Tag Archives: Sony Alpha

24-70 a most boring range

I love my SAL2470z, a gem of a 24-70 f/2.8, but I am by far married to it, to be honest I very seldom use it. The Sony Carl Zeiss is technically speaking an excellent quality lens, with a consistent f/2.8 aperture through the entire focal range.

It is perfect for photographing fast changing, dynamic events with a mix of indoor and outdoor photos at relatively close range. It allows me to quickly compose shots on the fly.  I am sure it is worth every dollar of its pricetag of 2K$, it is built to be optically fantastic, and tough enough to take a beating. It really is the world’s sharpest mid-range zoom, and it will withstand the toughest of conditions with its solid metal construction.

The reason why I do not really like the lens isn’t to be found with the lens itself. I simply do not appreciate the concept of the mid-range zoom. I find that the zoom, is good at almost everything within its working parameter, but not really outstanding at anything. I do miss a good shallow depth of field with this lens, Its bokeh, not really good. I find the lens to be very boring, a marvellous compromise, but not really giving me anything on the artistic side, areas where I desire to use it.

… Guldmann

Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35mm f2.8 (Part 2)

‘back to the future … Part 1

Tthe Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon (CZJ) is an old lady, produced  between 1955 and 1961. It has 6 elements which is placed in 5 groups.

its imperfections gives a wonderful potential. I am of cause talking about how it is prone to flair, how depth of field lens effects the light and gives crazy Smooth Bubbles. The lens is produced in different versions, this one has 9 aperture blades, but there is rare versions with 12 blades as well. Great center sharpness and it’s really sharp all over from f/5.6 and above.

IMG_0539I like the fact that this lens is prone to lens flare, for some it might be seen as an undesirable effect on the image. I see it differently, for me it is often the element that brings emotion to my picture. It could be an effect of romance, life, depth. My advice is to seek to use them deliberately, rather than being annoyed by these what technically just is diffraction artifacts. It is true lens flare can show itself in more than one way, as long as it only manifests itself as visible artifacts in the shape of the lens iris then I do not mind. It can also appear as a haze across the image and in such situations am I the first to head down in my camera bag to retrieve a lens hood to avoid that washed out look with reduced contrast and color saturation. Diffraction artifact becomes especially interesting in digital cameras, When the sun is shining on an unprotected lens, a group of small rainbows appears. This artifact is formed by internal diffraction on the image sensor, which acts like a diffraction grating.

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Using the CZJ 35mm f/2.8 with a extension tube

Extension tubes is perhaps one use-scenario which I had overlooked the most, and which I am totally nuts about. All the qualities of the lens comes to life combined with a really close macro experience. Do notice how the understated colors is still in play, and the sharpness right on the money, not looking overly sharpened yet very well defined. This shoot of the flower is straight out of the camera, shoot handheld and with no postproduction with no Photoshop magic or cropping

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I’ve had more people suggesting me to look into M42 bellows rather than using extension tubes, they usually sell for similar prices and give both greater flexibility and a wider range of magnification.  I got my extension tube practically for free, but should I purchase one for the full price, my choice had possibly tipped the other way, while the bellows is both easier and more flexible to use. Finally, and not to be considered lightly, bellows are WAY cooler looking than tubes! Impress both friends and strangers!
the math is simple:

  • magnification_change= extension_change/focal_length short lens = big magnification.
  • working_distance_change = focal_length(1/new_magnification-1/old_magnification) long lens = big working distance.

 

 

Kiev 88 to A-Mount

The first Kiev 88 has the same screw mount as the hasselblad 1000F/1600F screw mount later versions of the Kiev 88 was equipped with the Pentacon Six Mount. In fact the Hasselblad screw mount is so similar to the Pentacon Six mount that the screw mount can be modified to Pentacon Six with an Arax adapter ring.

Kiev 88 camera has a reputation of being somewhat unreliable, it was because its focal plane shutter was a cloth curtain. However their opticks offers huge variety of excellent optics from Arsenal, Zeiss Jena and Schneider-Kreuznach.

I have tried various methods over the years, often with little to no luck. Fotodiox Pro Lens Mount Adapter – Kiev 88 SLR Lens to Sony Alpha A-Mount was a completely different and positive experience. Accurately made, high material quality and perfect fit. Obviously is this a manual adapter, so lens functions that rely on electronic communication with the camera body (autofocus, AE metering, image stabilization, etc.) will be disrupted.

 

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Calculating what the equivalent focal length is for a lens use on a 35mm system coming from 645, 6×6 and 6×7 isnt all that easy. It has to do with ratio. Programs like FCalc can calculate this accurate and to the money. 35mm has a diagonal of 43.3mm, 6×6 has a diagonal of 84.8mm. 84.8/43.3 = 1.96

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Personally I am excited about all these new lens options, and my next posts is going to be revolving about this area. My next blog post is going to be on the MC Arsat FISHEYE Lens 30 mm f/3.5. Until then…

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Be there, be Square

This blog is about my love for Square format compositions. I am going to tell you why I love this format, what it brings, and how I use it.  And No! you do not need to have a 120mm hasselblad to shoot square format 🙂

I recall a time, where we film shooters had to decide between 120-roll film format or Less expensive and smaller in size, 35mm (possibly other formats but i didn’t bother with them). Larger negatives meant better prints, possibly why professionals sought that platform while most us amateurs could only drool over the expensive brands like Hasselblad.

I couldn’t afford a Rolleiflex, Mamiya or Hasselblad, so I got myself a Hasselbladski. My edition was the greatly improved Kiev 88CM which features a Pentacon Six lens mount and a cloth shutter, yes it is heaven, but convenience was not strong with it. So it ended with being my Minolta that was my companion on my photo tours. Today I shoot Sony alpha A99V and my old faithful Kiev 88cm sits on the shelf looking at me, luring at me, almost like it’s blaming me for my wrong choices in life, it knows that I have a soft heart for its 120mm films.

To this day I still love the square format, and quite often crop my way to it in the post process, the reasons is many and I am going to elaborate on a few of them in this blog.

I like the way a scene is seen

Shooting square format is an entirely different beast, it challenges my perception, causing me to rethink composition in an entirely different way.  Even when shooting 35mm cameras, I try to imagine how the scene will be when cropped down from 3:2 aspect ratio to 1:1.  I do wish that Sony would put on the creative heat, and give us 1:1 ratio, but that is not very likely going to happen.  There is some 35mm cameras that features this capability, but remember it is only a visual aid and not the same as having the same resolution horizontally as well as vertically when shooting native 1:1. So yes the benefits of a simulated 1:1 format limits itself to composition, you achieve equal good if not better 1:1 ratios photographs in post processing.

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I like the balance square introduce

I tend crop my pictures to 1:1 in the post processing, not only to cut away unwanted elements, but to create a balance in the photograph and it forces the way we look at a photography in an entirely different way.

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Seeking a square format is not only relevant to my post processing, it is very much in play in my mindset when I am composing the photograph. I imagine the squared layout, this include avoiding putting my motives anywhere near the extreme corners. Not only does this make the post process cropping easier, but it also positively affects the quality. Using the center of the lens gives more sharpness, less distortion and obviously no vignetting.

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I started out saying that 1:1 formats forces us to look at the photograph in an entirely different way than a 3:2 format do. If we take away other factors such as leading lines, varying texture, complementing colour, rule of odds and negative space e.g.  we end up with a very dominant factor,  format.  Rectangular frames forces the eye going from side to side or from top to bottom, depending on if the rectangle is landscape or portrait orientated.  This is so different from how a squared format affects us. Here our eye is lead into a circular movement, a kind of roundish pattern.

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Symmetry, Centering, Diagonal and Negative Space

If you have had time to see some of my former blog posts, then you know I am a great believer in deliberate compositions.

Everytime I see a scene with heaps of symmetry I start to think of square compositions, maybe the reason is that the square itself is symmetrical.

I like elements that can attract the eye, elements that distracts its path around the photograph, that being a strong diagonal that bisects the square into two equal triangles or a dominant center object, that fixates the eye.

When cropping a photograph to a square format I always pay attention to the negative space. Sure you can enhance a photograph by eliminating excess space, is it still important to keep the balance.  Perhaps is the negative space ability to define the subject the most difficult element to master when you are on the path to an understanding of the square format.

Rule of thirds

You might have heard that Rule of Thirds doesn’t apply for square formats. It is nonsense, it applies equally little and equally much as it does in any ordinary photograph. It all depends, so many factors goes into a photography, and rule of thirds is just one. What I have observed is that Just central subject placement and symmetry works really great for square photos, so well that is easily overrules the basic composition rules such as the rule of thirds. I like to find the The rule of thirds in a squared photography whenever I am doing landscape photography, or anytime where the subjects at at large.

 

Warm on a Cold Night

This time I am going to share an small experience with you, and also how we solved it cheap and easy, no more cold freezing cameras and lenses.

A few nights ago we was out shooting The ride of the Valkyries, it was a blistering cold night -25c. My two sons who both was shooting Sony Alpha A65, quickly had their cameras freezing up to the point where they couldn’t take any pictures, my Sony Alpha A99V was more faithful and kept on shooting, yet still I ran into trouble. My Samyang 14mm F/2.8, did build up a thin layer of ice on its dome.

Everything looked pretty hopeless, Aurora dancing over the skies and no mean to capture the beautiful scene. Then I remembered that I had some Hand Warmers which I previously had bought with the intent to keep in a inner pocket to help keeping us warm. I used one at each camera and secured it to the lens by tying it to the lens with a microfiber cloth. To my surprise, one was enough to warm both camera and lens for 6 hours,  keeping both functional.

From now on these small heaters is going to be a standard part of my aurora hunting equipment.

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Cheers, Guldmann

The Passion for Panoramas

Passion
There is more to panoramas than cameras and locations. The way you see the seen, the way your brain comprehend the possibilities of a scene is the the most important tool. If you do not love landscape photography then you are in a bad shape, good panoramas lies hidden in passion, you have to love Landscape photography, feel it, live it. I find it important that a landscape scene is conveying emotion, without moving the audiences it becomes flat, doll and uninteresting. Emotion is brought by contrasts, it can be the presents of peace vs turbulence or bleak vs vibrant it doesn’t matter as long as it is there.

In this example taken from At Tvibollahraun lava field, close to the Blue Mountains in Southwest Iceland, standing at the entrance to the Leiðarendi caves, melancholy and the splendor of the width of Iceland is tried captured in one scene. There is no flash bang over the colors, yet it moves me, and if it intrigues you to pack your camera for Iceland, then it has reached its target.

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I guess what makes me love panoramas comes down to one thing, the open width. A beautiful view that seemed to span from far left to far right. back when i was shooting film it was really hard to capture the spender of such a view, but with digital cameras it has become a lot easier.

As the title says is this blog post on panoramic photography,  also known as wide format photography. It is technique that stitches multiple images from the same viewpoint together to form a single, wide photograph.

Camera orientation and tripods

Having your camera at a tripod will give you the best result, make sure it leveled well making the stitch and leveling much easier. I also avoid shooting horizontally, keep your camera vertically to give a better “height” resolution. This also makes your panoramas more tolerant towards cropping, should you be slightly out of balance on your tripod.

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To make a long story short, leveling your camera is extremely important when shooting cylindrical (horizontal) panoramas. When shooting spherical panoramas, it is also important, but most spherical stitching applications have a way to easily correct horizon lines.

I prefer wide angle panoramas that looks like regular images. To get that view i never go beyond 180 degrees. Sure they are stitched from several photographs and therefore would have more resolution, but it it is important in my views that it doesn’t look all bend out of place.

I try to overlap my photos with at least percent, this margin will allow CameraRaw to easily stitch the multiple images together. Do not hesitate, being in a hurry was a crime I have committed too many times in the beginning, and with the result that i had a slightly trail of motion in my shoots. Pesky people in your photos, isnt necessarily a bad thing, but they aught to stand still. Be careful about the horizon and other straight lines as they can give an odd result. Another and maybe the most important thing in panoramas is consistency of exposures. It is imperative that no matter how bright or dark parts of the scene might be, your images must have the same exposure. I prefer making my panorama photograph and stitch them in CamaraRaw, rather than letting camera do it for me. Setting everything in manual ISO, Focus, Aperture, F-stop and Time is the only way to be in control of your scene, do not change your settings in the series you have to join together. One final thing, do fix up all vignette, and distortions on all of the frames before he joins them in the post processing.

Fisheye or rectilinear

I recommend a rectilinear lenses over fish eye lenses, for the simple reason is that they are designed to attempt to keep straight lines straight. Fisheye lens, which often are smaller and less expensive, curves everything into a ball, making stitching very challenging.

My favorite lenses for panoramas is either the Minolta 50mm f/1.4 or the Samyang 14mm f/2.8. Especially the Samyang was a surprise to me, thus being a rectilinear ultra-ultrawide 14mm lens it does a really good job trying to keep straight lines straight.

 

Some photographers argue that Fisheye lenses is much better when shooting panoramic because it allows you to be much more efficient with your time due to that less images is needed giving less file size and post-processing. Another factor is that fisheye lenses are generally much sharper in the corners than extremely wide rectilinear lenses.

Another issue is how most lenses deal with lens flares. Most fisheye lenses have an additional special coating on them to minimize lens flares. When shooting a lens that covers 180-degrees, it is often nearly impossible to not capture the sun or other light sources.
Ultimately, it is a personal choice on which type of lens to use and/or it depends on what the project needs.

 

Camera Settings

  • Shoot in “Manual”, Setting everything in manual this applies to ISO, Focus, Aperture, F-stop and Time is the only way to be in control of your scene, do not change your settings in the series you have to join together.
  • focus your lens on a distant object (infinity or near infinity), then switch to manual focus.
  • Aperture is set to a f/8 or higher, choose good number that will put everything, including any foreground elements, into perfect focus.
  • Metering try to meter in the middle between the dark areas and light areas
  • You can use ultra wide and wide angle lenses, but beware you can experience heavy distortion and vignetting issues that can make it difficult to properly align and stitch images.
  • Shoot in RAW
  • White Balance – set to  Auto, as long as you are shooting raw it doesn’t really matter as we can change it later, if necessary.

Let’s get focused!

Hi again, a discussion in one of my blogs, made me think about focus, it’s is one of these discussions that pops up once in a while. At first glans it’s a really easy choice, manual or auto… what can be so complicated about that!

What about terms like “toggle focus,” “focus and recompose” and “back-button focus,” are you on top of these, do you know what it brings to the table? In In this blog, I am going to try to break down the concepts for you!

It is no secret that I am a truly in love with my A99V, and as such is totally biased. I am sure the concepts are applicable on other platforms as well; I just don’t care enough to write about them J

Auto focus system

Back in time when I decided on my A99V, one of the features that took my interest was this new “highly advanced Continuous AF mode uses 19 AF points with reliable depth-direction focusing performance to steadfastly capture subjects and is strongly assisted by the 102-point multi-point focal-plane phase-detection AF sensor”… WOW, only it turned out to be a brilliant marketing feature, which I will most likely never get to use as they do not support my old beloved glass, but only a few AF-D lenses. Old lens users like me are left with the conventional 19 point AF sensor system, no “depth map assist” function for us, and the AF Range Control cannot take advantage of the 102 point depth map display… bullocks!

Manuel or Back-Button Focus

I really like doing things myself, this include the settings of my camera and focus. For me EVF focus peaking combined with magnification is my preferred method, it is an almost flawless combo only challenged by fast moving object, shooting wide open which most likely require AF.

But when I shoot AF, I shoot in a mode allowing flexibility, and it’s here Back-Button Focus (BBF) comes in. Do note that BBF is not the same as back-focus, BBF is exactly what the name implies, an option to change how autofocus is activated. Instead of AF being activated by the shutter release button, Auto Focus is activated by a separate button on the back of the camera. So what’s the hype about, well it’s about no more switching your lens to manual focus. Even with your lens set to Auto Focus, you can manually focus and not have the camera unintentionally refocus when pressing the shutter button.

Give me a reason why BBF is any good.

Should I give a breadwinner for BBF, then it would be control and convenience. Being able to hold that AEL and Focus when recomposing is exactly what I want in many situations. The ability to combine BBF with object tracking just adds to the convenience.

I guess that does just fine… give me some practical examples…

Imagine you are shooting a scene, a group of dears in the forest, and a branch sways in front of your lens. And focus starts slowly to hunt, making you miss those moments where the motive was at its best. Back button focus would have saved the day, as you would still be shooting sharp shoots and the branch would have been of less importance.

Imagine that you are shooting portraits. The person who you are shooting is standing still and you want to take several different shots with varying composition of the person. You have your focus point on the persons eye, then recompose the photo, moving the focus spot to the correct spot, focus, and then take the photo is going to be some job.

I guess among the many reasons we have to shoot in Manuel is the inconveniences autofocus introduces. With BBF a lot of these inconveniences are killed off, does this mean that we should be shooting automatic from now on… no, but I am sure we could get rid of a lot more trivial work when shooting day by day.

How to set back-button Focus on Sony Alpha A99V

(SLT-A99V camera firmware to version 1.02)

Firstly, you need to disengage the focus and AEL from the shutter button. The idea of back button focus is that the focus and shutter are independent so you don’t need to half-press the shutter to focus.


MENU →  (Camera Settings 4) [AF w/ shutter] → OFF.
MENU →  (Camera Settings 4) [AEL w/ shutter] → OFF.
Now will the camera no longer auto focus/ or AEL when you half press the shutter.

We want the AF/MF button, and we want to set it to AF On.

MENU →  (Custom Settings 4) → [AF/MD Button] →AF ON.

If you have trouble getting this to work, make sure that your Eye-Start is off

MENU →  (Custom Settings 1) → [Eye-Start AF] → OFF

Another handy setting is having the View Finder focus peaking set to on

MENU →  (Custom Settings 3) → [Peaking Level] → High

MENU →  (Custom Settings 3) → [Peaking Color] → Red

Finally make sure you got AF-C on

Fn button (Focus Mode)

That’s it. You can now use the AF/MF button on the back of the camera to engage focus, rather than half-pressing the shutter button.