Trey’s Variety Hour #88: A fun show with Jeremy Cowart, Lisa Bettany, Thomas Hawk – talking photography, new apps, and more !! :)

Trey’s Variety Hour #88

A fun G+ Hangout show #88 with Jeremy Cowart, Lisa Bettany, and Thomas Hawk — talking photography, new apps, and more !!

During the show, we’ll talk about Jeremy’s new app, OKDOTHIS, and other photo apps and that whole space in general. Since Lisa did Camera+, well she’s kind of an expert! We’ll also all catch up, share some new photos, and, well, just kinda hangout. And, as usual, we’ll be taking live questions through the G+ Hangout! These are three great photographers, and it’s always fun just to sit around and talk about photography with people like this, so I’m mega excited.

The four of us are also starting The Arcanum together, so we may touch on that too… There are applications flying in from all over the world not only to be Apprentices, but also Masters. One guy that just applied to be a Master is Benjamin Von Wong ! He’s amazing and just one example. Perhaps during the show, his name will come up and we can show his amazing portfolio at http://www.vonwong.com/

And thanks again to Peter Giordano for being our awesome host and to Dave Veffer for being our awesome beardededed producer!

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The future is here… and Sony delivers!

Guest post by Karen Hutton

It’s very rare that I have a guest post on my blog but I really wanted you to hear more about the sweet new Sony Full Frame Mirrorless cameras. Sony invited my good friend and uber-talented photographer, Karen Hutton, along with several other folks like Frederick Van Johnson and Gordon Laing to Nashville for a hands-on test of the new gear. After a couple of days of playing with them, Karen sent me her thoughts that form the blog post below. I can’t wait to try them out myself!

MIRRORLESS, SONY & TREY

Before we get rolling here, I would naturally assume you’re up on Trey’s take on mirrorless cameras and Sony in particular. But hey, you might be new here (Hello there!)… so for a crash course, go here, here, and here.

I’M JUST WAITING…

Personally, I’m a Canon 5DIII user (and love Nikons too, so let’s not go down THAT road!) that wants to, dreams of, awaits the day I can leave the bricks behind and fully embrace mirrorless… which I know is the answer for me. It’s the future, no two ways about it. My elbow and wrist want it NOW!

I own a Sony NEX-7 which I love for certain things… but as cool and groundbreaking at that camera was in its day-before-yesterday, it just didn’t quite cut it for my particular needs. I shoot a lot of landscapes – and use HDR a great deal. I also love wildlife & birds and will do portraits now and again. I shoot in low light a fair amount. Sometimes at night. The noise, menu system and auto-bracketing system on the NEX-7 were all dealbreakers for me… I’m not nearly as patient as Trey is! And as much as I hoped it would enable me to switch from DSLR to mirrorless, it just wasn’t going to happen on that round. At least not till full frame came of age in the mirrorless camera market, along with a few other advances.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The new Sony DX10, A7 and A7r are unequivocal game changers!

I got to try them all for a couple of days at a Sony event in Nashville, TN, where a bunch of photographers, journalists, press and bloggers were trying out pre-production versions of the new gear (first roll out is on Dec. 1). Let’s face it, the only way I could ever offer a full-on, in depth review is to work with these cameras for a good while; so consider this a “first impression”. Plus, there is SO much more yet to come!

My first impression… WOW!

The A7 and A7r are the smallest interchangeable lens full frame cameras out there. They pretty much match, size wise… and aren’t too much different in that respect than the NEX-7.

I loved their weight, the way they fit in my hand and all the features that Sony has added – and fixed! What’s more, it’s all in a brand new menu system that actually makes sense! I had no problem getting up and running with it. The old NEX-7, chinese water torture, “what the hell were they THINKING??” menu system is gone. I couldn’t be more thrilled!!

You can also assign functions to several buttons and dials on the camera, to put the functions you use the most often right at your hot little fingertips instead of diving deep into the depths of Menu. And while you still have to memorize where everything is, it’s finally laid out more intuitively.

P.S. That photo of me is by Frederick Van Johnson.

LOW NOISE

I was really amazed at the low noise under all the situations I that shot with them in. That was one issue that bothered me alot in the NEX-7 with its APS-C sensor. Noise! Ack! It particularly bugged with wildlife shooting and was pretty much a deal breaker on that alone. But all three of the new Sonys are pretty darn clean in the noise department.

THEY SPECIALIZE

Each camera has it’s specialities, so deciding which one to buy will completely depend upon what kind of shooting you want to do most. Once you figure that out – then you’ll know which camera to consider. For instance:

The 24 megapixel A7 excels at portraits, sports, is faster focusing, better in low light, has phase detection – and I hear is a bit better at video than the A7r, but I didn’t get a chance to test that for myself before writing this.

The 36 megapixel A7r was built to make photos with incredible resolution and detail and is ideal for landscapes. It’s not as snappy as the A7 to auto focus… and isn’t quite as good in low light, although that’s not to say it’s a total slouch. It actually does pretty darn well. It’s just that I noticed the difference between the two, and found myself grabbing the A7 when I wanted super quick focusing and extra confidence dealing with less light. I’m not sure if the difference is something I’d just get used to… or if it would become a problem. That would take a longer time with the camera than we had!

The A7r has no low pass filter, which means more likely to show moire on video – which again, I didn’t have the chance to check out for myself. It also has no phase detection. Video is like uncompressed RAW… can put on DVD and it’ll play on blue ray. If you’re more of a filmmaker, this is good… more of a YouTube video content creator, the A7 is probably better.

Here’s a landscape photo from the A7r… a hand-held HDR of this cool bridge in Rock City, which is up on Lookout Mountain in Georgia.

Photo by Karen Hutton

HDR & AUTO BRACKETING

It took me a bit to crack the code on auto bracketing and HDR. Setup wise, it’s super simple to find and use the function. But I have to say, I’m still not a fan of how any of the Sony cameras handle auto-bracketing for HDR.

They can all auto bracket 3-5 frames, depending upon your set up. You can bracket 5 images at .3, .5 and .7 EV increments. But the minute you hit 1 and beyond,
it goes back to 3 images only. I thought that was odd; I was told it goes back to film camera days when those ⅓ made sense. Apparently there’s an app that lets you upgrade these capabilities… though I haven’t tried it yet myself.

HOWEVER… being able to auto-bracket 5 images IS an improvement, so I’m grateful for that! I’m sure there will be new features updated between now and their Dec. 1 launch – and well beyond.

One weird thing; the bracketing has capability to go -6 to +6 at 3 exposures, which is silly. Makes no sense to me at all. I told Sony that and they said they’re working on it. I’m curious to see what happens in that department moving forward.

Plus: you still can’t use the countdown timer on the camera to trigger your exposures. Argh! You still have to either hold button by with your finger or use a remote, either wired or wireless. Not a fan of that.

Since the A7r and the A7 sport different sensors, the sound they make when they take a picture is different. The A7 makes the standard single ‘click’ sound, alot like the NEX-7 and NEX-6. Butt he A7r makes a much more robust sounding double click. It’s louder too, and we all found ourselves wondering if that might seem VERY loud in certain circumstances.

LENSES

Lenses are a hot topic when it comes to these cameras. They’re differentiating the NEX-7 era E-mount lenses by calling the new ones FE-mount. Yeah, new lenses! But Sony is also opening things up with converters for all kinds of lenses. I tried the native 35 f/2.8 mm, 55 mm f/1.4 mm and 28-70 f/4… plus a Sony 16-35 f/2.8 with adapter ring, the new kit, the new 70-400 monster lens with adapter and a Leica 135 prime lens with an adapter.

Personally, I think it’s going to be a bit of a messy go for a bit, while lenses and adapters and what not all get sorted out. But this is such a huge launch that I’d expect that, no matter what. It’s going to be worth it in the end, even through growing pains.

SAMPLES

To give you at least some idea about images, here are a few for you:

Photo by Karen Hutton

A pensive portrait of Gordon Laing (www.cameralabs.com), taken with the A7 and 35mm f/2.8

Photo by Karen Hutton

A close up of from a whiskey barrel at the home of Jack Daniels, also taken with A7 and 35mm combo

 

I mentioned Gordon Laing earlier. He brought his highly coveted Nikon 14-24 and adapter for his own testing; but let me use it on this shot of the Ryman Auditorium. I was so lucky!! (Thank you, Gordon!)

The Ryman is the original home of the Grand Old Opry; a place where Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and countless other country music greats either played or got their start. They all call it home.

Photo by Karen Hutton

As many of you know, Gordon has a website where you can get ALL the technical details on all the new gear. I hung out with him while he did some of the testing on this new gear: it’s going to be a fantastic breakdown on all the comparisons! Find him at www.cameralabs.com.

Anyhow, this particular combo of Nikon 14-24, adapter and A7r does make everything become manual. Same thing with the A-mount 135mm f/1.8.

Thing is, if you use the Peaking Level feature, it’s pretty easy to handle manual focus in a situation like this. Not sure what it would be like if the subject were moving alot.

I have to thank Brian Smith, since this is his personal lens that he lent Matt Kozlowski and me. I was blown away by the quality – and hoped that maybe a piece of his incredible talent fell in my pocket somewhere. A girl can dream!

THE RX10

Finally – though far from the least exciting Sony camera I tried was the RX10. It’s awesome! It’s a fixed lens, 24-200 f/2.8 camera with a 1” sensor. I haven’t seen the video – but I hear it shoots the best video of the three cameras. I love how simple it is to use, the quality and the range. It’s like a point and shoot on crack!

Here is an image where I was testing the bokeh. This one was taken at the Jack Daniels Distillery… that fire is how they make the charcoal to later filter the whiskey in the distilling process. It was so hot I was sweating from clear across the yard! The whole set up struck me as really macabre.

Photo by Karen Hutton

One noteworthy thing about prints from these cameras. I wondered how images would print. Brian Smith uses this new gear and said that he recently made some prints up to 84” wide and was amazed at the clarity. Good to know! I can’t speak from personal experience, but figured I share that since it came up during this event.

I think this new gear is truly turning photography on its ear. And it should! This isn’t an incremental step forward – Sony has taken the mighty leap. Is it all perfectly in place yet? No. But wow, what a launch they’re making. Impressive.

I suppose you’re wondering, after all that – will I be switching immediately? My answer: I’m not sure. I do know that I WILL be switching. I’ve known that all along. It seems like this is the beginning of the iteration where it could happen. But unlike Trey, I still need enough of the capabilities in my Canon 5DIII still that I can’t quite let it go. But it’s coming…

A million thanks to all the folks at Sony for bringing me into this eye-popping, show-stopping week. They are true pros and steady guides into new territory. They listened to all the feedback, took notes.. and had a couple of their guys from Tokyo there taking notes right alongside. Can’t wait to see what to see what happens next!

- Karen Hutton

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Driving through the Desert – Destination Vegas

How to get a red road at night

Usually I light up the road at night with my headlights, but I figured out this strange trick by accident! I was parked, facing the other way, and the tail lights were illuminated because the headlights were on. There was barely any red visible on the road itself, but the long exposure ended up making everything on the ground and walls a wondrous red!

Daily Photo – Driving through the Desert – Destination Vegas

Here is another recent photo from my trip to the desert. This was a very long exposure from a beautiful road in the Valley of Fire. Those glowing lights in the far distance? Those are the lights of Las Vegas, plainly visible even though it is still 60 miles away!

Driving through the Desert - Destination Vegas Valley of Fire

Driving through the Desert – Destination Vegas

Photo Information

  • Date TakenAugust 18, 2013 at 4:02am
  • CameraNEX-7
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time15
  • Aperture4
  • ISO200
  • Focal Length10.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias

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A Panorama of the Monument

Your favorite panorama software?

I used to use PTGui quite a bit, but now I’ve been using Photoshop more and more. It’s pretty smart. But sometimes it messes up. I know it depends (well, I THINK it depends) on the order in which you select the images for the panorama. But the way Photoshop figures this out is completely inscrutable.

Daily Photo – A Panorama of the Monument

Regulars here on the website know how rarely I make panoramas. It is both a combination of being lazy and the general feeling that a 18+ megapixel picture is more than enough. Maybe I won’t feel like this in the future, but it’s the way I feel know. But, I do occasionally make exceptions… like here on this morning in Monument Valley.

A Panorama of the Monument

Photo Information

  • Date TakenAugust 22, 2013 at 1:49am
  • CameraNEX-6
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/400
  • Aperture6.3
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length55.0 mm
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramAperture-priority AE
  • Exposure Bias

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New Sony A7R Full-Frame mirrorless takes computational photography to a new level

Sony A7r Review

Go see the full Sony A7r Review here on the site!

The Scoop on the Sony A7R Camera


I got a sneak preview of the whole new Sony camera system. Here’s what you need to know. I’m not gonna take eight paragraphs to tell you the basics. You’re smart; here are the key factors about the new Sony A7R: Full-Frame, 36 Megapixels, Weather-sealed, Crazy autofocus tricks, Much improved noise-reduction, Built-in WIFI and NFC, Improved-everything-else.

Check Amazon to see if it’s available or perhaps try B&H Photo.

Eye AF — one of the coolest new features? Yes!

Eye-based Autofocus. What does this mean? It’s an extension of the face-recognition system that Sony already uses that will automatically focus on the eye. So when you have your sweet f/1.8 lens on there, it will just grip onto the closest eye it can find and nail it right away. Awesome! Even better, the viewfinder shows the appropriate background blurriness (bokeh) because you’re actually seeing what is on the sensor. If you’ve never looked through one of new electronic viewfinders, you don’t know what you’re missing.

The smarts of the AF system are view their upgraded BIONZ-X image processing engine (I think they wanted to call it the BIONZ-A, but that sounds confusingly like Beyoncé). The autofocus is 40% faster than the NEX-7. It’s not as good as the Nikon D4, for example, but it can do things with computational prediction that DSLRs cannot do such as the above eye-tracking. This is the kind of innovation we get with mirrorless systems combined with fast processors and clever software.

Just like the Nikon D800E, the A7R has no low-pass filter for increased sharpness. They showed me some side-by-side images with the D800E and I was convinced that the chipset (the aforementioned confusingly named Beyoncé chip) was able to do a sharpness interpretation that is superior. This will be an interesting aspect for my friend Gordon Laing to test over at Camera Labs; he rules the world with his OCD side-by-side tests.

Auto-Bracketing Updates

There are two items of consequence. One of them is that the IR wireless remote is now decoupled from the other shooting modes. If you don’t know what I’m talking about — on the NEX, there was a problem where you could either do IR or Auto-bracketing but not both. Anyway, that’s fixed. The other item of consequence is you can do 3 or 5 shots in your Auto-bracket. Strangely, you can step by up to 3 EV stops when shooting 3 photos, but when shooting 5 photos, the most you can step by is 0.7 EV. Inscrutable! And why can’t you do 7 or 9 stops? Isn’t it just software… oh, camera-makers, you slay me.

There are “apps” on the phone and you can add more. I hope there is an auto-bracketing app. But if the apps are as poorly executed as they were on the NEX-6, of which I have a haunting feeling, then I will just save us all time and slash my wrists right now.

Weather Sealed

“We poured a glass of water on it!” the Sony guys told me. I guess that is a way they test these things — I don’t know. But they said it has the same weather sealing as the D800, which is probably good enough, I figure. The lenses are weather-sealed too. That’s good news… finally.

Lenses, Let’s talk lenses


Oh, we’re talking lenses? Oh yes, I came up with that heading. Well this discussion is almost over because there are only five lenses at launch. Sad emoticon. But, you can use the other 21 lenses from the full-frame Sony Alpha system with an adapter, so that is cool. Let’s say there are 26 lenses, okay? Well, that is how I am gonna think about it because the 5 new lenses aren’t quite enough for me.

Here are the five that are available at launch: 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6, 24-70mm constant f/4, 70-200 constant f/4, 55mm f/1.8, 35mm f/2.8. I really want a wide-angle zoom… but it looks like that won’t come out until the middle of 2014. In the meantime, I’ll just have to use an adapter and select from a few of those other 21 Full-Frame lenses from the Sony Alpha system.

You can get adapters to use ANY lens, really. Leica, Canon, Nikon, etc., etc. It’s a pretty cool idea to use these camera smarts on your other full-frame lenses you’ve been collecting your whole life.

How big is it?

Holding up both the NEX-7 and the A7r side-by-side, there is hardly any difference! I’d say the A7r is about 10% bigger… but nothing even close to the size of a Nikon D800 or much less a Nikon D4. All the lenses are nice and tiny too, again, only a bit bigger than the NEX-7 lenses. This goes right in line with the trend of lessening my load when I travel!

Am I switching?

Yes! Absolutely! I consider this a major upgrade from my NEX-7. Now I get: Full-frame, 36 megapixels, Better Autofocus (including the cool new Eye AF!), better EVF, better noise-reduction, hands-free auto-bracketing, and weather-sealing. That’s a pretty solid list I say! Plus, I get all the OTHER things that originally made me switch from Nikon to the Sony in the first place: 5-6x smaller than the D800, lighter, focus peaking for consistently sharper shots, and a smart EVF to give me important real-time information about the shot.

The only thing I’m giving up are my wide-angle lens that I love (I hope I can find a Sony Alpha one that I like… I dunno… I’m a babe in the woods on that). The other thing that I am giving up a bit is the new A7r only does 4 FPS, which is quite a bit slower. This isn’t a huge thing, since I mostly shoot travel and landscape shots, but it will be a bit slower when grabbing photos of people in motion, where I prefer more FPS.

I’ve thought about getting a Metabones so I can use my Nikon 14-24mm lens, but that lens has been sitting with Nikon Professional Services in Australia for over four months. I’m not sure I’ll ever see it again. She used to send me letters… but now I never hear from her any more…

Another new RX camera too?


Yeah – it is pretty interesting. I wasn’t so into the RX-1 because it did not have interchangeable lenses. Well, the new RX-10 (just announced and available in a few weeks) still doesn’t have interchangeable lenses BUT BUT BUT BUT it has a 28-200mm at a constant f/2.8. INTERESTING, eh? And it is much cheaper at just $1,299. That’s quite a machine… and 20 megapixels too.

You’ll never be able to shoot ultra-wide or do hardcore African animal photography with it to see zebras a mile away, but not everyone needs that. I’m considering adding that as a mid-range option in our camera recommendations. I haven’t actually played with the thing yet, but it is a very compelling idea that nobody else is doing. Sony makes a point that a lot of people buy a DSLR and never change the lens. I bet that is true… so, they designed this camera with that idea in mind.

More coverage coming soon

My friend Karen Hutton (whom many of you may know has twice been on the cover of Downward Dog Magazine) is getting to play with the new gear soon and will be taking a ton of photos. She’ll post her story here to StuckInCustoms.com — thanks again Karen, and thanks for making millions of people jealous! :)

Other Resources

- Sony NEX-7 Review – recently updated after my switch from Nikon
- Camera Recommendations – good, better, and best (will likely change when the above cameras are available)
- Free HDR Tutorial – a fun guide if you want to make your photos prettier
- Lightroom Presets and other tools – check my fun online store! :)

Daily Photo – Handheld Glacier

Here’s a handheld glacier shot I took with the NEX-7 a few weeks ago. How old is that camera now? About a year and a half old? I dunno… anyway, I can’t wait to see what this new Sony can do… Moore’s Law in Effect! Yay! :)

Alaskan Glacier

Handheld Glacier

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/7.1
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length18mm (27mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire, compulsory flash mode
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

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