Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Sony Alpha 700

After I finished with the Nikon D3, I received Sony Alpha 700. It's a strange feeling when you have a pro camera and then switch to middle class camera. Everything seems odd and strange.
Personally I don't like Alphas design (or Dynax for that matter). They seem odd, long, brick like to me with too many buttons. The height of the body is low(er), so it's a bit hard(er) to have a good grip in it if you have big(ger) hands. The grip itself is quite good, it's bigger then most cams have. The shutter button is positioned way on top, so you often have to stretch the finger quite a bit to reach it, especially if you used the command wheel before that. Steady shot (VR) is a good thing, LCD is very nice as well.
Alphas have the same optical sensors that Canon and Nikon have adopted, the ones for focus, shutting off the LCD when you position the cam close to your eye, rotating menus on LCD screen. I don't like that. The rotating screen didn't perform that well, sometimes it got "stuck" in one position and I had to really turn the camera hard so it would flip. I turned off focusing sensor straight away, it was annoying. It wanted to focus anytime the sensor was triggered, either by looking through the viewfinder, by moving the hand too close to it, piece of clothe or neck strap. Same goes for shutting off the LCD when focusing. In a way it's useful, bright LCD can be annoying when trying to focus in dark places, but you can turn any LCD off by pressing the shutter button. Do we really need a sensor for that?!? It's really annoying when you're looking at something on LCD, then trying to wipe the dust or rain drop off and it shuts off because the sensor was triggered.
But anyhow, all those things don't really effect the picture, so you have to make up your own mind if you like the design of the camera or not.
As for the picture quality of A700, I have mixed feelings. Sometimes it did a really great job, even when I thought it wouldn't, sometime it made a mess even with the most basic setup. Metering cosed quite a bit of problems, most of the times it underexposed, but that can easily be fixed really.

Example: mode A, ISO200, matrix metering, f8, 1/200
Too dark, by full stop.

Here it performed much better. Correctly exposed the church and the sky was well exposed as well. ISO200, f4, 1/2000, matrix metering.

This setup caused some focusing problems. Small object on simmilar background.. even 1.4 lens didn't help much. But it did manage at the end and I'm happy with the result.

As for the ISO tests, I'll post them later. I can say, up to 800 there practically no noise. Beyond that the noise reduction is a bit heavy for my taste, it did make the image smooth, but lost quite a bit of details along the process as well.

Overall I'm quite pleased with the image quality. The main negative issue is (what it appears) standard underexposing. But that can be easily fixed. Dynamic range is good and colors are well saturated and presented even straight out the camera. ISO noise is good in the lower settings, a bit to much reduction at high settings (have to ask yourself, how often do you even use ISO1600?). There's no Live View, personally I don't miss that.
Sony seems to be getting a firm grip on things and is moving up the ladder really fast. With all new gear announced to come out this year, Nikon and Canon have a new, strong competitor. And that's a great thing, mostly for us consumers.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Nikon D3

After playing all week with D300, I got a new toy today, it's bigger brother, the mighty D3. :)
As you can probably imagine, this is an amazing camera. Noise is great, practically not existing till beyond ISO1600, totally useful up to ISO6400. 11fps (!!!) is almost enough to record a movie (I thought DSLR didn't have the "movie" function?!).
In real life, it's great for what it was made - sport and professional photography. With D3 I got the new 17-35 lens and it performed very well as well.

First one is at a basketball game, 80-200 2.8 lens @ 150mm, f4, 1/400, at ISO3200.

The color reproduction and exposure were great. It picked up slight color differences in the roses from total white, to slight yellow. Auto WB, ISO200, 17-35 @28mm, 1/40, f8.

Bright sun and reflections didn't cause any problems. The scene was well exposed, sky the right color, plenty of details in shadow areas. ISO200, 13-35 @17mm, 1/500, f8.

Again, bright sun and dark surroundings didn't cause any problems to D3 matrix metering. Did a great job. ISO200, 50mm, 1/2000, f4

Here are some studio ISO tests. All done on a tripod with Nikkor 50mm 1.8 lens, one flash light through umbrella, all NR OFF, default import into Lightroom, no post process whatsoever, 1:1 view, printscreen and Photoshop jpg save. Good for comparison (since all done and saved the same way), but can't really be used as "as good as it gets" shots, since some basic post process results in a even better result.







Then I hit a problem, that I didn't see coming. The iso sensitivity was too high for my flash, so I couldn't shoot iso25600 with the same setting. At first I skipped it, but later I did it anyhow. I had to close down the lens to f22 and put the flash to the lowest possible setting (not to mention, I practically positioned it in another room to get the distance). Anyhow, here's the result. Not really great, but when you consider making ANY image or NO image, ISO25600 will be very useful. And don't forget, this is 1:1 view, if you look at it even at 50% it's much much better.


Can't wait for FX in D200/300 body :D