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Wednesday, 13 June 2018


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You're right in that we all have our preferences. For me it will always be APS-C cameras. I now have the 3 lenses I want for my Fujifilm X camera. Now I'm very close to getting the XPro-2. Yes I hate the ISO ring. It is hard to grip and takes forever to turn. But that's it. The rest is all positive.

After viewing the Sony Alpha 7 at B&H my first thoughts were it's ONLY $2000 but now I need to purchase lenses. Are they expensive? If they are then maybe get just one lens and make it a zoom.

Three zooms are offered with the Alpha 7 body. The first is $200. It surely can't be that good. Why waste all that advanced technology with a $200 lens. The other two zooms offered with the camera are $1000 and $2000.

I would like to see a comparison between the latest Fujifilm X camera and the Alpha 7.

No matter the test results I'll still be a APS-C fellow. Just like in the film days I was a 35mm fellow and today any APS-C camera is way better than the best 35mm film/camera ever was.

Opps I got the prices wrong with the added lens to the Alpha 7 kits. But it still adds up to a bit of change.

Nice one. You described exactly how I feel about my Nikon D750.

: )

Thom Hogan compared the two:

I got the A7ii when it came out, and then the A7rii when it came out. I am still learning new trics.

The most difficult thing to get used to after 50 years of darkroom practice was exposure. I went to so much trouble to avoid losing shadow details in those negatives. And suddenly it is now
more important to avoid blown out highlights. Underexpose is now the rule, at least in high contast scenes.

While I agree with David Brown that recent cameras have passed the "good enough" point, in the end we are making photos for ourselves, regardless of whether we sell them or not. If you love the Sony files and are fine with its handling then it's your right camera.

The guts of an A7III with fuji controls would be great, but I just don't love the glass. It drives me a little crazy in the abstract that I am having to work harder after the fact to get the most out of my images with the Fujis(they get to good enough quickly, but no argument that Sony and Nikon files are quicker to work with in Lightroom).

But I can't 'see' well with the Sony's. The cameras get in the way. Same way once I got use to the silly joystick for AF control on the D500 and XT-2 my D750 felt broken. In the film era, I tended to shoot 400, 1600, 3200 ISO's - accepting more darkroom work for being able to shoot the way I saw it, so this is really no different.

As somebody not owning any Sony stuff, but being interested in it: What is your take on the new Samyang 24mm f/2.8 pancake and its sibling 35mm f/2.8, Mike? On paper these two lenses look like ideal for a very classic small kit.

[No opinion, sorry to report-- MJ.]

Do you miss your D800?

I made the switch from the Fuji XT-2 to Sony A7RIII for probably all the wrong reasons. I wanted more detail (pixels?) even though I do not print super large. But, now I've done it. I have over six months of experience with the Sony and its superb, though large and expensive GM lenses, I do not look back. I too love working with the files, I glory in the detail. I'm a happy camper.

I will never say anything negative (film pun intended) about Fuji, their cameras made some wonderful images for me but just as in the view camera days, there's no substitute for film/sensor real estate. I don't care how the engineers do it, just that they do. I also realize, as Brooks Jensen said in a recent podcast, that few except photographer friends and me will ever notice the difference. The point is that as an active amateur, I photograph for me. The 30 seconds that someone looks at my print when Im fortunate enough to get into a show is irrelevant. I see the differences and the fine points. It sounds like you do too.

A story with a question. Understand, I'm not trying to convince anyone of anything, only trying to think things through...

Let's suppose a year ago, after much research and deliberation, you bought yourself a nice shiny new Subaru Outback SUV (or CUV, however it is classified). The price was right and affordable, not that expensive, the ride quality and lack of road noise is satisfying and the vehicle has all the bells, whistles and accessories to make your driving life pleasant. Also, the all-wheel-drive system, when you had to use it on occasion, performed admirably, exactly as it should. It got you out of trouble every time. The Subaru's reliability has been flawless. Finally, the fuel mileage is excellent. The cost of driving per mile is pretty low compared to other AWD vehicles. The Subaru has been a fine purchase and you are satisfied with your vehicle in every way. You are a happy owner. Not one complaint.

The other day, your next door neighbor walked over, pointed to his driveway and showed you he bought a brand new Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. You two walk over to look at his new SUV. Wow! It has premium calf leather seats, real wood trim, a large moon roof, an 18-speaker audio system, navigation and video screens on the backs of the headrests, from what you can see at first glance. He says the seats are heated and air-conditioned as well. Without asking, he told you what he paid for it, which is about twice what you paid for your Subaru. Very expensive. You asked what the fuel mileage is and it gets about 2/3 of what your Subaru gets. You notice that his vehicle is bigger than yours. It, too, has all the bells and whistles, a fine ride quality and is quiet while driving. Then there is the 4WD drive system—very sophisticated and more capable than your Subaru's. Even though the cost of purchase and the cost of driving per mile is much higher than your Subaru, you are jealous, which was his point of showing you his new SUV, and you now really want one. You feel it in your gut every time you see it in his driveway.

Here is the point of my little story. It is an analogy that has to do with the never ending debate of size of digital camera sensors and image quality.

Now, substitute your cropped sensor or micro 4/3 camera for the Subaru and an full frame sensor camera for the Jeep. You are and have been totally satisfied with your current camera. It does everything you have needed it and wanted it to do and has done it well for the kinds of photography you practice. The images it has produced for you over the past year or more have lacked nothing. They are some of the best images you have ever made. You can't point out a single deficiency with your camera gear nor find any fault with it. Again, you are fully satisfied with your gear and the images it produces.

Only after you have seen the Jeep, a much larger, more expensive vehicle to purchase, own and use, did you feel unsatisfied with your Subaru. Only after reading about, seeing video reviews and maybe even trying a new Sony A7RIII, A7III, Nikon D850, Canon 5D Mark IV, Pentax K1 II, or other full frame camera, you now feel your APS-C or micro 4/3 camera no longer gives you what you had previously been totally happy with. If you never had seen the images or used the full frame, you would not feel any dissatisfaction with your gear. If you never had seen the Jeep your Outback would have remained wonderful.

So what is it? Is it jealously? Is it the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO), someone has something you don't have and you don't want to be left out in the cold without the same experience as others? Is it marketing psychology? Is it bragging rights? Is it just wanting something newer and perceived better? Why would you now be unsatisfied with your Subaru when you were totally happy with it last week? It did everything you wanted it to do, was affordable to own, had the bells and whistles that were important to you, rode great and the AWD system got you out of every one of the jams you encountered?

What is the realized (actual) benefit from spending twice as much money, increasing the cost of ownership in computer storage space and greater capacity memory cards to hold the larger image files, raising the penalty of use by having to carry more weight, larger, bulkier and more expensive lenses when you were fully satisfied with what you had?

You only became dissatisfied when you "perceived" there may be some sort of indescribable difference in your images with the larger sensored camera. You may not be even able to fully articulate the difference but you are now not quite so sure that an APS-C or micro 4/3 camera is "good enough" for you.

If you sell your gear and buy a full frame sensored camera you will have bragging rights, for sure. But will you ever really need the extra capabilities of a full framed digital camera? Will you ever need the greater number of pixels? Will you ever use tehcnical "overhead" that is available to you with a full frame camera that you don't seem to need now?

Do you really need the Sony or just want it? As for me, I'm still human and I still have emotions and wants and needs. As much as I can rationalize that I'll never need a full frame digital camera again, I really want one. Go figure!

I've been doing so-called "full-frame" since 2005, but the first time I opened files from my 645z, a big smile erupted from my normally taciturn affect. It's big, bulky, not hip like the mirrorless stuff, works with lenses designed right after Thermopylae, and still produces potentiality my 5D's just don't.

Bigger than that, though, really is harder. But I'm the opposite of you, I suppose. I've always preferred field work with complicated cameras over darkroom work with complicated negatives and chemical processes.

Given that this is the most recent release from THE major sensor supplier to the camera industry, I would be more surprised if it did NOT excel in terms of image quality.
Still, this is a Photokino year and there will be more cameras released this coming Fall, many of which should be quite wonderful.
For me, the current Fuji cameras sing. Exploring the dynamic range setting combined with ISO really demonstrates the power of the Fujifilm camera engineering, with sublime results.

". . . not just the accuracy of the colors and the impressively easy way it has with dynamic range."

It's not easy to make good web illustrations of camera/lens qualities. Folks like me will all too easily see the anomalies 'tween word and image.

The daffys clearly have badly blown highlights in the posted JPEGs. Red channel is obvious, but Green is also slightly clipped. One consequence of clipping difference between channels is inaccurate color in those areas.

Where those highlights got lost is impossible to tell from here. It's exceptionally easy to overexpose red/yellow flowers in direct sun, but also easy to clip highlights in post and/or in conversion to sRGB JPEG.

Not that I think the A7III doesn't have good/great DR, but one still needs to watch auto exposure and average or center weighted exposure. That's why there is a big EV compensation wheel just above your right thumb. That's why they have 'sparkly' EVF warnings for over/under exposure of small areas available.

My original A7 has good DR, but I still would have shot those flowers @ -1.3 and -2.0 EV. Then 'ya gotta pull up the middle, where the very forgiving files shine. (Then again, I feel the same way about my µ4/3 files.)

I also agree with the "other" David Brown quoted in this post.

@ Ernest: Donald, is that you?

Still no leaves on the trees!!! Come on, it's mid-June already! You are one tough cookie MJ....

Butters looks sad. Maybe he doesn't approve the Sony?...

"...the bigger the negative, the harder it was in the field and the easier it was in the darkroom, and the smaller the negative, the easier it was in the field but the harder it was in the darkroom."

Absolutely. Hence I love working with 4x5 and medium format film (scanned and processing using LR/PSD).

I'm enjoying these last few posts about FF files vs smaller cameras. After shooting exclusively FF and cell phones for a decade I bought a micro 4/3 last November. Between my phone, aging Canon 5D mk3, and my new Panasonic gx85, I shoot somewhere north of 3000 pictures a month and edit (with the intent to display) about 100 of those photos each month. Here are my observations.

The phone inspires the most creative and powerful compositions of any of my cameras. Part of that is because I don't think about settings with the phone, but I think I get better compositions with the phone mostly because of its superior screen. I love getting the camera away from my face and forcing unique perspectives. With the phone that's super easy. I can see the screen in the harshest light. The problem with my phone is the files fall apart in post. With many of my phone pics I must embrace the gritty, over-processed look.

I've found that my micro 4/3 Panasonic Gx85 produces acceptable files, but not especially lovely files. The photos have ample detail and stand up to moderate to major edits. And, like a phone, I can get the Gx85 away from my face and take pictures from the best angles, but unlike a phone, the Gx85's screen stinks, especially in bright sun.

And then there's my well worn Canon 5D mk3. That camera is old, I got it two days before my son was born. That means I've been shooting with it for five and a half years now. The 5D mk3 is hands down still my best camera. The files are head and shoulders above my Panasonic micro 4/3. There's more dynamic range, more editing latitude, better colors, and better realism. What a treat it is to view a card full of Canon images after spending time with the smaller cameras. I can only imagine how pleasing it must be to work with a newer Sony sensor.

I don't know the science behind it to explain my findings, but FF photos look nicer. I dream of a mirrorless FF camera with a large cellphone sized display.

I always wondered when reading camera tests and seeing the published photos how the choice of len(es) affect the results. Surely if one publication chooses the inexpensive kit lens that comes with the camera vs. another publication that decides the best way to test is to use a particular $1500.00 lens I believe I could predict the winner of that comparison. Sometimes all is not equal while appearing so.

@ Christer: Set your camera to show the Zebras, at "100+" setting. Now when you expose, adjust your settings (or exposure compensation if you shoot in A priority mode) to make the zebras just "go away" in important highlight areas. Now you can safely add at least 1 stop, maybe 1-2/3 stop, and still not blow out the raw highlights (the JPG display will show clipping but the raw file will be OK).

You really should, per Ken Tanaka's recommendation a while back, rent a GFX50S sometime.

Mike, no surprise that the Sony just seems best; equivalent views always seems to look slightly better with larger formats. I guess that’s why some of the very top work I see, the stuff with a real wow factor, so often seems to have been shot on the Hasselblad H system.

Full frame is tempting. I still have some of my Canon lenses and a used 5D is not unaffordable. Mulled it over for weeks. Eventually came to the conclusion that, as much as I would like the "bigger negative", I would never enjoy using a big DSLR again. Even considered Sony as an alternative. Oh, those Zeiss lenses! But what a hit to the pocket book! And learning a new system? Do I really want to delve into another camera universe?

So I bought a used X-Pro2. And, after the last couple of years muddling through Lightroom, I finally downloaded X-Transformer to process my Fuji Raw files. No, it's not the same as a "bigger negative" camera look but it ain't bad. Best of all, I really enjoy using Fuji's viewfinder cameras.

On the topic of "good enough," let me add that I have always pursued the very best possible image quality that I can reasonably fit into my life. I can't afford the state of the art (hence that last clause of my statement), but I do make the distinction between what is possible versus what is convenient, and I frequently opt for exploring the limits even if it is not particularly convenient. I do have limits--I won't do 8x10, and I won't try to fit my 645z into my work briefcase on the off chance I have time to make some photos. Which means I need some diversity of equipment so that in any given situation I can strike the balance between those two competing attributes. There is no "one camera system" for me.

I like the way Butter is looking at you in the closeup.

The dog is giving you the evil eye or more likely,
whatcha doing Dad?

Or Dad, do you really know what you're doing???

Our pets are so insightful.

This may seem a little off topic, but from an "aesthetic" point of view - one that matters for someone who doesn't work at NASA - the presently overhyped qualities of sharpness and detail are of no importance whatsoever. How about an article on aperture and unsharpness as a formal device? I have been following your blog for many years now and would love to read your thoughts on that. Greetings from Lisbon, Portugal.

All the interesting discussions regarding the purported advantages of FF size vs. other formats, personally I'm of the view that attributes being discussed for the Sony A7III are likely due more to the BSI sensor technology than the physical size of the sensor itself. This sensor architecture/technology has not yet been made available to other vendors as an OEM part.

For me personally, the whole alleged superiority FF cameras is a moot one for two principal reasons:

1) I'm not convinced by the original reasons (from 2003 onward) that drove the current view that FF sensor size is intrinsically superior to smaller formats e.g. APS-H or APS-C, namely, "resolution" and noise performance at higher ISO actually hold anymore. APS-C and M4/3 sensors of today considerably outperform FF sensors from just a few years ago (and in terms of actual resolution, a 24 megapixel APS-C sensor has more than twice the resolution of the FF A7III). As for dynamic range, acc. to Photons to Photos, at a "base ISO" of 200, a FF Sony A7III has 0.6 stops more DR than an APS-C Fuji X-H1, and is more likely attributable to the BSI sensor architecture than the sensor size. While this difference is statistically measureable, I'm not sure if this translates into a practically significant difference.

2) FF professional lenses are still too damn big and heavy, on average, roughly 30-35% larger and heavier than their APS-C counterparts. And often, about twice as expensive.

Lastly, if I want to achieve absolutely maximal image quality, I wouldn't be messin' around with FF, I'd be shooting with a GFX50S.

Sometimes, camera owners remind me of parents dropping their kids off at school in M-class Mercs and Range Rovers :-)

"but FF photos look nicer. I dream of a mirrorless FF camera with a large cellphone sized display. "

With Sony, Panny and Oly, the WIFi connection allows remote control with cellphone or tablet, including viewing on the cell LCD. I imagine that's true for all major brands of mirrorless cameras.

Upside down Gx7 being controlled with iPad Mini.

There are, of course, endless variations on mounts of phone to camera using hot shoe or tripod screw.

At other extremes: The Oly Air-01 has no screen of its own, and a mount for cell phone on the back. There are many separate viewscreens made, primarily for videographers

"...I still would have shot those flowers @ -1.3 and -2.0 EV. Then 'ya gotta pull up the middle, where the very forgiving files shine. (Then again, I feel the same way about my µ4/3 files.)"
Precisely my sentiments.
I must reluctantly admit that, to my eye, I'm getting 'better' results with my RX100, Epl5 and GX1 than the A7III samples (no matter how badly hobbled) you posted. This sample set, therefore, came as a huge disappointment. The Butters portrait is the best one here; well done.
At the time 65+, with weakening eyesight, it took me over two years (mid-2014-2017) of intermittent shooting before I even began getting close to exposing/processing the Raw files more or less correctly in the manufacturer-approved software.
BTW, FWIW, the Epl5 jpegs are generally outasite, even with the kit lens. GX1 jpegs preserve red channel and highlight details well, but are otherwise a bit so-so. Outcome: no pressure whatsoever to 'move up' to APSC or FF. I sometimes happily print up to 24" x 20" or even 30" x 20" (RX100). The secret is well exposed Raw files and correct PP.
~ Subroto Mukerji, New Delhi, India

Completely tangential question, re the portrait of Butters. Obviously it's not what the image was for, but there is an interesting question of where to focus in a 3/4 portrait. By convention, it would be the closer eye... but in this case, the closer eye is in shadow, and Butter's left eye is the one that I naturally look at, and it's the one that is less in focus.
I wonder though, if his left eye had been razor sharp, if I would have still felt something was wrong because the closer eye was out.
In this case, there was enough dof that both eyes could have been in at the price of a an OOF nose, but that may be a more dog-specific issue :-)

When I was looking at going all-in on Micro Four Thirds, it was clear both from the various online testing organizations, and just comparing the outputs of my EM-5 to my Nikon D700, that full-frame was solidly out-performing the small frame, not just today -- but the D700 generation was solidly ahead of all the smaller frames current products. That's, what, 5 generations difference or something?

I switched anyway, and my experience continues to be that the low-light performance isn't what I was used to, with the latest-and-greatest Olympus (EM-1 Mark II) comparing to the hugely old, by now, D700. I shoot in conditions that bring this out pretty frequently (usually in situations involving musiciaans, on stage or at their private parties).

Still can't afford to keep both systems up-to-date or even close (the bodies being the hard problem these days of course). Reasonably happy with my choice to just go with Micro Four Thirds. But it's a loss in some ways, a gain in others (financial, video, weight).

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