During dinner at Oscillate Wildly, I noticed a distinct problem when shooting with the A7. Firstly the 35mm wasn’t fast enough in the dimly lit restaurant and also remembered there’s no flash (not that I’d use it in a restaurant). It did lead me to question what to do if I needed some extra light.
Instead of a flash, I decided on a small LED panel, in particular the Aputure Amaran M9. It’s small, dimensions roughly of a credit card and about a cm thick. Figured it’d be a bit more versatile being able to hold it off camera as well as for any videos we’d want to record at night. It’s also very affordable, $59!
It’s got an inbuilt rechargeable battery and is decently bright given the small dimensions. The mount is a little bulky compared to the slim profile of the panel so I’m investigating options for a hot shoe mount that has a 1/4″ socket. I was hoping to use the GoPro arms to mount it as well, but that didn’t quite work out (plan was to use the tripod mounts end to end, but you can’t connect a 2nd tripod adapter).
Not surprising that it had barely been a month before getting my Sony A7 and 35mm f/2.8 that I’ve decided on another lens (and a half, sort of). Next purchase was the 28mm f/2 lens with the idea that it would be my walk-about lens.
So why the quick move away from the 35mm? Two reasons, one was my original hesitation of being a f/2.8 lens, I ended up finding in reality that I was pushing the boundaries of the cameras low light and stabiliser limits and not getting enough light in. Secondly the minimum focussing distance on the 35mm was a bit long, made taking photos of food at the table a little difficult at times.
In comes the 28mm, size-wise it’s just as compact and light as the 35mm so still makes a great combo to carry everywhere. The minimum focussing distance is 5cm less, which doesn’t sound much, but it’s the difference between having to lean back for a photo and not.
It’s goes a fair bit longer with the hood. The 28mm has a standard petal hood where the 35mm has an odd cap kind of hood, not a huge biggie for me.
Performance wise I’m pretty satisfied, focus is quick and the bokeh is quite nice. Sharpness I’ve got nothing to complain about but Ive accepted that as a sacrifice if I’m to stick with compact lenses.
The last reason I wanted the 28mm is because of some optional attachments, Sony make 2 wide angle converters. The first turns it into at 21mm ultra wide at f/2.8 and the second turns it into a 16mm fisheye at f/3.5. I bought the former. First impressions were that it’s a lot heftier than expected. It’s got 4 glass elements and feels really well built. Attaching it to the lens is snappy and secure and really feels like one unit.
The really nice thing Sony has done is being able to detect the presence of the attachment and updating the lens data as appropriate.
Photo quality is pretty okay with the attachment, I think it’s a worthy trade off for not having to physically unmount a lens and the flexibility between 21mm and 28mm. Really happy with this combo for travelling, it fits into my little Crumpler Pleasure Dome (m).
Next lens I’m trying to find is a long-ish fast lens. Have my eye on a Samyang 135mm f/2 but not really wanting to pay $600+ for one since there’s no electronic aperture control or contacts.
New pair of noise cancelling headphones and couldn’t be happier with the improved noise cancelling performance over my previous 770BN’s. To be honest, I felt like the 770’s took a step backwards compared to the 750’s that I owned; sound quality was great but noise cancelling no so much. I only realised how lacking they were when I put in a set of Bose QC35’s which are the benchmark for active noise cancellation.
So, first thoughts putting on the 1000X?
Wow, near-silence. Hums and whirrs from the plane completely gone and voices and chatter reduced to a mere murmur, the gentlest touch of music drowns it out. Compared to the previous set which seemed to only reduce the low frequency hums, I really couldn’t hear a thing outside.
Features wise, the improvements are a gesture controlled interface, ambient sound settings and LDAC capabilities. It retains the ability to go into corded mode (with or without power) and basic micro USB charging. LDAC is irrelevant for now but rumours have it that Sony have contributed its use in the next revision of Android (fingers crossed!). Ambient sound modes allow you to pass through voice while blocking everything else and lastly, the gesture controls allow you to cup or palm the touch panel and it’ll allow sound through while muting your audio. Great if you need to have a quick conversation without removing the headphones.
Sound wise, it’s not perfect but pretty damn good, its strengths are in its mids and highs. The mids have a real warmth to it and fills the space nicely, it then rolls really nicely into the highs which seem to go on forever without being harsh or fatiguing. To me they sound incredibly smooth and have a nice presence.
So what’s the weakness? Bass. It’s a little peculiar too, it seems to be missing the sub-bass notes so it lacks the punch. However in certain tracks, the mid-low bass range is super punchy and sounds good enough, it definitely doesn’t sound tinny.
One of my favourite songs to audition is Daft Punk – Contact (from Random Access Memories) and it’s bassline is pretty tight so any systems that over exaggerate bass falls apart pretty quick. Bass was lacking here but the rest of it was very warm sounding and individual notes and hi hats was distinct and clear yet seemed to roll off nicely into each over.
All in all they’re great and they were a great buy at $400, definitely hard to justify at retail though. If bass is super critical, suggest you have a listen to them first.
So getting rid of all my Nikon camera gear leads me without a camera (well I’ve got a Sony NEX 5R that always seems to be absent from my posession). The D4s is way too big for travel and when you mount on any sort of f/2.8 zoom (especially the Tamron 15-30), it becomes rather bothersome.
Despite using Nikon for about 10 years, it’s time for a change.
So in comes the A7 mk II, Sony full-frame interchangable lens camera with inbuilt body image stabilisation (yes it’s a mouthful). It was a tough choice with Fuji being highly appealing due to a nice selection of small and fast primes, but full frame’s something I’ve been used to for a while now, so the choice was Sony, in part also for its video abilities. The A7 II was choice despite lacking 4K video recording, I figured the in-built stabilisation would make it for any shortfalls. Time will tell.
It’s getting paired up with a Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar T*. Definitely don’t think this lens is worth the $900 price tag, but at $400 for a used one, I think it’s decent value, given its compact size.
First impressions, it’s small, but by no means compact. A little smaller and more blocky than the smallest DSLRs. It’s pretty comfortable to hold with the deep hand grip and distinct hump for the thumb. The exposure compensation wheel is a bit stiff, not as tactile as the other wheels which move with ease.
Whole bunch of custom buttons which are nice, but there’s no markings for a default function, might take a while for them to become memorised. EVF is decent, bright enough and fast enough, doesn’t feel like there’s a lag in low-light (one of my worries with an EVF) but could be more crisp, depending on what’s in frame, the aliasing (jagged lines) are pretty noticeable and you’re hoping the autofocus has got your subject spot on.
Autofocus speed has been good, haven’t seen any major issues. I don’t anticipate to shoot any fast moving objects so not too concerned with continuous focus speed, manual focus on the 35mm is average, it feels much better than previous lenses I’ve used on the Nex 5R and the indicator for focus distance is a nice touch and helps with finding where you’re pointing, seems to track better to your ring movements. The hood is interesting too, it’s designed to sit on the lens permenantly and doesn’t really add much bulk.
Just for the lols, check out the size difference.
Both 35mm lenses (but granted one is f/2.8 and the other is f/1.4), the size difference is huge, not that it’s suprising or anything.
Will be taking it out for Vivid to see how it really goes.
In the spirit of buying things that you don’t need because they’re on sale or they’re cheap, I decided to buy a new domain name and have decided that will signal the re-initiation of this blog. So what did I buy? http://andrewnguyen.photo/. Pretty neat huh?
If you haven’t realised, we’ve been getting more and more top level domains (TLD) being made available (the last bit of a domain name is the TLD, ‘.com’ and ‘.org’ are TLDs, as are ‘.au’, ‘.gov’, etc). I also wanted a new email because I was sick of people spelling ntranced with an e at the start.
I’m still finding it weird to type into a URL bar. So now I have my own domain, I decided to set up email, previously I had a web host do my emails, but this time round, I decided to try an external provider, if you’re willing to pay, Google’s probably your best option. It used to be free, but now starts from $5/m a user/email address, pretty cheap if you’re running a small business. I’m a tight-ass so for me, free was the way to go.
What I found? Zoho (http://zoho.com). Free for up to 25 users and a pretty good step-by-step set up process to get your new domain name pointing to zoho. All up, it was a matter of:
Opening up the control panel of your domain host
Adding a few records
2 MX records to point to Zoho (these simply direct mail to your host that will handle it)
a TXT record for SPV (this helps prevent your emails from being treated as spam, it basically tells other email hosts which hosts are allowed to send from this domain)
a TXT record for DKIM (this is like a key that allows another email host to verify that the email was indeed sent from where you authorised.
In other news, I’m selling all of my camera gear 🙁 a little sad to see some of it go, but it hasn’t been fun to carry on holidays and I’m awaiting delivery on a new Sony A7 mk II. If you know anyone who’s interested in the following, please get in touch.
An opportunity recently came up for me to procure myself one of these Sony NEX mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras and what better time than right around the corner from Christmas? Main reason for wanting this sort of camera? First, a HUGE sensor relative to the size of the camera (1.5x crop like most DSLRs) and fantastic video abilities. Without further adieu, I present to you the latest Sony NEX-5R(Y) with the Y denoting the twin lens version.
For a small camera, it comes in a decently sized box which is quite packed, so what’s inside? At the top of the box is multiple manuals (differently languages), warranty/support cards and software CD. Lifting the top flaps reveals 3 compartments, the left contains the Sony E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS zoom lens. The middle compartment contains the NEX-5R body itself attached to the Sony E PZ 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OSS zoom lens and the final compartment on the right containing a host of power cables, microUSB cable, desktop charger, battery pack, shoulder strap and detachable flash.
Now the original NEX series cameras came with the 18-55mm F3.5 which was pretty big when mounted on the NEX type cameras (similarly sized to a crop body 18-55 equivalent lens from Nikon or Canon), this made the camera unpocketable. This new 16-50mm is definitely much smaller and retracts when powered off, another additional feature is the power zoom; there’s a little rocker type switch on the left hand side which allows you to zoom in and out like a regular point and shoot, some will love it, some will hate it.
It has a similar hinged screen to the 5N, however slight improvements have been made to allow it to flip backwards so you can get the perfect self portrait, bear in mind however, if the flash is attached, the screen can’t be flipped all the way up. A little nice touch is when the screen is flipped for self portraits, a 3 second timer is automatically activated.
The screen tilts upwards and downwards to allow easy high angle or low angle shots.
It’s also touch sensitive, but I do believe it isn’t of the capacitive type and isn’t too sensitive which severely reduces its effectiveness. I was hoping a phone style interface with gestures but alas, it wasn’t meant to be, it does help access some features, but I have a feeling it won’t be used for proper shooting.
Now, the lenses, as mentioned the new 16-50mm which shipped with the camera does retract when powered off, below are some comparisons of size, note that the 16-50mm ‘waves in and out’ from wide to tele, i.e. longest when wide and zoomed all the way in and shortest when in the middle, also note the 55-210 is ridiculously large when mounted onto this camera.
Unlike the NEX 6 though, the 5R doesn’t have a standard hotshoe, this small proprietary connector serves multiple purposes but has the problem of only serving one at a time, that means you can use the flash and not the optional microphones or viewfinder at once, personally won’t be a big deal, but an integrated flash like the 6 would have been that little bit better, especially for travel.
The integrated WiFi combined with the PlayMemories apps does make for a nice touch, but I do feel it’s still in its infancy. This combination allows for new applications to be downloaded and installed and at this time, there’s currently a Time Lapse ($10), Pro Bracketing app ($5), Cinematic Photo app ($5), Multi frame noise reduction ($5) as well as a few free ones; Direct upload, Photo retouch, Picture Effect+ and Smart remote control.
I personally don’t think the paid apps offer much and should actually be standard features, maybe for the exception of ‘Cinematic photo’ which allows you to create a hybrid stills/video leaving some areas still and others moving. The Smart remote control app is very basic and allows for a live view image to displayed on your smart phone and the ability to trigger it remotely, in this situation, the camera acts as a hot spot.
This has been a brief intro opening and I’ll try to report back with my feedback after it’s used for a few outings, so far it is pretty impressive and it does feel like a solid camera. The autofocus is pretty quick, still not as quick as D600 or D700, but definitely plenty fast for a holiday situation. For the price I paid (and definitely if I get rid of the 55-210 lens) I don’t think anything could have matched it, just need to get myself a Nikon F mount to Sony E mount adapter and I’m set.