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Posts Tagged ‘Sony’

Top 10 sample galleries of the year #2: the Sony Alpha a9

23 Nov

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As 2017 winds down, we’re counting down our top 10 most popular sample galleries of the year. In the #2 position we have another staff favorite in the Sony Alpha a9. Images in this gallery have been viewed nearly 2 million times, so it seems our readers are as fascinated by this camera as we are.

In fact, we’ve probably written more about the Sony a9 then any other product this year, simply because there was a lot to say (and test)! It got a gold award in our review and we’ve used it to shoot everything from parkour to the Presidents Cup. So peep our gallery and see what this top tier sports camera is capable of. Our parkour gallery is below:

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Top 10 most popular sample galleries of 2017:

#10: Sigma 14mm F1.8 Art
#9: Fujifilm GFX 50S
#8: Nikon D7500
#7: Olympus Tough TG-5
#6: Sigma 85mm F1.4
#5: Fujifilm X-T20
#4: Leica M10
#3: Fujifilm X100F
#2: Sony Alpha a9
#1: To be revealed on 11/24

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
 

Sony a7R Mark III review

23 Nov

Introduction

The Sony a7R Mark III is the company’s latest high-resolution full frame mirrorless camera. Much like Nikon’s recent D850, it’s one that combines this resolution with high speed and fast autofocus capabilities to a degree we’ve not previously seen.

Like its predecessor, the Mark III is built around a 42MP BSI CMOS sensor, but unlike the a7R II, it can shoot at ten frames per second.

Essentially it can be seen as an a7R II that inherits many of the lessons learned from the company’s pro-sports model, the a9. This means faster processing, improved autofocus, improved handling and ergonomics, as well as the adoption of a much larger battery. While some of the individual changes are subtle, they very quickly combine to produce a hugely capable and highly useable camera.

Key Features

  • 42MP BSI CMOS sensor
  • Faster, lower-noise image processing
  • 10 fps shooting with full AF, 8 fps with ‘live’ updates between shots
  • 3.69M dot (1280 x 960 pixel) OLED viewfinder
  • Improved autofocus, including more tenacious Eye AF mode
  • 5-axis image stabilization, rated at 5.5 stops (CIPA) with 50mm lens
  • 4K footage from ‘Super 35’ crop region oversampled from 5K capture
  • Video AF less inclined to refocus to background
  • ‘Picture Profile’ video gamma/gamut modes including S-Log2 and 3
  • Twin SD Card slots (one UHS-I and one UHS-II compatible)
  • Bayer-cancelling multi-shot mode for improved resolution
  • True 14 bit uncompressed Raw, even in continuous drive mode
  • Use of phase detection (including Eye AF) at 3 fps with adapted lenses

Sony says the a7R III is based around the same 42MP back side illuminated CMOS sensor as its immediate predecessor, so doesn’t gain the full speed advantages of the a9’s Stacked CMOS chip (in terms of AF performance, continuous shooting rate or reduced rolling shutter in video and electronic shutter mode). However, the adoption of the processing systems, algorithms and refinements introduced on the a9 all have their benefits.

This means a camera with a touchscreen and dedicated joystick for AF point positioning, a camera with a deeper grip and improved customization, with better laid-out menus and much improved battery life.

Video capabilities

Sony also says the improved processing will benefit video shooting. The oversampled footage taken from a Super 35 (~APS-C) region of the sensor is still expected to look better than the subsampled capture from the full sensor width but both are supposedly improved by the new processing chain. We’ll delve into this later in the review.

To take advantage of the camera’s dynamic range, the Picture Profile system of color and tonal response borrowed from Sony’s professional video line now includes the even flatter S-Log3 gamma curve. That said, there is no 10-bit capture possible; the camera can still only capture 8-bit 4:2:0 footage internally or output 8-bit 4:2:2, which may limit the usefulness of S-Log3 if it makes posterization more likely when the footage is graded.

For users wanting to use the camera’s video dynamic range with a high dynamic range display but without the extra hassle of color grading, the a7R III joins the Panasonic GH5 in offering Hybrid Log Gamma recording: essentially Log capture with tags to tell displays how to correctly render it.

Compared:

The a7R III’s most obvious peer is the D850, since it’s the other high-speed, high resolution full frame camera. We’ll also note the changes relative to its predecessor and its other, less rapid high-res rivals.

Sony
a7R III
Nikon D850 Sony
a7R II
Canon EOS 5DS R Pentax K-1
MSRP
(Body only)
$ 3200 $ 3300 $ 3200 $ 3900 $ 1800
Pixel Count (MP) 42.4 45.7 42.4 50 36
Sensor type BSI-CMOS BSI-CMOS BSI-CMOS CMOS CMOS
ISO Range 100-32,000 64-25,600 100-25,600 100-6,400 100-204,800
Stabilization In-body
(5.5 stops)
Lens-only In-body
(4.5 stops)
Lens-only In-body
(5 stops)
AF working range –3EV (@F2) –4EV –2EV (@F2) –2EV –3EV
Viewfinder magnification & eyepoint 0.78x
23mm
0.75x
17mm
0.78x
23mm
0.71x
21mm
0.70x
21.7mm
Connectivity options Wi-Fi, BT
(+NFC)
Wi-Fi, BT Wi-Fi
(+NFC)
Optional SD Card Wi-Fi
Video 4K/30p
1080/120p
4K/30p 4K/30p
1080/120p
1080/60p 1080/30p
Mic/
Headphone
Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / No Yes / Yes
Flash sync speed 1/250th 1/250th 1/250th 1/200th 1/200th
Flash Sync socket Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Continuous shooting 10fps 7fps* 5fps 5.0fps 4.4fps
Intervalometer No Yes Via app Yes Yes
Memory format SD (UHS-II)
SD (UHS-I)
XQD
SD (UHS-II)
1x SD (UHS-I) CF (UDMA)
SD (UHS-I)
2x SD
(UHS-I)
USB (Connector) 3.1 (C)
2.0 (micro B)
3.0 (micro B) 2.0 (micro B) 3.0 (micro B) 2.0 (micro B)
Battery life (CIPA)
VF/LCD
530/650 1,840/ – 290/340 700/200 760/ –
Weight 657g
(23.2oz)
1005g
(35.5oz)
625g
(22.0oz)
930g
(32.8oz)
1010g
(35.6oz)
*D850 can shoot 9fps when combined with a battery grip and D5-style battery.

As should be apparent, the Sony offers a combination of resolution, speed and video capabilities not easily matched by its peers. And, with the new battery, is able to offer much more similar endurance, if you’re not in a situation in which you can plug the camera in to an external power source.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
 

Analysis: The Sony a7R III is still a star eater

21 Nov

We sent some files to our friend Jim Kasson for analysis, and he confirms that the Sony a7R III is definitely still a Star Eater, despite several claims to the contrary that have been published online over the past week.

Looking at Kasson’s graphs, one can clearly see the noise reduction kick in near Nyquist in Kasson’s energy plots. Indeed, in our own shots of the stars with the a7R III and latest a7R II (firmware v3.00 and above), our final files only show stars that are larger than one pixel with a few neighboring pixels: suggesting that smaller stars are indeed ‘eaten’ or dimmed due to a spatial filtering algorithm.

At a 3.2-second exposure, the ‘spacial filtering’ (Star Eater) is very mild, and won’t affect your stars.
But as soon as you hit 4-seconds, spacial filtering kicks in big time, causing the same Star Eater problems that was seen in the a7R II

This is a missed opportunity for Sony, and something dedicated astrophotographers will want to consider when deciding between the a7R III and other options that don’t have this same issue (a Nikon D850 for example). Other photographers happy with the number of stars still in their shots simply won’t care.

We’ll drop in one of our sample photos shortly for your pixel-peeping pleasure. But for now, we can say this with confidence: while a lot of stars still survive ‘Star Eater’, the a7R III continues the trend of noise reduction that dims or erases small stars at exposure longer than 3.2s.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Sony a7R III added to studio scene comparison

17 Nov

We’ve had our hands on the Sony a7R III for about a week now, and the camera has quickly impressed our reviewers both in the studio and on the road. Currently, a couple of our staffers are traipsing around Arizona capturing beautiful photos we’ll soon be adding to our a7R III sample gallery, but back in Seattle we wasted no time putting the camera in front of our standard studio test scene.

See how the Sony a7R III stacks up against its closest competitors by clicking the button below. And don’t forget to compare the a7R III’s Pixel Shift Multi Shooting mode against the Pentax K-1’s (both are available in the studio scene tool). Pentax debuted the first full-frame pixel-shift tech with the K-1 in February of 2016; has Sony managed to improve upon it with their version?

See the Sony a7R III in our studio scene comparison tool

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV review

14 Nov

Introduction

The Sony DSC-RX10 IV is premium superzoom bridge-camera (DSLR-like form factor) with a 24-600mm F2.4-4 equivalent zoom lens and a 20MP 1″-type stacked BSI-CMOS sensor: the same used by the Sony RX100 V. This new sensor brings phase detect autofocus to the RX10 series for the first time, adding the depth-awareness that is important for focusing long lenses. The camera is also faster than its predecessor and can shoot at 24 fps with AF and auto exposure (compared to 5 fps).

The processor is borrowed from the flagship Sony a9, which should mean excellent subject tracking. In short, this camera packs speed, AF ability and lens reach into a convenient package, not to mention 4K video. So is it the most capable all-in-one camera on the market? Read on…

Key specs:

  • 20MP 1″-type stacked BSI-CMOS sensor
  • 24-600mm equivalent F2.4-4 stabilized zoom lens
  • 24 fps burst shooting in JPEG + Raw, with full AF and AE
  • 315-point phase-detection autofocus system covers 65% of frame
  • Detailed 4K video capture with well-controlled rolling shutter
  • High frame rate video capture
  • Touchscreen
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Updated menus

We feel like this camera will appeal to a variety of users including those seeking an all-in-one camera with serious reach for casual shooting, travel or vacationing. But advanced videographers may also find this camera tempting thanks to a laundry list of video features and good quality UHD capture.

Key features compared

The body is almost identical to that of its predecessor, using the same outstanding lens. However the RX10 IV offers a touchscreen that can be used as a touchpad for placing AF points with your eye to the finder or for selecting a point of focus in still or video mode. There are a few other minor differences between the two cameras as well:

Sony RX10 IV Sony RX10 III Sony RX10 II Panasonic FZ1000 Panasonic
FZ2500
MSRP $ 1699 $ 1499 $ 1199 $ 899 $ 1199
Sensor 20MP 1″-type stacked CMOS sensor 20MP 1″-type stacked CMOS 20MP 1″-type stacked CMOS 20MP 1″-type BSI-CMOS 20MP 1″-type BSI-CMOS
ISO range (native) 100-12800 100-12800 100-12800 125-12800 125-12800
Lens (35mm equivalent) 24-600mm F2.4-4 24-600mm F2.4-4 24-200mm F2.8 25-400mm F2.8-4 24-480mm F2.8-4.5
Built-in ND filter No No Yes No Yes
AF system Phase detect Contrast detect Contrast detect Contrast detect Contrast detect
AF points 315-point 25-pt 25-pt 49-pt 49-pt
Fastest shutter speed

1/32,000 sec
(e-shutter), 1/2000 (mechanical)

1/32,000 sec
(e-shutter),
1/2000 (mechanical)

1/32000 sec
(e-shutter),
1/2000 (mechanical)

1/16000 sec
(e-shutter), 1/4000 (mechanical)

1/16000 sec
(e-shutter), 1/4000 (mechanical)

EVF resolution 2.36m-dot 2.36m-dot 2.36m-dot 2.36m-dot 2.36m-dot
LCD 3″ 1.44M-dot tilting 3″ 1.23M-dot tilting 3″ 1.23M-dot tilting 3″ 921k-dot fully articulated 3″ 1.04M-dot fully articulating
Touscreen Yes No No No Yes
Burst rate 24 fps 14 fps 14 fps 12 fps 12 fps
Video 4K/30p 4K/30p 4K/30p 4K/30p 4K/30p
High-speed video Up to 960 fps @ 800 x 270

Up to 960 fps @ 800 x 270 Up to 960 fps @ 800 x 270 120 fps @ 1920 x 1080 120 fps @ 1920 x 1080
Wi-Fi Yes, with NFC and Bluetooth Yes, with NFC Yes, with NFC Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA) 400 shots 420 shots 400 shots 360 shots 350 shots
Weather sealing Yes Yes Yes No No
Dimensions 133 x 94 x 145mm 133 x 94 x 127mm 129 x 88 x 102mm 137 x 99 x 131mm 138 x 102 x 135 mm
Weight 1095 g 1051 g 813 g 831 g 915 g

As you can see, the RX10 IV stacks up nicely next to its siblings and direct competitors. For someone primarily concerned with stills, the RX10 IV seems like the obvious choice, especially if you plan on shooting action: it’s got the fastest burst rate of the bunch and is the only camera in its class with phase detection.

But for videographers, the FZ2500 with its fully-articulating touchscreen, built-in variable ND filter and similar zoom range might make it the more sensible choice, especially given its lower price point (though we found its lens performance inferior to its Sony counterparts). You don’t get the cool, super-high-speed frame rate options offered by the Sony cameras, but 1080/120p is not too shabby.

Availability

The RX10 IV is available now for an MSRP of $ 1699.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Sony a7R III Pixel Shift lifts a veil off your landscapes

12 Nov

Sony’s replacement of its popular a7R II comes packed with new features, most of them aimed at performance, ergonomic and autofocus improvements. But there are image quality improvements as well, like more dynamic range, but also a new Pixel Shift feature that hasn’t yet been talked about much.

Cameras with sensor-shift mechanisms are increasingly offering these pixel shift modes by precisely moving the sensor in one pixel increments to sample each color at every position, thereby overcoming the downsides of the Bayer filter array. And getting you sharper images with less moiré, with potentially less noise thanks to multi-sampling and less math required to figure out the R, G and B colors at each pixel. How does this look in the real-world? Explore our Pixel Shift vs. non-Pixel Shift Raw comparison below (Raws processed using Sony Imaging Edge with all sharpening and noise reduction settings zeroed out, and only tonal adjustments applied to deal with the high scene contrast):

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Move around the image and you’ll see a marked increase in clarity almost everywhere. The buildings’ windows are sharper and clearer, all the foliage far more defined… these Pixel Shift results are frankly astounding for static scenes. It’s like a veil has been lifted off your scene: something landscape photographers will simply love. All details are clearer, crisper, and there is no hint of moiré anywhere. The last time I saw this jump in clarity was going from a Rebel with kit lens to a 5D with L-series lens, to put this in perspective.

Last time I saw this jump in clarity was going from a kit lens on a Rebel to an L-lens on a 5D

And it’s not because of extra sharpening (which would come at the cost of more noise, which we don’t see), but because of the extra sampling. We’d also expect a decrease in noise, but we can’t quite tell here because of the non-standard workflow and because – to the credit of the a7R III’s dynamic range – this sunset scene still doesn’t have enough dynamic range to challenge the a7R III and make shadows visibly noisy.* That’s saying a lot.

This sunset scene doesn’t have enough dynamic range to challenge the a7R III. That says a lot.

What’s more: Sony’s recent lenses have enough resolving power to take advantage of this mode. You see the resolution increase at least partly because the lenses have enough resolving power to take advantage of the extra pixel-level sampling (theoretically, increasing the resolution of any part of the imaging chain has the potential to increase sharpness, but your lens needs to resolve enough to begin with to see the dramatic differences we’re seeing here). You can’t always take that for granted (see the limited increase in resolution of Pixel Shift modes on Micro Four Thirds cameras in our studio scene, for example).

Studio Scene Comparison

We know you’re itching to compare these results to all our other cameras, including those with their own Pixel Shift modes. Well, here you have it (Phase One 100MP camera is included as a benchmark so you know what the details are actually supposed to look like in our scene):

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The first thing you might notice is the lack of moire in our saturated color wheels, something even the Phase One 100MP sensor fails at. The Pentax K-1 offers a similar performance here: sampling three primaries at each pixel position helps overcome the color aliasing typically associated with Bayer filters.

Pixel Shift removes color aliasing in the newspaper print$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#icl-3794–1566952198”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3794); }); }) as well (check back above). It also produces less moire in the black and white text$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#icl-3798-785963340”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3798); }); }) of our scene. The lack of moire and increased resolution allows you to read down to the last line with ease – something the a7R II can’t claim.

You can even start to see the texture in our color wheel$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#icl-3795-1120823446”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3795); }); }) that not even the Pentax in Pixel Shift mode (much less the original a7R II) can resolve. The Phase One and Pentax medium format cameras are the only other cameras sharing that honor.

Traditional cameras with Bayer arrays particularly resolve less in saturated colors, where the lower resolution of the red or blue pixels really starts to show. So take a look at the massive increase in resolution in our saturated threads$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#icl-3796–2100605088”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3796); }); }). You can resolve individual strands the a7R II – or a7R III without Pixel Shift – don’t show. The K-1 does well here too, but remember the a7R III images are processed through Sony ‘Imaging Edge’, and we expect things to improve once Adobe provides support (which, to our understanding, it will).

Just generally speaking there’s more detail throughout our scene: take a look at our Beatles patch$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#icl-3797–29172716”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3797); }); }). You can make out individual threads otherwise only visible to the Phase One. The increased resolution of the a7R III over the K-1 probably helps resolve more threads, though the incredibly sharp Sony FE 85/1.8 may have some role to play here as well.

If you’re curious how well the 50MP Canon 5DS R compares: not so well. Individual threads are not well resolved$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#icl-3800–1236522308”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3800); }); }) (if not noisy, particularly in the reds), and color aliasing$ (document).ready(function() { $ (“#icl-3801–202191445”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3801); }); }) can be an issue.

Are we impressed?

How could we not be? Landscape, cityscape and architecture photographers will absolutely love this new feature paired with the already excellent sensor in the a7R III – as long as they steer clear of (or clone out) moving objects in the scene. The increase in resolution and decrease in aliasing Pixel Shift brings is obvious in both our studio scene and real world result. It’s frankly dramatic in the latter.

Are we impressed? How could we not be? Landscape, cityscape and architecture photographers will love this

There can be obvious artifacts in anything moving though, so that’s a potentially significant (albeit expected) caveat for landscapes with motion (water, fast clouds), telephoto shots prone to movement from wind and vibrations, etc. You’ll want to use a sturdy tripod with a remote release or self-timer. Furthermore, for now, using Sony’s ‘Imaging Edge’ software is clunky, but once Adobe incorporates support, we can’t wait to start shooting landscapes and perhaps tougher subjects in this mode to see how well it copes.


* That said, this was still a high dynamic range scene that we exposed for the highlights and tone-mapped in post using Sony’s ‘Imaging Edge’ software (the only option for processing Pixel Shift files at the moment). So shadows have been lifted many stops – yet remain noise free. You’ll have to excuse the somewhat flat result, as we didn’t have access to the tools we’re used to to tonemap HDR images while retaining proper local contrast. More to come…

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM sample gallery updated

03 Nov

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The 70-200mm F2.8 is a staple piece of kit for a lot of professional and advanced shooters. Sony’s full-frame E-mount version happens to carry the ‘GM’ logo, designating it one of the brand’s highest quality pieces of glass.

We carried it along while exploring the areas in and around Jackson, Wyoming and found it capable of excellent image quality. This is especially true when you stop it down a bit. You can also take a look at our previously-published Sony FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM roller derby gallery.

See our Sony FE 70-200 F2.8 GM sample image gallery

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Shooting the Presidents Cup with the Sony a9

03 Nov

Believe it or not, sports and live music photography have a lot in common – your reaction time as a photographer is crucial. The money shot moments happen in a split second and if you are too early or too late on your shutter release you will have missed the shot. Most of the time when I’m out on a shoot I’m working with a DSLR that shoots 6 frames per second or a mirrorless that can shoot 11 frames per second. I’m used to waiting for that perfect moment to fire the shutter and usually do just fine with 6 fps – but I won’t lie, the chance to try out the Sony a9’s 20 fps had me intrigued.

For starters, I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to test out this camera. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky for the first day of The Presidents Cup golf tournament at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey, giving pristine views of lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty from certain holes on the course.

Although I typically photograph live music, I’ve spent time photographing action sports and college games, and had a feeling that the insane burst shooting speeds would be a huge asset while photographing some of the world’s premiere golfers.

The totally silent shutter and the full-frame sensor in the a9 has created a camera that essentially allows a photographer to capture viewpoints that in the past simply weren’t allowed

I was also pretty excited to use the completely silent shutter on the a9. During a golf tournament there are key moments that most photographers aren’t allowed to shoot unless they are a substantial distance from the golfers—tee off for example, as a loud shutter clunk going off behind a golfer would be a huge distraction. The totally silent electronic shutter and the full-frame sensor in the a9 has created a camera that essentially allows a photographer to capture viewpoints that in the past simply weren’t allowed.

I own an a6500 and regularly shoot video for one of my clients using an a7, so I’m familiar with the menu organization and the autofocus systems on these cameras. The day before the event I went through and customized the settings on the a9 in a way that is similar to how I shoot with my a6500. I spent the bulk of my day shooting with the 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 G Master lens, with the camera switched to Shutter Priority mode (to catch the fleeting moment of the golf ball in frame) and swapping between two of the continuous autofocus area modes: Wide and Flexible Spot.

Despite being accustomed to Sony cameras the AF system still has its quirks—especially when dealing with a busy frame. As The Presidents Cup kicked off I was shooting in Wide AF mode and found the a9 occasionally having trouble locking onto the subjects I wanted it to. My images of former President Bill Clinton and George Bush in conversation behind the first tee are all slightly soft as the Wide focus mode wanted to grab focus on either the photographer in front of them or the white wall behind them. It was difficult to tell that this was happening while I was shooting (it looked so sharp through the EVF) and a real disappointment once I had a chance to download my cards after the event.

It may have missed the mark on the former Presidents, but Wide AF mode worked great for capturing the throngs of American-flag dressed fans in the stands though. The new design of the AF joystick was a dream while shooting in Flexible Spot mode though – it’s similar to the one on my DSLR making it quite fast to move the AF spot as the golfers maneuvered around the green during play.

The totally silent shutter on the camera took some getting used to. Early in the day there were a number of times that, as I was framing my shots, I found I was actually shooting frames without realizing it. However, as I grew accustomed to shooting without a shutter clunk I found the shutter noise from other photographers on the green quite distracting. Overall, I think this feature (especially when paired with the fact that the a9 has no optical blackout while shooting) is a huge benefit.

While the ability to shoot silently was particularly helpful on the golf course I can think of a number of other scenarios where this would be useful—weddings, on the set of film shoots, inside the studio with musicians and even photojournalism. The ability to silence the shutter makes it that much easier to become invisible as a photographer and capture your moments. The Sony a9 essentially makes it easy to follow the action and capture the exact frame that you want.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the features that I was most excited to check out was the a9’s ridiculously fast burst speeds. Although 20 fps is impressive, for shooting a sport like golf you probably won’t need quite that much speed. I spent the bulk of my day shooting at a lower frame rate out of fear of filling my cards before the day was over—I’d shot just over 2,000 frames when our day of ended. I’d love to see what those 20 fps could do during a faster moving sport though.

Unfortunately, there isn’t currently a way to rate the frames you like. This makes editing in a program like Photo Mechanic a bit more cumbersome. Another quirk is that although the a9 has two card slots, if one memory card hits capacity it won’t automatically switch to the second card. This is obviously going to be a drawback for professional level sports photographers documenting clutch moments of a sporting event.

The playback feature also isn’t intuitive. At one point during our day of shooting I thought I had lost a few hundred images. Thankfully it turned out that they were just recording to my second card and I was seeing playback from the first card. Sony says they are aware of all of these drawbacks though, and are working on solutions for them through future firmware updates and upcoming models.

I likely could have photographed the entire event with a single battery, which was an
unexpected surprise

As someone who occasionally shoots with Sony gear my expectations for this camera’s battery life in the field were low – the Sony system just isn’t known for having the longevity that a DSLR does. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the stamina of the new Z battery. I only swapped my battery once towards the end of the day and even then, it still had roughly a 20% charge on it. I likely could have photographed the entire event with a single battery, which was an unexpected surprise.

It’s not unusual for sports photographers to travel with multiple bodies and lenses, and the after shooting with the a9 for the day I certainly didn’t envy the folks rolling around with multiple Canon EOS-1D X’s. Even with a 100-400mm lens and an extra battery grip the Sony a9 remains relatively lightweight. For the most part the ergonomics of the camera are quite nice – it’s easy to switch between drive modes and shooting modes, and the movie record button has been moved to an area where you won’t accidentally press it.

My one complaint about the layout of knobs and buttons is the placement of the exposure compensation knob. Multiple times throughout the day I’d look at my camera and see that this knob had unexpectedly clicked off the “0” position. Apparently some photographers have taken to taping this down to prevent it from moving—I think on future shoots with the a9 I would do the same.

Obviously no camera is perfect, and although the a9 has its quirks, shooting during The Presidents Cup with it was an incredible experience. The burst speeds allowed me to photograph fleeting moments that I don’t think would be possible with my normal setup.

There was a bit of a learning curve at first, but as the day moved on I found myself quickly adapting to the a9. That completely silent shutter and the lack of blackout are the real gems of this camera though, and are features that I think a variety of photographers would find to be game changers in their work.

Sony a9 Presidents Cup Sample Gallery

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Jeanette D. Moses is New York City based photographer and videographer specializing in music, events and portraiture. Her work has been published by The New York Times Magazine, SPIN, PASTE, Billboard, Breakthrough Radio, Popular Photography, American Photo Mag, Brooklyn Vegan, Flavorwire, Impose and PopGun. She currently runs Blood Sweat and Beers, a photo site dedicated to documenting New York City’s vibrant DIY music scene.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Novoflex introduces electronic lens reversing system for Sony E-Mount

02 Nov

German accessories manufacturer Novoflex has launched a version of its Retro Reverse Adapters for the Sony E-mount system. The adapter allows users to reverse-mount lenses for macro shooting while maintaining full electronic control of the lens via the body controls.

The system works by using a pair of cable-connected rings that communicate information from the camera to the rear of the lens, even when it is mounted away from the body.

Reversing a lens is a quick way of achieving macro and close-up abilities, but Sony E-mount lenses need to be connected to the camera to operate at apertures other than the widest. This adapter, which has been available for Canon EOS users for some years, allows the lens to be mounted in reverse with no loss of control or EXIF information.

The adapter also allows a bellows unit to be fitted between the camera and any Sony E lens, reversed or not, for extra-high magnification work while still maintaining contact between lens and body.

The Novoflex NEX-RETRO will retail for $ 440/£309/€350. For more information, visit the Novoflex website.

Press Release

Sony Users Now GO RETRO with NOVOFLEX!

New NEX-RETRO from NOVOFLEX

Allows users with Sony E-Mount cameras (e.g. Sony Alpha 7/Alpha 9 series, Alpha 6000 series, etc.) to reverse mount their existing lenses to achieve closer focus. NEX-RETRO transfers all electronic functions such as aperture control, EXIF data and autofocus, from the reversed lens to the camera body as if it were mounted directly.

Look More Closely

With a 18-105 mm zoom lens in reverse position, you get an image ratio of 1:7 at 105 mm and 2.8:1 at 28 mm expanding the versatility of your zoom lens exponentially. The adapter itself has a 58mm filter thread. Stepping rings are available for other filter sizes.

The Common Thread

In addition to reversing the lens on the camera, NEX-RETRO allows the Sony E-Mount system user to incorporate NOVOFLEX bellows systems for even closer focus and greater magnification ratios.

Highlights

  • Bring to life the finest details: NEX-RETRO allows reverse mounting of Sony E-mount lenses for close focus macro applications.
  • No compromise in flexibility: NEX-RETRO retains complete electronic functionality between Sony E-mount lenses and bodies.
  • Precision engineering: NEX-RETRO is the perfect tool to make the perfect picture even better.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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Sony a7R III dynamic range improved, nearly matches chart-topping Nikon D850

01 Nov

Sony has claimed 15 EV dynamic range from its newest ILC iteration: the a7R III. Is it true, or is it like Sony’s odd claim that the a7S had 15 EV dynamic range? Turns out: Sony has some strong grounds for its claim here.

The Sony a7R III retains its dynamic range even in bursts. That’s a big deal for a Sony ILC

At the launch event in NYC, we were able to gather enough data to measure the ‘engineering dynamic range’ of the a7R III.* And boy is it impressive. Possibly even more important: for the first time the a7R III retains this dynamic range even in continuous drive. That’s a big deal for sports and action photographers. But how true is Sony’s claim?

The Sony a7R II already had impressive Raw dynamic range, with the ability to expose short enough to keep highlights from blowing, but with low enough sensor noise to lift shadows without too much noise. The a7R III improves on this.

Oh and think this image is too dark? Wait till you view it on a HDR display, which is another can of worms altogether the stills industry should be discussing.

Photo: Rishi Sanyal

Sony has found a way to reduce shadow (or ‘read’) noise in its files such that the final output has higher dynamic range, and cleaner shadows if you need them, than files from its predecessor. To summarize it in a number at base ISO: 13.6 EV at the pixel, or for a 42.4MP file. Or 14.8 EV if you like to compare to DXO numbers (and only generate 8MP images from your 42.4MP camera). Either way, that’s a nearly half-stop improvement over its predecessor. See our table below, which also compares the a7R III to the full-frame chart-topping Nikon D850, ranking based on highest performer:

Pixel Dynamic Range 8MP ‘Print’ Dynamic Range
Nikon D850 (ISO 64) 13.78

15.03

Sony a7R III 13.63

14.84

Nikon D850 (ISO 100)

13.27 14.53
Sony a7R II 13.21 14.41

While the Nikon D850 is the top performer here, its important to note that this is only the case if you can give the D850 the extra ~2/3 EV light it needs at ISO 64 (which you often can if you’re shooting bright light or a landscape photographer on a tripod). At ISO 100, the a7R III dynamic range actually exceeds that of the D850, thanks to incredibly low read noise. That’s impressive for a camera constantly running its sensor in live view.

At ISO 100, the a7R III dynamic range actually exceeds that of the D850… impressive for a camera constantly running in live view

Keep in mind, though, that if you can give the D850 the extra exposure to take advantage of its ISO 64 dynamic range, all tones in your image benefit from the higher signal:noise ratio—even midtones and brighter tones will be more amenable to post-processing and sharpening thanks to being more ‘clean’ and less noisy to begin with. The D850 is able to tolerate as much total light as the medium format Fujifilm GFX 50S, as we showed here. That’s what allows one to get unbelievably crisp, ‘medium format-like’ like files from a Nikon D810 (just zoom in to 100% on that shot and tell me you’re not impressed).

But the Sony a7R III gets you nearly there. While in some circumstances the Nikon D810/D850, or medium format, may afford you slightly cleaner more malleable files, the a7R III takes a significant step at closing the gap. And that’s nothing short of impressive for a mirrorless ILC constantly running its sensor for a live feed (and all its benefits).

As for Sony’s marketing, it sounds like the claim of 15 EV is believable, but only technically if you consider how your images look when shrunk to 8MP files. To be fair, there’s some benefit to comparing dynamic range figures after resizing camera outputs to 8MP, since it’s a common basis for comparison that doesn’t penalize cameras for having higher resolution (and therefore smaller pixels).

In depth vs. a7R II

Let’s take a deeper dive. Here are our ‘engineering’ dynamic range measurements of the a7R III vs. the a7R II. ‘Engineering’ dynamic range means we are measuring the range of tones recorded between clipping and when the shadows reach an unacceptable noise threshold where signal is indistinguishable from noise (or when signal:noise ratio = 1). Have a look (blue: a7R III | red: a7R II):

The a7R III shows a 0.42 EV, or nearly a half a stop, improvement in base ISO dynamic range over the a7R II. That’s not insignificant: it will be visible in the deepest shadows of base ISO shots of high contrast scenes. How did Sony do this given the already low levels of read noise its known for? Possibly by going to better or higher native bit-depth ADCs, something Bill Claff had suggested based on our largely 12-bit findings of the Sony a9’s output. But let’s save that for the PST forums.

Suffice it to say the a7R III improves on low ISO dynamic range, without sacrificing anything on the high end

It’s worth noting our a7R II figures are higher than DXO’s published 12.69 EV (13.9 EV ‘Print’) figures, possibly because they tested an older unit prior to uncompressed Raw and improvements to Sony’s compression curve. We retested it literally today with the latest firmware, and get figures of 13.2 EV or 14.4 EV normalized for ‘Print’ (Bill measures 13.3 EV, which you can see by clicking the camera name in the legend). See our 8MP, or ‘Print’ normalized, dynamic range figures below. These are more comparable to what DXO might report, for the benefit of your own comparative efforts (blue: a7R III | red: a7R II):

You can see the Sony a7R III encroaching on the ~15 EV rating of the Nikon D850 at ISO 64, but achieved at ISO 100 on the Sony, thanks to lower read noise. Impressive, though keep in mind again that the overall image quality improvement of an ISO 64 file from a D850 is due to total captured light (and it’s all about total captured light, which you can read about here).

Independently, our friend Bill Claff has tested the a7R III and also shows a similar 0.3 EV improvement over the Mark II (you can see the dynamic range numbers by clicking on the relevant camera in the legend at the upper right). He also shows the slight advantage of the Nikon D850 over the a7R III, which comes in at 13.7 EV vs. the a7R III’s 13.6 EV at the pixel level.**

Sony: a job well done. And all this at no cost to high ISO performance (we have comparisons coming showing parity between high ISO a7R III and a9 performance). Now please offer us visually lossless compressed Raw so we don’t have to deal with >80MB files for no reason. 🙂

ISO-Invariance

A camera with such great dynamic range performance suggests it’s probably fairly ISO-invariant, but is it?

Well, yes and no. It’s ISO-invariant in exactly the way it should be, but not so in the ways it shouldn’t be. Confused? Read on.

The a7R III, like many Sony predecessors, has a second gain step at the pixel level that amplifies signal, at the cost of higher tones, to preserve higher signal, and less noise, in dark tones. But it does so at a higher ISO—640 to be exact. At this point, the camera has amplified its signal in the analog domain so much that any remaining noise barely affects it.

That’s why the camera shows no difference between amplifying that ISO 640-amplified signal digitally (in-post) or in the analog domain in-camera. While we’ll have a more rigorous and controlled ISO-invariance test coming soon, you can see even in our cursory test at the launch event below that comparing ISO 6400 vs ISO 640 shot at the same exposure but raised 3.3 EV in-post to maintain the same brightness as ISO 6400 shows no difference at all in noise performance.

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What’s the advantage to the latter? 3.3 EV of highlights you otherwise lose by amplifying to ISO 6400 levels in-camera, but that you don’t lose if you ask ACR to digitally brighten 3.3 EV in post (anything that gets blown from that 3.3 EV push can easily be recovered in ACR since it’s there in the Raw file).

Below ISO 640 there’s some extra noise to, say, shooting ISO 100 and boosting 6 EV in post as opposed to shooting ISO 640 and boosting 3.3 EV. But there’s simply no excuse to the camera’s traditional ISO 6400 method of shooting ISO 6400-appropriate exposure and then amplifying the analog signal 6 EV in post to get ISO 6400 levels of brightness; instead, 2.7 EV of that push could be done in the analog domain by switching dual gain to ISO 640 levels, but the remaining 3.3 EV push should be saved for Raw conversion in order to retain 3.3 EV (or more) of highlight detail. Indeed, this is easily seen in Bill Claff’s ‘Shadow Improvement’ graphs that show little to no benefit to analog amplification above ISO 640 on even the Sony a7R II (or ISO 400 on the Nikon D850). And only a highlight cost of stops, upon stops, upon stops, since tones get amplified above the clipping point of the ADC at higher ISOs.

I’m going to use this as an opportunity to ask manufacturers like Sony, Nikon and the like: please accept the digital revolution that even your video departments have accepted (in their ‘E.I.’ modes). Please stop throwing away highlight data for almost no shadow benefit to ostensibly stick to poor antiquated ‘film’ analogies, or to work around CCD/CMOS read noise limitations that no longer exist. We’ve been singing this tune since 2014 when we designed our ISO-invariance test, and it’s even more relevant today with dual-gain architectures. ACR understands digital ‘push’ tags and you can brighten the image preview (and JPEG) as necessary. This is not to single out Sony: Nikon, Olympus and Panasonic are just as easy to blame, if not Canon of late after having modernized its sensor architecture to catch up with the rest.


Footnotes:

* Sony’s claim that the a7S had 15 EV dynamic range was patently false, as even the a7R II which has been measured to have less than 15 EV dynamic range performs better. But since there’s no standard for dynamic range measurement, it’s hard to say whether or not anyone’s claim is right or wrong – manufacturers can claim whatever they wish.

** But again, that’s not the whole story until you consider the higher signal:noise ratio of all tones at ISO 64 on a D850 compared to ISO 100 on any other full-frame at ISO 100.

Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

 
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