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Luminar – The New Powerhouse for Fine Art Black and White Conversions

14 Nov

I recently embarked on a project of creating black and white images for an upcoming exhibit at an art gallery. The images have been shot, now the only question that remains is how will I handle the post-processing. In years past I’ve relied heavily on Lightroom and also Nik Silver Efex (yep remember that program). I have found, however, that the black and white conversions and looks created by the Nik Collection are starting to get a little dated.

It was very trendy some years ago to process in Silver Efex, but now that Google is no longer updating the program I find that the presets are not working as well for creating looks that appeal to today’s art buyers.

Luminar - The New Powerhouse for Fine Art Black and White Conversions

One of the images in the collection. I used Lightroom for some initial adjustments then used Luminar as a plugin to finish off the editing.

So I decided to process my images using Luminar by Macphun. I was already familiar with the program and the easy to use interface, so I thought I would push myself a little further and edit these images looking specifically to process for black and white.

Preset Black and White Workspace

One of the first things to be aware of is that Luminar offers a Black and White specific workspace. By clicking on the workspace tab, you will bring up a variety of tools that will help you to process for black and white conversions.

The workspace includes some filters like Colour filters, Exposure/Contrast, Highlights/Shadows, as well as Clarity/Detail, and a few others. The Curves filter is nicely constructed in that you can adjust RGB as well as the separate colors with just a simple click of the mouse.

Luminar - The New Powerhouse for Fine Art Black and White Conversions

In this image, you can see that I’ve set the workspace to B&W for black and white conversion.

I was also able to add additional filters to the list and remove others quickly and easily. For the majority of my images, I don’t tend to use textures, so I removed this filter from the workspace. If I were to process another set of images, I might use this filter, but for now, it was easier to remove it. You will notice that once you start adding or removing filters, the workspace becomes a custom setup.

Create your customized Workspace

One of the features that I like about Luminar is the fact that I can create a customized workspace. I am still in the process of tweaking my black and white filters so I can quickly and easily choose a specific workspace with which to start. One that will offer me the filters I need for easy black and white conversions aiming at a variety of different looks. For instance, I can create workspaces for grungy black and white conversions as well as ones that would mimic vintage film looks.

So I added filters to the workspace and made a custom set for processing to my tastes. Filters I removed; Texture Overlay, Grain, Soft Glow, Curves, and Vignette. I added the Advanced Contrast filter. You can also collapse any of the filters you aren’t working at the moment by clicking the little triangle icon just left of the filter name. That will give you more work area and less need to scroll up and down the filters panel.

Adjustment Brushes

Luminar also offers users the opportunity to make specific local adjustments with the Brush and Radial Mask tools. For one specific image, I used the brush to paint in my adjustments to only specific parts of the image. The brush tool creates a mask where you can selectively apply edits to your image.

Read more about this technique here: How to use Filter Masks in Luminar for Powerful Local Adjustments

Here you can see how I am applying the Highlight/Shadow filter only to a select area using the brush and a filter mask.

Workflow

So without further ado, I will take you through the steps I used to edit this image. As you will see, Luminar is a very quick and simple to use program that lets you edit your work in the matter of a few moments.

Step 1 – Presets

I always start by viewing my images in the presets. Who knows, one of them might just work and then my job is done. Luminar has these huge previews of each preset at the bottom of the screen, I find them very useful. This one is called “Bloody Mary”. I like the hint of color it includes but for this upcoming exhibit it won’t fit with the rest of the images so I’ll have to save this effect for later.

Step 2 – Black & White Workspace

Next, I chose the Black and White workspace and then started to adjust the black and white points. I like to make sure that each of my images contains the full range of tones right from pure white to pure black. This is always one of my first steps. I make sure that my histogram touches both the left and right edges. This step is very important as it gives my prints a lot of depth.

Before adjusting the Black and White point sliders. Notice the lack of contrast in the image.

After adjusting the Black and White point sliders. This sets the pure black and pure white in the image and adds contrast.

Step 3 – Color Filters

My next step was to play with the color filters and sliders and see how they would affect the look of the image. Sometimes using a filter makes a specific part of the image pop. For this particular shot, I want to emphasize the bands of light that played across the tree trunk.

To do this click on “Edit” next to the colored circles, and then on the Luminance (brightness) tab. That will allow you to adjust the tones of each color individually. Play with them each to see how they affect your image.

In this image, if I move the red slider all the way to the left, you will see that the tones on the rock get considerably darker. While moving the slider to the left adds light to this part of the shot.

Before adjusting the color sliders.

Red slider to the left darkens any tones in the image that are red.

Red slider to the right lightens red and darkens opposite colors.

Step 4 – Structure

I wanted this shot to be much grittier and defined, so I adjusted the Structure Filter as well. The texture in the bark is important for the effect of the light on the trunk. The structure slider helps emphasize this.

These two shots show the effect Structure has on this image. In this first image, I’ve purposely moved the slider all the way to the left so you can see the effect. The second shot shows the slider moved further to the right. The ridges of the bark become much more defined as I played with this slider.

Structure Slider pulled all the way to the left.

Final toned-down Structure Slider.

Step 5 – Split Toning

For this series of images, I am pairing urban shots with nature shots. All the nature shots, however, were taken somewhere within the city of Toronto. The photos will also contain a slight hint of blue. I love that tone when it’s printed out on my textured fine art paper. I also like to pair this hint of blue with a slightly grey/blue matte when I frame the images for the gallery exhibit. It’s a subtly unique look.

You can see here I’ve exaggerated the saturation to determine if I liked the color. Then, once I had the hue I liked, I toned the colors down to add just a subtle hint of blue to the black and white image. I also adjusted the balance so that the tone of blue will show more in the shadows than in the highlights.

Exaggerated Split Toning Filter to judge the color.

Final Split Toning settings and look.

Step 6 – Final Adjustments

Finally, I added an Advanced Contrast filter. I wanted to give the details within the image some punch and this slider worked beautifully on this image. You can play around with the highlights, mid-tones, and shadows separately. After some adjusting, I shifted the highlight slider further to the right adjusting the effect of the contrast on the tree bark.

Advanced Contrast Filter turned off.

Advanced Contrast filter added.

Conclusion

Well, that’s it, folks. The editing was very quick and simple. The image is complete for now. I always like to leave my work for a few days and then come back to view the image again. A set of fresh eyes always helps in fine-tuning the details.

In closing, Luminar has proved to be a very quick and easy-to-use tool for completing black and white conversions. It offers the same versatility and creative opportunities as other programs and is truly a powerful application.

Before and after comparison. You can use the handy before/after slider to see all the changes you’ve made to your image. Just click the little icon at the top that looks like an open book, and move the slider across your image to see the effects.

Before and after image, side-by-side.

I like the fact that I can use it as both a stand-alone product and a plug-in for Lightroom. The interface is certainly easier to navigate than other programs and I enjoy working in Luminar. That certainly says something as I’m not the type who likes to mess around with post-processing.

Disclaimer: Macphun is a dPS advertising partner.

The post Luminar – The New Powerhouse for Fine Art Black and White Conversions by Erin Fitzgibbon appeared first on Digital Photography School.


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The Sony a9 is a 24MP sports-shooting powerhouse

23 Apr

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Sony has announced the alpha 9 high-end full frame mirrorless camera at a live event in New York. The a9 has a 24MP, stacked CMOS sensor for super-fast readout, allowing a completely silent electronic shutter. It can shoot at 20 frames per second for more 241 compressed Raw frames. It can performing AF/AE calculations at 60 fps, all while providing a 60 fps live feed (meaning no blackout) during bursts. Sony claims improved subject tracking and Eye AF speeds, and focus down to -3 EV with F2 lens (a whole stop better than the a7R II).

The camera primarily uses an electronic shutter but also features a mechanical shutter mechanism, allowing a flash sync speed of up to 1/250th of a second.

Sony is also expanding its Pro support program, adding support for Canada and opening two walk-in centers in the USA (New York and Los Angeles).

The camera features 693 on-sensor phase detection points, covering 93% of the frame. It also has five-axis image stabilization that offers 5 stops of correction.

The a9 has a 1280 x 960 (QuadVGA) resolution viewfinder that runs at 120 fps with very low latency.

It has twin SD card slots (one of which supports UHS-II cards) and Sony says the battery has twice the capacity of previous models. A battery grip holding two batteries will also be available.

Features such as an AF joystick, AF mode dial and customizable ‘My Menu’ have been added. You can also instantly switch to one other AF area mode by assigning it to a custom button, to quickly adapt to changing scenarios.

The company says it’s the most capable camera ever: mirrorless or DSLR. Sony stresses it’s not even largely about physical differences between mirrorless and DSLR anymore, but instead about the capabilities of mirrorless that give it advantages over DSLRs. We’ll be curious to put these claims to the test.

The a9 will be available in May 2017 at a cost of around $ 4500/£4500.


Press Release

Sony’s New ?9 Camera Revolutionizes the Professional Imaging Market

Groundbreaking Full-frame Mirrorless Camera Delivers Unmatched Speed, Versatility and Usability

  • World’s First1 full-frame stacked CMOS sensor, 24.2 MP2 resolution
  • Blackout-Free Continuous Shooting3 at up to 20fps4 for up to 241 RAW5/ 362 JPEG6 images
  • Silent7, Vibration-free shooting at speeds up to 1/32,000 sec8
  • 693 point focal plane phase detection AF points with 60 AF/AE tracking calculations per second
  • Extensive professional features including Ethernet port for file transfer, Dual SD card slots and extended battery life
  • 5-Axis in-body image stabilization with a 5.0 step9 shutter speed advantage

NEW YORK, Apr. 19, 2017 – Sony Electronics, a worldwide leader in digital imaging and the world’s largest image sensor manufacturer, has today introduced their new revolutionary digital camera, the ?9 (model ILCE-9).

The most technologically advanced, innovative digital camera that Sony has ever created, the new ?9 offers a level of imaging performance that is simply unmatched by any camera ever created – mirrorless, SLR or otherwise.

The new camera offers many impressive capabilities that are simply not possible with a modern digital SLR camera including high-speed, blackout-free continuous shooting3 at up to 20fps4, 60 AF/AE tracking calculations per second 10, a maximum shutter speed of up to 1/32,000 second8 and much more. These are made possible thanks to its 35mm full-frame stacked Exmor RS™ CMOS sensor – the world’s first of its kind – which enables data speed processing at up to 20x faster than previous Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras11. This unique sensor is paired with a brand new, upgraded BIONZ X processing engine and front end LSI that maximizes overall performance.

This industry-leading speed and innovative silent shooting7 is combined with a focusing system that features an incredible 693 phase detection AF points. Covering approximately 93% of the frame, the focusing system ensures that even the fastest moving subjects are reliably captured and tracked across the frame.

The new ?9 also features a vibration free, fully electronic, completely silent anti-distortion shutter7 with absolutely no mechanical mirror or shutter noise, making it an extremely powerful photographic tool for any shooting situation that demands quiet operation. To ensure maximum usability and reliability, the camera features a new Z battery with approximately 2.2x the capacity of W batteries, as well as dual SD media card slots, including one that supports UHS-II cards. An Ethernet port (wired LAN terminal) is available as well, and there is a wide variety of new settings, controls and customizability options that are essential for working pros.

“This camera breaks through all barriers and limitations of today’s professional digital cameras, with an overall feature set that simply cannot be matched considering the restrictions of mechanical SLR cameras” said Neal Manowitz, Vice President of Digital Imaging at Sony Electronics. “But what excites us most about the ?9 – more than its extensive product specs – is that it allows professionals to see, follow and capture the action in ways that were never before possible, unlocking an endless amount of new creative potential.”

A New Standard of Speed and Focusing Accuracy

Critical to the record-breaking speed of the new ?9 is the combination of the new stacked 24.2 MP2 Exmor RS image sensor, new BIONZ X processor and front end LSI.

The immense processing power from these new components allows for faster AF/AE calculation while also reducing EVF display latency. The processor and front end LSI are also responsible for the larger continuous shooting buffer, enabling photographers to shoot at a blazing 20 fps4 with continuous AF/AE tracking for up to 362 JPEG6 or 241 RAW5 images.

The camera’s innovative AF system tracks complex, erratic motion with higher accuracy than ever before, with the ability to calculate AF/AE at up to 60 times per second10, regardless of shutter release and frame capture. Further, when the shutter is released while shooting stills, the electronic viewfinder functions with absolutely no blackout, giving the user a seamless live view of their subject at all times 12. This feature truly combines all of the benefits of an electronic viewfinder with the immediacy and “in the moment” advantages that not even the finest optical viewfinders can match, and is available in all still image modes including high speed 20 fps4 continuous shooting.

With 693 focal plane phase detection AF points covering approximately 93% of the frame, the camera ensures improved precision and unfailing focus in scenes where focus might otherwise be difficult to achieve. The Fast Hybrid AF system – pairing the speed and excellent tracking performance of phase detection AF with the precision of contrast AF – achieves approximately 25% faster performance when compared with ?7R II, ensuring all fast-moving subjects are captured.

Professional Capabilities in a Compact Body

Sony’s new full-frame camera is equipped with a variety of enhanced capabilities that give it a true professional operational style.

The ?9 features an all-new, high-resolution, high-luminance Quad-VGA OLED Tru-Finder with approximately 3,686k dots for extremely accurate, true-to-life detail reproduction. The new Tru-Finder, which is the highest resolution viewfinder ever for a Sony ? camera, incorporates an optical design that includes a double-sided aspherical element, helping it to achieve 0.78x magnification and a level of corner to corner sharpness that is simply outstanding. The EVF also utilizes a ZEISS® T* Coating to greatly reduce reflections, and has a fluorine coating on the outer lens that repels dirt.

This all adds up to a luminance that is 2x higher than the XGA OLED Tru-Finder from the ?7R II, creating a viewfinder image with a brightness level that is nearly identical to the actual scene being framed, ensuring the most natural shooting experience. The frame rate of the Tru-Finder is even customizable, with options to set it for 60 fps or 120 fps13 to best match the action.

The ?9 is equipped with an innovative 5-axis image stabilization system that provides a shutter speed advantage of 5.0 steps 9, ensuring the full resolving power of the new sensor can be realized, even in challenging lighting. Also, with a simple half press of the shutter button, the effect of the image stabilization can be monitored in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen, allowing framing and focus to be accurately checked and continually monitored.

The ?9 also offers an Ethernet port (wired LAN terminal), allowing convenient transfer of still image files to a specified FTP server at high-speed, making it an ideal choice for studio photography, high-profile news and sporting events and more. There is a sync terminal as well, enabling external flash units and cables to be connected directly for convenient flash sync.

New Features for Fast Operation

Sony’s new ?9 has several new and updated focus functions that support faster, easier focusing in a variety of situations. The camera features a multi-selector joystick on the back of the camera, allowing shooters to easily shift focus point within the frame by pressing the multi-selector in any direction up, down, left or right when shooting in Zone, Flexible Spot or Expanded Flexible Spot focus area modes. The new model also offers touch focusing on the rear LCD screen for easily selecting of and shifting focus towards a desired focus point or subject.

New for Sony E-mount cameras, the ?9 includes the addition of separate drive mode and focus mode dials, plus a new “AF ON” button that can be pressed to activate autofocus directly when shooting still images or movies.

Additional new capabilities include the “AF Area Registration”, which allows frequently used focus area to be memorized and recalled via custom button assignments. There is also the ability to assign specific settings (exposure, shutter speed, drive mode, etc) to a custom button to be instantly recalled when needed. The camera can memorize and automatically recall the last focus point used in a vertical or horizontal orientation as well, instantly switching back to it when that specific orientation is used again.

For enhanced customization, a “My Menu” feature is available, allowing up to 30 menu items to be registered in a custom menu for instant recall when needed.

Double Battery Life, Double Memory

The innovative ?9 camera features an all-new Sony battery (model NP-FZ100) with 2.2x the capacity of previous Sony full-frame models, allowing for much longer shooting performance.

Also, based on extensive customer feedback, the new camera offers two separate media card slots, including one for UHS-II media. The same data can simultaneously be recorded to both cards, or the user can choose to separate RAW / JPEG or still images / movies. Movies can also simultaneously be recorded to two cards for backup and more efficient data management.

High Sensitivity and Wide Dynamic Range

The unique design of the ?9 image sensor represents the pinnacle of Sony device technology. The 24.2 MP 2 full-frame stacked CMOS sensor is back-illuminated, allowing to capture maximum light and produce outstanding, true-to-life image quality. The sensor also enables the diverse ISO range of 100 – 51200, expandable to 50 – 20480014, ensuring optimum image quality with minimum noise at all settings.

The enhanced BIONZ X processor plays a large part in image quality as well, as it helps to minimize noise in the higher sensitivity range while also reducing the need to limit ISO sensitivity in situations where the highest quality image is required.

The new ?9 also supports uncompressed 14-bit RAW, ensuring users can get the most out of the wide dynamic range of the sensor.

4K Video Capture

The new ?9 is very capable as a video camera as well, as it offers 4K (3840x2160p) video recording across the full width of the full-frame image sensor15, 16. When shooting in this format, the camera uses full pixel readout without pixel binning to collect 6K of information, oversampling it to produce high quality 4K footage with exceptional detail and depth. Recording is also available in the popular Super 35mm size.

Additionally, the camera can record Full HD at 120 fps at up to 100 Mbps, which allows footage to be reviewed and eventually edited into 4x or 5x slow motion video files in Full HD resolution with AF tracking17.

New Accessories

Sony has released a variety of new accessories to compliment the new ?9 camera, including:

  • NP-FZ100 Rechargeable Battery – high-capacity battery with approximately 2.2x the capacity of the NP-FW50 W-series battery. It also supports InfoLITHIUM® technology, making it possible to view the remaining battery power as both a percentage display and five step icon on the camera’s LCD screen.
  • VG-C3EM Vertical Grip – provides same operation, handling and design as the?9 camera, doubles battery life and allows USB battery-charging via the camera body.
  • NPA-MQZ1K Multi-Battery Adaptor Kit – External multi-battery adaptor kit capable of functioning as an external power supply for four Z series batteries and as a quick charger. Kit comes with two packs of NP-FZ100 rechargeable batteries.
  • GP-X1EM Grip Extension – Grip extender with same look, feel and design as ?9 body. Enables more solid hold on camera.
  • FDA-EP18 Eyepiece Cup –eye piece cup with locking mechanism
  • BC-QZ1 Battery Charger –quick-charging battery charger. Charges one new Z series battery in approximately 2.5 hours.
  • PCKLG1 Screen Protect Glass Sheet – hard, shatterproof glass screen protector with anti-stain coating to prevent fingerprints. Compatible with touch operation and tilting LCD screen

Pricing and Availability

The Sony ?9 Full-frame Interchangeable Lens Camera will ship this May for about $ 4,500 US and $ 6,000 CA. It will be sold at a variety of Sony authorized dealers throughout North America.

Notes to Editors:

  1. As of April 19th, 2017
  2. Approx. effective
  3. Electronic shutter mode. At apertures smaller than F11 (F-numbers higher than F11), focus will not track the subject and focus points will be fixed on the first frame. Display updating will be slower at slow shutter speeds.
  4. “Hi” continuous shooting mode. The maximum frame rate will depend on the shooting mode and lens used. Visit Sony’s support web page for lens compatibility information.
  5. “Hi” continuous shooting mode, compressed RAW, UHS-II memory card. Sony tests.
  6. “Hi” continuous shooting mode, UHS-II memory card. Sony tests.
  7. Silent shooting is possible when Shutter Type is set to “Electronic” and Audio signals is set to “Off.”
  8. 1/32000 shutter speed is available only in the S and M modes. The highest shutter speed in all other modes is 1/16000.
  9. CIPA standards. Pitch/yaw stabilization only. Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens. Long exposure NR off.
  10. At shutter speeds higher than 1/125 sec, smooth and blackout-free live view images are shown in EVF.
  11. Compared to the front-illuminated CMOS image sensor in the ?7 II.
  12. Display updating will be slower at slow shutter speeds.
  13. When the auto or electronic shutter mode is selected the viewfinder frame rate is fixed at 60 fps during continuous shooting.
  14. Still images, mechanical shutter: ISO 100 – 51200 expandable to ISO 50 – 204800.
    Still images, electronic shutter: ISO 100 – 25600 expandable to ISO 50 – 25600.
    Movie recording: ISO 100 – 51200 expandable to ISO 100 – 102400.
  15. In full-frame shooting, the angle of view will be narrower under the following conditions: When [File Format] is set to [XAVC S 4K] and [ Record Setting] is set to [30p]
  16. Class 10 or higher SDHC/SDXC memory card required for XAVC S format movie recording. UHS Speed Class U3 required for 100Mbps or higher recording.
  17. Sound not recorded. Class 10 or higher SDHC/SDXC memory card required.

Sony Alpha a9 specifications

Price
MSRP $ 4500/£4500
Body type
Body type SLR-style mirrorless
Body material Magnesium alloy
Sensor
Max resolution 6000 x 4000
Image ratio w:h 3:2, 16:9
Effective pixels 24 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors 28 megapixels
Sensor size Full frame (35.6 x 23.8 mm)
Sensor type BSI-CMOS
Processor BIONZ X
Color space sRGB, Adobe RGB
Color filter array Primary color filter
Image
ISO Auto, ISO 100-51200 (expands to 50-204800)
Boosted ISO (minimum) 50
Boosted ISO (maximum) 204800
White balance presets 10
Custom white balance Yes
Image stabilization Sensor-shift
Image stabilization notes 5-axis
Uncompressed format RAW
JPEG quality levels Extra fine, fine, standard
File format
  • JPEG (Exif v2.31)
  • Raw (Sony ARW)
Optics & Focus
Autofocus
  • Contrast Detect (sensor)
  • Phase Detect
  • Multi-area
  • Center
  • Selective single-point
  • Tracking
  • Single
  • Continuous
  • Touch
  • Face Detection
  • Live View
Autofocus assist lamp Yes
Number of focus points 693
Lens mount Sony E
Focal length multiplier 1×
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCD Tilting
Screen size 3
Screen dots 1,440,000
Touch screen Yes
Screen type TFT LCD
Live view Yes
Viewfinder type Electronic
Viewfinder coverage 100%
Viewfinder magnification 0.78×
Viewfinder resolution 3,686,400
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed 30 sec
Maximum shutter speed 1/8000 sec
Maximum shutter speed (electronic) 1/32000 sec
Exposure modes
  • Program
  • Aperture priority
  • Shutter priority
  • Manual
Built-in flash No
External flash Yes (via hot shoe or flash sync port)
Flash modes Flash off, Autoflash, Fill-flash, Slow Sync., Rear Sync., Red-eye reduction, Wireless, Hi-speed sync
Flash X sync speed 1/250 sec
Drive modes
  • Single
  • Continuous (H/M/L)
  • Self-timer
  • Bracketing (AE, WB, DRO)
Continuous drive 20.0 fps
Self-timer Yes (2, 5, 10 secs + continuous)
Metering modes
  • Multi
  • Center-weighted
  • Highlight-weighted
  • Average
  • Spot
Exposure compensation ±5 (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
AE Bracketing ±5 (3, 5 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 2/3 EV, 1 EV, 2 EV steps)
WB Bracketing Yes (3 frames, H/L selectable)
Videography features
Format MPEG-4, AVCHD, H.264
Microphone Stereo
Speaker Mono
Storage
Storage types Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC slots (UHS-II compatible)
Connectivity
USB USB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMI Yes (micro-HDMI)
Microphone port Yes
Headphone port Yes
Wireless Built-In
Wireless notes 802.11b/g/n + NFC + Bluetooth
Remote control Yes (Wired or wireless)
Physical
Environmentally sealed Yes
Battery Battery Pack
Battery description NP-FZ100
Battery Life (CIPA) 650
Weight (inc. batteries) 673 g (1.48 lb / 23.74 oz)
Dimensions 127 x 96 x 63 mm (5 x 3.78 x 2.48)
Other features
Orientation sensor Yes
GPS None

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Professional powerhouse: Hands-on with the full-frame Sony Alpha a9

23 Apr

Hands on with the Sony a9 (ILCE-9)

We got a chance to get our hands on the Sony alpha 9 immediately after its announcement. Our first reaction? Continuous shooting with full time live view isn’t a gimmick: you can follow the action without any interruption. 

This is an entirely different beast compared to the a6500, which only had 8 fps live view during continuous shooting. This is a nearly 8-fold increase in frame rate: actual 60 fps live view during bursts (120 fps when not shooting).

Hands on with the Sony a9 (ILCE-9)

It feels more substantially built than the existing a7 cameras, but without it becoming hefty. Sony says the a9 is ‘well sealed – especially around most buttons and dials’ for dust and moisture resistance. Whether it’s up there with the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II or Nikon D5 remains to be seen.

The camera’s grip is a little deeper than the a7 cameras, which means it’s more comfortable to hold with larger, heavier lenses such as the 24-70mm F2.8 GM.

Hands on with the Sony a9 (ILCE-9)

Despite the fairly radical specifications, the a9 retains the same fundamental form factor as the existing series II a7 cameras. However, as you’ll be aware if you were following the camera’s launch, just about everything inside the body shell has been revised to optimize speed. And outside the shell too – far more direct controls, like the AF and drive mode dials up top.

Hands on with the Sony a9 (ILCE-9)

Here’s just some of the cleverness that lives inside the camera: the processing board with twin SD card slots, a 3.7m dot OLED viewfinder and a beefed-up lens mount with more screws for greater strength and durability. But the big news is the 24MP stacked CMOS sensor, mounted on a 5-axis stabilized cradle.

The 24.2MP stacked CMOS design includes memory for buffering immediately behind the pixel layer. This and the (comparatively) modest pixel count are key to the camera’s fast readout, which underpins the camera’s headline features: 20 frames per second shooting, 60 fps AF/AE calculations for improved subject tracking, and a fully electronic (truly silent) shutter with minimal rolling shutter.

The Bionz X processor itself is also new (relative to the a7R II and a99 II), and comes with a front-end LSI. These improvements help increase processing speeds 1.8-fold and the buffer 6-fold relative to the a7R II, allowing for 241 continuous compressed Raws during 20 fps bursts. These improvements also help reduce power consumption by 40% compared to the a7R II.

Hands on with the Sony a9 (ILCE-9)

Although it looks a lot like an second-generation a7 series camera, the a9 features a range of improvements, many of them things that photographers (including us) have been requesting for some time.

The most obvious of these is the AF point joystick on the camera’s rear panel. This and the dedicated AF-On button (as opposed to the recessed button switchable between AF/MF and AEL on previous cameras) will be immediately welcome by anyone who’s shot with an existing Sony camera. The joystick is responsive, but often as you’re using it it accidentally registers a center (downward press), which can be assigned to any function custom buttons can be assigned to. For now, we suggest assigning it to ‘Not Set’ (nothing) so you don’t inadvertently activate something else (like center point AF-S, which it’s set to by default) while trying to move your AF point.

There have been changes to the elements that have been carried over too. For example, the dial on the rear plate of the camera is larger and has more noticeable ‘clicks’ as you turn it, making it far easier to use with precision. The buttons also have a more direct feel, rather than the slightly spongy sensation of the ones on the existing models (particularly the a7R II and a7S II.

Hands on with the Sony a9 (ILCE-9)

Our first impressions of the camera are that everything is that bit faster. Startup time is reduced (30% faster than a7R II), as is the speed at which the viewfinder panel is activated when you pull the camera up to your eye. AF is faster as well: 25% faster AF acquisition speeds, and 30% higher detection rate when it comes to Eye AF and face detection, compared to the a7R II. Low light AF speeds and performance should be improved as well, as Sony now claims AF at -3 EV with F2 lenses (1 EV better than the a7R II).

We’re also impressed with the new quad VGA viewfinder. Its offers a crisp, detailed view and fast enough refresh rate to follow action (120 fps, dropping to 60 fps during bursts). Since it’s OLED, it’s nice and contrasty. We wish the LCD had improved though: Nikon and Canon DSLRs offer retina-esque displays on their newer cameras that make shot images look that much more inspiring.

Hands on with the Sony a9 (ILCE-9)

Other changes include the addition of a physical control for switching between MF and the camera’s different AF modes. This, along with the ability to assign an AF area mode (with or without AF activation, a la Nikon D5/500) to the camera’s custom buttons, should make the a9 as quick to operate as it is at shooting.

Unfortunately, as of now, only one AF area can be assigned as ‘Reg. AF Area’ (oddly by long-pressing the Fn button while in that AF area mode), so you’ll only be able to instantly switch to one other AF area mode from the one that is currently engaged. We’ve requested Sony to enable multiple AF area modes to be assignable to multiple buttons, directly via the menu, as opposed to having only one ‘Registered AF Area’ the camera can store in memory. This might allow you to quickly switch between, say, Lock-on AF, complete Auto (when Lock-on fails), and good old center point. It would be even nicer if one could specify AF-S vs. AF-C for any of these modes so that, for example, I could generally keep the camera in AF-C, but always fall back to good old center-focus-and-recompose when all else fails.

Hands on with the Sony a9 (ILCE-9)

Stills aren’t the only area that gains massive improvements over previous models: Full-frame 4K video is now oversampled 2.4-fold from 6K footage. No pixel-binning, no line skipping. This leads to incredibly crisp footage but, more importantly, with extremely low rolling shutter thanks to the incredibly fast readout speeds of the new stacked CMOS sensor.

Which makes it all the more a shame that, for some reason, Sony decided to forego S-Log (and Picture Profiles entirely) on this camera. Sony claims this is because the camera is aimed at professional stills shooters, but for a camera that shoots such good full-frame 4K, we feel it’s a bit of a shame.

Hands on with the Sony a9 (ILCE-9)

The a9 uses a new battery. The ‘Type Z’ NP-FZ100 is bigger than the existing batteries and offers significantly more capacity: 16.4Wh to be exact, up from 7.7Wh in the older, ‘W’ type packs used in previous models. This allows the camera to achieve a rating of 650 shots per charge, based on CIPA standard tests.

As always, it’s quite common to be able to get many more shots out of a battery than the rating suggests, but the higher rating should mean the a9 will regularly be able to shoot for twice as long as most of the a7 series before needing a battery swap.

Hands on with the Sony a9 (ILCE-9)

Announced alongside the a9 is an accessory that should excite existing E-mount camera owners, particularly videographers.

The NPA-MQZ1K Multi-Battery Adaptor Kit comes with two of the new NP-FZ100 batteries and has space for another two. It not only works as a charging station for up to four Z type batteries but also has a dummy battery that allows it to be used as an external power pack. The unit is compatible not only with the a9 but also with the a7, a7R, a7S, a7 II, a7R II, a7S II, a6000, a6300, a6500, a5000, a5100 and RX10 III, providing up to 8x their current battery capacity. It include tripod-style mounting sockets, for attachment to a video rig.

Hands on with the Sony a9 (ILCE-9)

The ports on the camera’s left flank are all fairly familiar: headphone, mic, USB and HDMI. What’s slightly unexpected is that, despite the camera’s speed, the USB port is only version 2, rather than the much faster USB 3.

As you can see, the doors aren’t especially substantial, which is presumably why Sony isn’t making particularly strong claims about weatherproofing.

Hands on with the Sony a9 (ILCE-9)

The a9 is the first Sony to feature an Ethernet port, making clear its pitch-side intentions.

We’re surprised to see a traditional flash sync socket, for studio work. We’d expect that of Sony’s current models: the higher-resolution a7R II (which, curiously, lacks a flash sync socket) would appeal more to studio photographers. A hint perhaps that there’s a higher-resolution a9-series body on the way…

Hands on with the Sony a9 (ILCE-9)

An optional VG-C3EM battery grip doubles the camera’s battery life. The grip itself holds two batteries but fills the battery compartment, meaning you end up with two batteries in total, rather than three. Still, a rating of around 1300 shots per charge with two batteries puts the a9 will into DSLR territory in terms of longevity.

What do you make of the Sony a9? Let us know in the comments.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Godox’s Wistro Pocket Flash AD200 is a pocket-sized powerhouse

28 Feb

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Small but mighty, Godox’s Wistro AD200 speedlight offers wireless support with Godox’s 2.4G X system and 200Ws / GN 52 output. That’s pretty incredible – for comparison, many speedlights struggle to put out just 100Ws.

The unit is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack rated for 500 full power flashes, and provides TTL support with Canon, Nikon and Sony systems when used via wireless control. Output can be adjusted in eight steps, and the AD200 can be used with a number of accessories and diffusers.

The AD200 looks to be available for pre-order from Adorama under the FlashPoint brand for $ 330.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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