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Friday, 22 March 2013


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I've been using a Nex7 for over a year and a Nex6 since they were introduced. I also use a Nikon D700 which I routinely under-expose 1/3 stop to hold highlights. I learned pretty early on with the Nexes you dont have to do that!


If you haven't already written an article on your lens testing exercises, please do, for all our benefit. If you have, please provide us with the link. After all, TOP is a wonderful learning resource.

Thank you.

[I haven't, but there's a reason for that: most of the process is in my head. It isn't the shots, it's the analysis of the shots and the understanding of what's going on and what's causing what.... --Mike]

I made the mistake of looking for images made with this lens while I was online last night. It's not helping me resist.

Crepuscular rays... (I think I spelled that right.)

My experience with the NEX-7 has been pretty consistent with your NEX-6, exposure-wise, it seems. Often the first thing I'll do in Lightroom is hit the "Auto" button just to see what it will do - it's often a good starting place. But I've discovered that more often than not the NEX-7 in program mode has natively done a better job of overall exposure - I'll revert to the out-of-the camera exposure and apply something like Lightroom's advice only to portions of the image (typically reclaiming highlights, especially given my ETTR practice).

One interesting thing is that the cost of the nex 5/6/7 + zeiss combination starts to make the price of the rx1 (+ finder) look not quite so crazy :)

You can keep the NEX-6...I love that dog.

Brrrr - Daisy needs a coat.

Okay, so the camera was a Sony Nex 6. But what was the lens?

[Thanks for alerting me to this, 01af...I added that info to the post (in the caption of the first picture). Obviously anyone who read the previous day's post would know, but I should keep in mind those who come to today's post cold. --Mike]

...all I gotta say is "nice Zeiss snappy contrast"...

That stuff looks pretty impressive. I noticed that you used a filed computer screen on the BW version of the pooch?

Hi Mike,
That's a nice way to test for veiling and other types of flare. It is now on my lens checking checklist.
I do a bit of a regular gig reviewing photographic equipment for D-Photo, a New Zealand photo-enthusiast magazine.
Your observation, of how the Sony meters, matches what I have been seeing with not only Sony, but many of the recent camera arrivals that are based on an EVF.
They no longer appear to use the centre-weighted 18% grey paradigm, but instead use all the information from the entire sensor and proceed to 'expose to the right' while dialing in exceptions for specular highlights and obvious (whatever that means to a camera's computer brain) light sources, like the sun in your example photo.
Interestingly, the files don't look over-exposed, as they do with files from older cameras which have been 'exposed to the right'.
It's as if the boffins have closed the exposure/processing loop within the camera and raw software to cram as much information onto the file, yet present it normalised for viewing.

What meter mode were you in -- multi-mode or center weighted?

[Your question sent me to the camera and then into the User Manual for the first time...I don't believe you can change the metering mode on the NEX-6. Maybe I just haven't found it yet.... --Mike]

I'm guessing the relatively consistent exposure values in the first and second images is due to the sophistication of metering modes these days, which are programmed to "know" when to ignore things like the sun, treating it as an anomaly, whether you want it to or not.

No, crepuscular rays are the light and shadow effects when the sun shines through broken clouds and the like.

"Diffraction spikes" is a good name for the starburst effect.


Mike, you might want to check what the Dynamic Range Optimization (DRO) setting is. I think it's on by default and would produce the "Huh? Left to its own devices" behavior you noted.

[I thought of that too--but I'm shooting Raw only. --Mike]

It's sort of an expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights feature that works surprisingly well other than the fact that the jpegs look great and the raws look all over the place (underexposed mostly) until you tweak them.
Or something like that, but once you get used to it the results are pretty good.

Funny you should mention Verichrome-Pan, it had a sort of similar behavior

[There is method to my madness. You just get it, is all. [s] --Mike]

"I am liking..."
"I like..."
Interesting how the present continuous tense - in this sort of context - has only come into widespread use since the emergence of the internet.

[Hmm, I'd say it's a good deal older than that...in any event, I don't think the two statements mean the same thing. "I am liking" indicates an emerging feeling, tentative and inconclusive--tantamount to saying "so far I like it, but I'm still reserving judgement." "I like" is an established conclusion. Wouldn't you say? --Mike]

My first authoritative reading about flare was William Schneider's TOP article, One Photographer's Take on Flare, which includes a link to Mike's LL article, The Filter Flare Factor.

I love sunstars captured without aid of special effects filters mainly because it isn't alien to our experience (as in "seeing stars"). Likewise, "sunstars" off a tulip glass or a polished car fender. I've always thought that the number of rays in a sunstar is determined by the number of aperture blades in a lens' diaphragm. How does the 7-blade Sonnar E 1.8/24 produce 14-ray sunstars? (Is it software?)

AFAIK, lenses with less than 8 aperture blades tended to produce polygonal rather than round "light bokehs" and less than 8 sunstar rays which would look unnatural (although I haven't seen pictures of the latter). Zeiss MF lenses for ZF, ZE, ZA (and the discontinued ZK) DSLR mounts also have fewer aperture blades (8?) compared to their ZM lenses which have 10 blades yielding 10-ray sunstars. (Zeiss doesn't specify the no. of blades in the data sheet of their lenses.) Likewise, Voigtlander MF lenses also have 10 blades for their VM mounts vs. 9 for their DSLR mounts. (I gather that Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses are made in the same plant by Cosina except for the former's Made in Germany premium lenses.)

Re: Ghosting flare

I've had my fair (though rare) share of ghosts when shooting with a light source within the frame (e.g., the sun, full moon, or headlights), mainly because I have multi-coated "UV, Haze" (B+W, Kenko) filters permanently on my ZM and VM lenses.

"Do you use a "protective filter" on your lens? I encourage you to take that filter off your lens and leave it off." (The opening lines of Mike's Filter Flare Factor article.)

I haven't been able to follow this advice because I'm clumsy, have sweaty hands, and can scarcely afford a replacement for my M lenses. Also, it's humid and dusty where I come from. At least twice though, I've serendipitously captured stunning ghosts like this one:

This was taken with a GXR-M+Distagon 4/18 (28 mm-e) combo. This is a 100% crop of the OOC jpeg. Here's the photo where the crop came from.

Thank you, Mike, for your analysis of sensor-lens synergy.

I had the notion that flare resistance, or the ability to capture beautiful sunstars was exclusively a matter of lens design. Henceforth, I'll desist from trying to capture sunstars with my small-sensor GRD-4. And I'll remove them "protection" filters from my detachable lenses, more often than not. As for protecting highlights, my Ricoh duo aren't very good at this, or maybe it's me.

Daisy is welcome to come in for a photo shoot at my studio.

It's very nice that the exposure just works. My OM-D is decent, but tends to underexpose, which is a pain at higher ISO where shadow detail is scarce anyway. My D800 runs around this by having enormous exposure latitude, but there are situations where the exposure goes way off, even with pro AF-S lenses. While I'm a fairly technical photographer, I would prefer to concentrate on the image and not tuning camera controls.

Good to see you having fun with the NEX, Mike. The NEX has been my primary general system-camera platform for nearly two years.

For those who can break away from the self-consciousness of how a camera "should" look (or, particularly, how they should look while using a camera) the NEX cameras reward them with remarkable image quality and camera versatility. There's nothing a NEX cannot do, often better than anyone else.

The Zeiss 24 is a very nice lens. But, honestly, I don't use mine often.

[What lenses do you tend to prefer, Ken? --Mike]

I always thought the rule of thumb was:

Odd number of aperture blades = 2x diffraction spikes
Even number of aperture blades = 1x diffraction spikes

My Lumix G-3 is better than my Nikons for this kind of exposure too..

What is happening is that the NEX 6 meter is verry clever, it saw a bright spot on a normally lit frame (aha Sun San thinks the NEX 6) and ignored the bright spot and adjusted it's lighting for the rest of the frame. And since exposure is well sort of a compromise anyway it compromised brilliantly by not compromising at all.

"My OM-D is decent but tends to underexpose"

The OM-D does intergrate the sun into the exposure calculations (and a bright sky as well) therefore it tends to underexpose (a bit) indeed. Now that can be corrected in RAW by the way....but you can avoid it by using the little wheel around the shutter button now and again, or use spot meter and meter away from the sun.

Had to do that from the time I used the Nikon F2 till now aparantly, and I'm glad at least one camera knows that we live in a solar system with a rather bright central star and at 8 light minutes away non the less. Kudos to the Sony engenieers....well Land of the Rising Sun, right.

Greetings, Ed

It sounds like the Sony is doing less dumb scene averaging, and more "intelligent" multispot metering, where the camera picks the optimum exposure after determining the brightest highlight. Of course with the sun shot it would have to decide that that sun is just too bright to worry about. Less of a reason to use the exposure comp with it I bet.

>>I don't believe you can change the metering mode on the NEX-6. Maybe I just haven't found it yet.... <<

I just found it online. You can select multi, center or spot. Don't know which is the default, probably the multi. You know, to keep guys like you from screwing up when you point the camera at the sun.

Re: "I am liking.."
Despite diverse reading habits I never see this form anywhere apart from internet forums - and blogs. This doesn't mean it's invariably misused, although I'd say it's now devalued coinage. Clearly it's a distinct tense, however it seems to have become an interchangeable substitute. Now whether this makes any difference to anyone, anywhere, is debatable. Perhaps it's also time we started opening our hearts to "lense" as well?

John: "Sony's DRO feature does the rest of the task, lifting the shadows...Every time I try a different camera brand in harsh Western sunlight or high-DR interior shots, I miss that."

I would like to elaborate upon the difference in how Sony and Nikon respectively do this...Sony's DRO will lift the shadows, but it will not pull the highlights back...Nikon's version will lift the shadows and pull the highlights back as well. To do this, Nikons will underexpose the image to avoid blinking highlights and then lift the shadows up. This trick, if i can call this a trick, works well in harsh light, but i like Nikon version more. Unfortunately, Nikons will end up exposing the RAW to save the highlights and therefore RAWs will be underexposed if you open them in LR and not in Nikon's own software...

PS: Nikon calls this Active D lighting, and this "is" different from settings which do a HDR like job post facto by lifting the shadows and pulling back the highlights after you've shot. ADL is applied "while' you're shooting and it changes the way RAW files look, so it behaves like a fundamental camera feature, like exposure compensation, bracketing etc.

[What lenses do you tend to prefer, Ken? --Mike]

To be honest, I've not really seen a bad lens on my NEX cameras. My own least favorite is perhaps that Sigma 30mm. Rattles, slow to focus, so-so rendering.

My own choices tend to be driven by necessity. For example, in 2011 I shot around Japan for 10 days with nothing but my NEX 5N (I still love) with the 16mm and 18-55mm lenses. Honestly, I never felt the need for anything else. They both produced excellent results.

Lately I've been using the NEX 7 on a project that requires longer focal lengths. To that end I've been using the excellent Sony 18-200mm (SEL18200) and Leica's 90mm and 75mm f/2 Summicrons (with the Novoflex adapter) to produce some wonderfully detailed and compressed imagery.

I am eager to use my new (to me) 50mm (SEL50F18) and 35mm (SEL35F18) lenses more. My early peeks at them have been very impressive. But that has to wait just a bit.

In the end, of course, we shoot the same images whatever camera and lens we use. But the NEX allows me to do just that: shoot whatever subject I choose to whatever level of precision I need and at whatever budget is appropriate. I cannot say enough good stuff about Sony's NEX system.

Hi Mike,

I think what you are seeing is less a brilliant metering design and more a purposeful under exposure that I've seen in all Sony cameras. I've been using Sony cameras for four years now (a700, a850, nex7, a55, a77) and I find they generally slightly underexpose to preserve the highlights. This is great in situations like the ones you wrote about, but annoying if you are trying to expose to the right with more uniform compositions.

For example, I find if I am shooting a front-lit scene of fairly uniform brightness, I will need to over expose by between 1/3 and 1 full stop to push the histogram to the right where I want it. And, in general I shoot with the meter at +1/3.

That said, I think Sony has made the right tradeoff by favoring the highlights and I know that in a pinch, I can always set the meter to zero and can be almost guaranteed to get the highlights.


Diffraction spikes, number of

I only ever get "sun stars" or the star-burst effect when stopping down to f/11 or lower.

*Diffraction* then is the operative word in ~ spikes or rays. Next time I buy a lens, I'll get one with an odd number of aperture blades. {g}

Thanks, all.

Both Sigma primes have a distinct rattle, which was frankly disturbing at first, but at $100 each ($200 for the pair) I guess I'm not complaining.

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