Viewing Category: Photography
2012 Dec 09
I think I have a pretty complete “enthusiast” rig put together, with one large gap and a couple small nice-to-have’s. I wanted to list them out just for fun:
Lenses - The ones in bold are in the bag just about all the time:
- Sony 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM - My best lens and the one that is on the camera by default. It’s also my widest.
- Minolta 100-200mm f/4.5 - This old Minolta lens replaces my broken 70-210 “beercan” lenses. It’s small, light, and focuses a lot faster than the beercan.
- Sony 35mm f/1.8 - An inexpensive lens, but fun to use and has great bokeh. It’s light as well so I can keep in the bag and not think about weight.
- Minolta 50mm f/1.7 - The “nifty-fifty” is a great lens, but with the crop factor of 1.5x, I prefer the 35mm to carry around as a “normal” prime.
- Minolta 24-84mm f/3.5-4.5 - Not quite wide ebough, but fills the gap between my 50mm and 100mm. I also have ND filters for this size.
- Minolta 28mm f/2.8 - My first lens AF lens that I bought. Came with my a507si that I bought in Yokohama so it has some sentimental value.
- Minolta 50mm f/1.4 MD Rokkor - Fun to use, but it’s manual focus so it takes more committment.
- Minolta 135mm f/2.8 MC Tele-Rokkor - I rarely use telephoto, but this one was cheap used so I had to have it. Also manual focus which adds difficulty.
- Minolta 50mm f/1.4 MD Rokkor - Fun to use, but it’s manual focus so it takes more committment.
- Holga HL-S 60mm f/8 - Plastic lens, but too much reach. You can get a nicer effect with a good lens and Lightroom adjustments, but if you want to have authentic toy-camera blurriness and vignetting, you will need this one. Using live-view is essential.
- Sony HVL-F56AM - I don’t use flash often, but I have this versatile unit if I need to. Works easily off-camera with the simple Minolta wireless flash system.
- Velbon Ultra-maxi SF Tripod - Excellent cheap, small, and light pod with decent ball head. I need a new quick release as the one I got isn’t very tight. Also lost the center extension pole. It’s somewhere in the house!
- Sigma 10-20mm - I love wide-angle, and this would complete the range on that side. The only reason I haven’t bought one yet is that it is $400, which is over some internal threshold for me. I’ve wanted this lens for many years, however.
- Quick-release plate - Something that needs replacing.
My daily bag is my REI messenger bag with padded camera insert. It is excellent for holding the camera body/lens, two other lenses, and some accessories.
2012 Feb 04
Continuing my love affair with messenger bags, I spotted this Manfrotto Unica VII in the local Best Buy. It was $99, but I found it on Amazon.com for $79, and then later on at Costco.com for only $39! I sold my REI Transit bag to a friend and moved all my stuff into this one.
First off, the new bag is big. It’s has a top zipper for quick access to the main compartment and also has a regular flip-open type flap, which is secured by a large metal buckle and also velcro. The main compartment is pretty roomy, but I was disappointed that there are velcro strips only on one half of the compartment. What this means is that you cannot put dividers all along the whole compartment. Right now I just put my dSLRr with lens, and an extra lens in the camera side. This side is lined with some nice soft fabric, and the velcro actually grabs on to this securely. The other side is a more durable nylon-type material. I put my camera battery charger, Kindle, and have space to throw my keys and wallet in. I did try an alternate configuration so that the main compartment is totally dedicated to camera gear, and fit in the dslr with lens, two extra lenses, and my flash gun. It would have been better if I could have used more velcro dividers, but oh well.
On the side of the main compartment, there is a slot that can hold a pretty big laptop. My Dell is 11” so it fits with plenty of room to spare. I can even put my Kindle in that pocket with the laptop if I wanted. On the outside back, there’s another slim compartment that is good for holding papers or a magazine.
On the other side, underneath the main flap is a zippered area for pens, wallet, laptop mouse, and other small items. It’s nice that it is zippered for security, but you can also leave it unzippered and the flap hangs open.
The last compartment is really cool. It’s on the bottom of the bag, and it’s big enough for a compact tripod. I have my trusty Velbon Ultra MAXi SF tripod in there, plus I have space for the laptop charger and miscellaneous cables. It’s pretty cool to have this compartment on the bottom, but it does add a lot of heft to the bag.
There are a few things that I don’t like about the bag. Besides the aforementioned lack of velcro in the main compartment, the strap seems really stiff. Plus there are no swivels on the straps so that it’s kind of easy to get it all twisted. I wish I could switch the strap easily. As it is now, I’d have to cut the current strap to get it off. If I find another nice strap, I might just do that. Also, there should have been a couple outside pockets for cellphone and small water bottle. The REI Transit bag is definitely a better-quality bag in this respect. Also, the Manfrotto bag seems bigger than it should be. I guess it’s the extra protection (it really is well-padded), but the Transit bag seemed a lot smaller. When carrying using the shoulder-strap, the bag feels really stiff and awkward. It’s very box-like, and not very comfortable to carry. The transit bag, in comparison, was curved so that it fit to your hip and was super-comfy. I’m hoping that this bag will “break-in” but I’m not counting on it. Like I mentioned before, there is a lot of padding on it, and it does in fact hold a lot more than other bags so it should be expected. Lastly, the big metal buckle is really not needed. It’s really nice and strong and adds a bit of class to the bag, but a couple times when flipping the cover back, the buckly hits the table top and rings like a bell. Way too conspicuous.
Overall, I’m happy with this bag and for only $40 it’s a great deal. I definitely wouldn’t spend $99 for it though. While the Transit bag had some advantages, the Manfrotto bag holds the camera gear snugly, but without being cramped like the Transit was. And the bottom compartment for tripod is really excellent.
Check out the Flickr Set with notes on most of the photos.
I added some swivels and D-rings to improve upon the strap. Now it will be less prone to twisting.
The D-rings were bought at Joanne Fabrics for about $2.50 and the swivels were from Lowe’s for about $1.50 each.
2012 Jan 04
I’ve been using my new camera for the past couple months, and have learned that there’s one thing that I really love most about it. Sure the performance is excellent and light-years beyond my old Konica-Minolta 7D, but what I like best about the A77 is the articulating rear screen. It makes it so easy to take shots from a variety of angles, especially low-angle photos. When I have the camera around my neck, I can quickly flip the screen down (I usually have the screen facing inwards for protection) and have a waist-level camera. It’s almost like a modern-day TLR but without the reversed image. I think that it’s a more interesting (or at least less-common) view angle for photos than the standard eye-level.
And if I want to take a shot even closer to the ground, I can just bend over and lower the camera; no need to get down on my stomach to look thru the viewfinder! In fact, these are the kinds of shots that I would never take before because they were just such a hassle that I wouldn’t even think of doing it. Not only can I take kids-level photos, but now even dog-level photos!
Here’s a shot where I flipped the viewfinder out and then sideways. I should have leveled it a bit, but still, I like the angle.
2011 Nov 07
I uploaded a photo last week of my old Minolta camera straps and trying to decide which one to use on my new Sony A77. I ended up going with the smaller one because I wanted my camera rig to be more compact. Plus I like that the Sony (especially the 7-series) has Minolta DNA. To add to the brand confusion, I attached a folded piece of exposed 35mm film over the Sony logo using some gaffer’s tape and now the camera is really in “stealth mode”. It’s not that I intentionally want to hide the Sony logo — that piece of exposed film has a practical purpose! I’ll explain below.
This past weekend had a little photoshoot in which I could try the new camera out with studio lighting. I have an Alien Bees AB-800 strobe with a shoot thru umbrella. I use that as the key light (main light), and then use my Sony HVL-F56AM flash unit as a back light to blowout the background or as a fill light. To trigger the AB-800, I connect it directly to the camera with the PC Sync cord. To trigger the flash gun, I use the camera’s built-in wireless flash system which basically uses the onboard flash to send signals to trigger the flash unit. This signal is not itself supposed to be strong enough to affect the exposure, however if you are close to the subject I’ve seen that it can leave a little bit of shadow. This has been the case with the Minolta wireless system since it was introduced back in 1992.
To get around this, Minolta photographers have been using the ol’ “exposed film over the onboard flash trick”. The flash signal will still travel through the film to the external flash unit, but it blocks out any light that might affect the exposure. It’s an effective hack that has been used for a long time now and it really works! It makes the camera look a bit less pretty, and more of a workhorse, which I kind of prefer.
2011 Oct 28
I’ll soon be updating my camera collection with a replacement for my 6-year old Konica-Minolta 7D. The new Sony A77 camera actually shares the same lineage as the 7D, but I skipped a generation (the Sony A700). The 7-series of cameras is the higher end of the consumer models by Sony/Minolta. I still own my Minolta X-700 film camera, still want to buy the super Minolta Maxxum/Alpha 7 film camera, and seriously thought about getting the Sony A700 when it was released. But my 7D has kept chugging along, taking nice photographs so I decided to wait. It’s a very reliable camera. But within the past year, the body has started falling apart a bit. The little clip that holds the battery in place broke, but the door is strong enough to hold it securely. Just a couple months ago, the small sliding door that covers the USB cable connection busted. I still have the pieces, so a little glue should take care of it. But after 6+ years, I think the time is right to upgrade to the new Sony A77.
Six years is a long time in terms of camera technology. Not only has image quality improved, but Sony has invested in a new kind of system (SLT) which has some great advantages over the traditional SLR mechanics. The SLT system’s mirror does not flip up to let light hit the sensor. Instead, it is a semi-transparent mirror which reflects some light to an Electronic Viewfinder, and the rest to the main imaging sensor. Because the main sensor is always evaluating the scene (it has no traditional mirror blocking it), it can constantly autofocus, even while shooting video. Plus the FPS has been increased to 12 FPS even at full 24 Megapixels. The Electronic Viewfinder is OLED and is supposedly almost as good as a traditional optical viewfinder. The advantage of the EVF is that information can be overlaid onto the image and it shows you pretty much how the photo will turn out (white balance, aperture, exposure). Also, the viewfinder is as large as a full-frame camera’s and it shows 100% of the captured image.
Here’s a small list of the things I am looking forward to on the A77:
- GPS: It’s cool that the camera can geotag photos, but what’s really neat is that it can auto-adjust the date and time. I know, it’s silly, but so convenient!
- High ISO: With a range of 50-16,000 ISO low-light images will be much better than my 7D
- Peaking Mode: When you are manual focusing, the EVF will draw highlights around the parts of the image that are in focus. This is going to be a pleasure to use when I attach my old manual focus Minolta Rokkor lenses. I can’t wait to use my 135mm f/2!
- 3D Panorama: We recently got a 3D tv, and have looked at a few 3D images using it (and the PS3). It will be fun to make my own 3D images.
- Flash: My 7D never was able to get consistent exposures with my HVL-F56AM flash unit. I am anxious to be able to use it with confidence now.
- Weather Sealing: It’s not waterproof like my Panasonic Lumix, but it will be more resistant to rain and dirt than my 7D.
I’m sure everything about the A77 will be an improvement over the 7D, but I will miss a couple things about the ol Konica-Minolta; the beefy dials. These are so well-made and fun to use, that I don’t think anything can compare. It’s got a button on the top which you need to push in order to turn the dial. It’s so high-quality and I think it looks pro. It’s actually got two dials, one hidden below the main one which is turned by a lever. It’s so slick. I wish Sony would have kept them. I know the exposure compensation dial is probably unnecessary (I had re-programmed the rear control dial to adjust exposure anyways) but it looks so cool!
Thankfully Sony has kept many of the buttons in the same place from the 7D to the A700 and now to the A77, most importantly the AEL and AF/MF buttons. Of course most of these can be programmed to do most any function, but it will be great to not have to relearn them.
The new camera should be delivered soon and after I have some time playing around with it, I’ll write a follow up post with my impressions.
2010 Jun 22
I bought a new Panasonic DMC-TS2 point & shoot camera to replace my old Canon SD200. I’ve wanted a waterproof camera for a long time and this one looks to be a pretty good one. Last year I looked at the Canon D10 which seemed to be the best camera out there, but it did have a couple things that I didn’t like. First, the video recording wasn’t any kind of HD and secondly the camera was physically bulky. At the time, Panasonic had their DMC-TS1 which seemed good but the disadvantage was that it was only waterproof to 10 feet. With the new DMC-T2, Panasonic increased the depth to 30 feet. Combine that with a small form-factor and 720p video and it became the camera to get. So far I am pretty happy with it. I’m already comfortable with the controls and the image quality seems pretty good. I am really happy to have a camera that can take some abuse and I don’t have to worry about it getting damaged around the pool. I can’t wait to take some underwater photos and video!
2010 Apr 09
A few weeks ago, Mariko got a nice new Olympus E-PL1 camera. I’ve had some time to play with it, and it’s a sweet little rig! It is part of Olympus’ micro-four-thirds system, which uses interchangeable lenses in a mirrorless body. It’s a lot smaller than a traditional SLR, but the quality of the photos is impressive. This model comes with a 14-42mm kit lens (with plastic mount as opposed to the other 14-42mm kit’s metal mount. The optics are the same, however, and it’s a very convenient lens. You multiply to focal length by a factor of two to calculate the 35mm SLR equivalent, so it’s pretty much a standard 28-80ish mm lens. Like an SLR, you have all the different modes like shutter priority, aperture priority, program mode, and manual if you so desire. On the other end of the spectrum, there are plenty of automatic scene modes, such as sports, portrait and macro. Also included are more obscure ones, like fireworks and beach, and lastly there are the effects such as soft-focus, pop-art, toy, and even tilt-shift. There’s so much to play around with! On the video side, the camera is equipped to record 720p HD at 30fps, as well as standard def mode. I haven’t played with the video too much, other that to check that the AF works even while you are taking video. Very nice, although a little slow and hunts a bit. It’s probably better to practice manually focusing for this.
Unlike an SLR, there is no optical viewfinder. There’s an optional electronic viewfinder attachment, but we don’t have that. Fortunately, the LCD screen is beautiful and sharp. It’s really easy to make sure you are focusing on the right spot because focus indicators will overlay onto the image. AF action is quick, although not as fast as an SLR. Still, it’s perfectly adequate for most things.
My main gripe with the camera is that it would be much better with an articulating LCD. If the LCD swiveled so that it was facing up, it would be much easier to take shots from the hip for more interesting photos of the kids. Even at an angle, however, the LCD is good enough that you can frame the shot, but it would have been awesome if you could tilt that screen up just like on our old Olympus E-10.
Ever since we got the new camera, I’ve only taken a few shots with my own dSLR. It feels so heavy and probably overkill for much of what we photograph. The Olympus is such a nice combination of small size, lightness, versatility, and expandability that it makes a really capable SLR replacement. If all my SLR gear suddenly went poof, I would probably go for a micro-four-thirds set up.
2009 Nov 28
I posted several photos from a short trip we took recently. Have a look at the flickr set, why don’t you?
2009 Jul 31
Those who know me know that I love cameras and taking photos. I’ve been thinking about new cameras, mainly the Olympus E-P1 and the Canon D10. But now a new camera has entered the picture (pun intended). It’s an instant-film Fuji Instax Mini camera which a couple of my friends have, but this one is the Hello Kitty version. There is even Hello Kitty film! In case you think I am a big fan of Hello Kitty, I’m not. This is my wife’s idea. We actually have a couple instant-film polaroids (a Joycam and an i-Zone pocket camera) and they are a lot of fun. We’ll see if Mariko actually orders this, but I’d say there’s a pretty good chance!
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