined. Plus a bit of the in-body 5-axis stabilisation throwing in goodness.

As loyal as I am to the APS-C system for my studio shots - and for good reason - I must say that if I was taking landscape shots that I wanted to blow up to large images, I would have to acknowledge the superior result of the full frame. I daresay there is more that could be wrung out of an RAF RAW file but then there is more that could be extracted from a Sony RAW file as well.

There may well be similar improvements in portraiture or large group images - I must see if I can get another chance at the larger sensor in the studio with a human subject.

And as a final note - Street photography has been touted as a fine division of the art. It may well be, but there are streets and there are streets. I drove a number of the crowded ones around Fremantle and concluded that in the rich ones the locals didn't want me to stop - and in the poor ones I looked at the locals and had no desire to stop. I think I will do my touring up to Coles and leave it at that.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Sony Week - Part Three - The Model A Test

I regret that title. I suddenly realised that Sony - as well as Henry Ford  - used to make A model cameras too. Hopefully readers will be able to separate them in their minds*. The Sony products do not have wire-spoke wheels or rumble seats. A pity in some respects...

Well, the contest between a full-frame camera and an APS-C camera in the studio will always range around two things; the out of focus appearance behind the plane of sharpness, and how wide that plane can be spread in the picture.

You can quantify it easily - just go to the DOFmaster website and specify the focal length you will be using. The figures on the calculator are minutely accurate, and infinitely depressing if you are trying to get a deep depth of field. Nothing you can do at close range will increase it markedly. But you grasp for every millimetre you can get.

An APS-C camera with a 35mm lens will have the same angular field of view as a full-frame camera sporting a 50mm lens - the pictures will have the same look and perspective. But the 35mm will have more depth of field for every equivalent f stop.

If this is important to you - it can be a big factor in what you choose.

On the other hand, if you need a shallower depth of field for portraiture or atmospheric images, the 50mm on the full-frame camera is the way to go. You will also benefit from more resolution and the ability to blow the image up to a bigger print. You'll pay for it in more memory being used and a consequent longer time for processing, but the details will be there.

In my case, I rarely blow my work up enough to justify the increased quality, and I DO need every millimetre of DOF I can get.

Some words of practical praise for the Sony FE 50mm f:2.8 macro lens:

a. It is superbly sharp.

b. It has a very positive focus feel to it. No lag, no slip.

c. It goes a true 1:1 macro.

d. It has a focus-hold button - that little round one in the middle of the control panel - that freezes the action of the AF so that you can shift the lens slightly away from the original position. This allows you to follow a slightly moving subject without having the lens hunt back and forth and become uncontrollable.

This isn't all that useful for toy cars but it saves many a " Yike Yike " moment for the bee photographers...

* Mind you - the cameras only come in Model T's...Hmmmm...

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sony Week - Part Two - How Do I Know It Is A Full Frame?

So as not to keep you in suspense...they announce it on the front of the box and you can look inside the mount to see.

Otherwise, you can hardly tell from appearances. The external size of a Sony Alpha 7 MkII is about the same as other makers' APS-C cameras. It's just a bigger sensor inside. And a lot of electronics. The electrons are the same size but what the computer makes them do is quite a bit bigger...but that is anticipating later in the week...Here is the device:

A classic 3/4 view. Some people feel it is better to use a lens to take pictures...

The result of turning the other cheek. Watch those little plastic doors under the strap-holder. Nice orange lens mount ring - lets you see the blessed thing in dim light.

The port quarter with the screen let half-way down. A vast unused tract of camera body on the top there...

The office. Note that there is a button referred to as " Fn " or function, but there are 4 others that bear the designation " C  " Custom buttons that you may configure to your own desires. Well-wrapped covering. The replay button is at the bottom but the zoom in and out feature has been slapped onto two buttons on top that occupy entirely separate positions and cionfigurations. You can bet on the new user spending time trying to figure this one out!

The video start/stop button is certainly separate from the others - no hitting it inadvertently. Some may have trouble hitting it in any case.

Still, the finger grip is well-proportioned and there are front/back control wheels

Note that the menu is rather well laid out. You are certainly presented with a series of divisions to deal with, but that is the case with most modern cameras. The language usage seems straightforward. Do remember to set your clock, time zome, and sharing commands, though, as the camera will suspend proceedings every time you turn it on and prompt you if you do not.

 Note the separate card door - a necessary feature for a modern camera.

Here's that bare external patch we mentioned before. Sony have placed the Menu button odd choice...and the internal microphone openings. Plus the focal plane mark ( and who ever uses it these days? ) and the assurance that there is an image stabilisation function inside the body. This is useful, but putting a sign on the outside to tell us smacks of an afterthought when the designers saw a bare patch of cover...

The Sony Alpha 7MkII is certainly a capable video camera - the front door of the access sections deals with an external microphone and headphones. It is colour-coded so that you get the similar-looking plugs in the right sockets. Not all that water-sealed.

The final note for configuration is the battery. It is small enough to fit in a slim hand-hold section and as a result contains less electricity than some. This is definitely a camera that needs a second and third battery - especially for video work.

The lenses were chosen for focal length but it was a nice discovery here at the studio that the 50mm f:2.8 is a macro lens - and a true macro as well - it screws out when you are doing manual focusing to a 1:1 ratio. It proved fast enough under AF control in the field as well. As with many modern lenses the aperture control is electronic from one of the control wheels under the forefinger or thumb. Lowest aperture of the 50mm proved to be f:16.

I cannot comment on the Sony vs Zeiss controversy with this camera brand. Presumably the higher-priced Zeiss glass has an advantage for some users but the smart arse in me thinks that most of the fuss that people make about one brand over another is a case of justifying their own choice or the power of their wallet. Most practical needs are served by either type. Again please refer to the geek forums to fight about MTF scores and distortion percentages.

If that seems cynical, at least it is consistent. I feel the same way about motor cars and shoes. I do make an exception for really well-made custom flintlocks...

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