Sony A6000

Sometimes the weight of my Nikon D800 and lenses is just too much so I decided to buy the new Sony A6000 camera and the two kit lenses, the 16-50 and 55-210 lens, which gives me an equivalent full frame reach from 24 mm to 315 mm.

sony_a6000

I had a chance to use it recently while cycling up Mt Hamilton and then the next day down the California coast to watch the Tour of California Pro Cycling race.  Riding a bike with my D800 and lenses would be a big much but the Sony A6000 was quite ideal.  We stopped a few places along the way to take some photos, such as the one above.

To take pictures of the race, I switched to the 55-205 mm lens.  Maybe not the highest quality lens, but it is small and lightweight, exactly what I wanted.  It gave the the reach of a 315 mm, full frame equivalent, and yet in an easy to carry lens.  Considering that the Sony A6000 uses a APS-C sensor size, it is rather amazing.

DSC00195

It has a very fast burst rate, around 10 fps.  However you will want to save only to JPEG or  you will fill up the buffer very quickly.   Here are two of the images of such a high frames per second.  You will see little difference between the two images even though I am shooting a fast moving bike race using a long reach telephoto.

DSC00212

DSC00213

I noticed that when using the 16-50 mm lens at 16 mm, there is heavy distortion and vignetting at the corners.  You can see in the image below the bending of the horizon and the darkening in the corners.

DSC00173

However this can be corrected by using the lens profile in Adobe Lightroom.

DSC00173-2

The video is also excellent, with the only complaint the poor placement of the dedicated video button.  Sorry for the shaky video but it is a bit difficult to carry a tripod on a bicycle.

Overall I am very happy with the Sony A6000.  It has proven to be a great little camera that has abilities far beyond what you might expect from it’s small size and weight.  I recognize that using better lenses would give me much better images, but I already have a Nikon D800 and high end lenses for that and putting a heavy lens on the Sony A6000 would defeat the purpose for what I bought it for.

Silverfast 8 vs. VueScan 9 Scanning Software on Plustek 8200 Film Scanner

About 15 years ago, I purchased a HP film scanner but long ago that device gave up the ghost.  I recently decided to buy a new film scanner and purchased an Plustek 8200i.  This came with SilverFast  8 software.  I had previously used this software on my Epson flat bed scanner and had even had to purchase a new copy from Lasersoft to get a version that would work on my current Mac operating system.  I knew this software had a poorly designed interface but I had learned to use it.  It has a lot of features but most of those are not easy to use or of limited value to me.

I heard about VueScan software and decided to purchase it.  Unlike SilverFast were you have to purchase a new version for every scanner, this is one license that works with both my flat bed and film scanner.

I started with scanning a Kodak Gold negative that was 11 years old.  I set both software to 3600 dpi and auto color correction.

VueScan

After inserting the negative and doing a Preview, the software did a good job of selecting the frame.  I like how you can put in the date (a guess) and other meta data that will be embedded in the file.

VueScanInterface

And here is the uncorrected image.

Visit to Navoo Illinois

SilverFast

After doing the pre-scan, it did a fairly good job of finding the frame (although my past experience is that I have to almost always move the frame).  The interface looks rich with lots of controls, but it takes time to learn them and in my opinion most are not very well designed.

SilverfastInteface

Here is the actual image without any correction.

SilverFastNeg

From previous experience, I have realize that SilverFast’s auto color is poor when using the Multi Exposure feature when scanning color negatives.  So I did the scan again with Multi Exposure turned off without making any other changes.

SilverFastNegNoME

If I match up this image with the one from VueScan you get this.  The left side is SilverFast and the right is VueScan. I prefer the right side side produced by VueScan.

VueScanVsSilverFast

Scanning 35 mm Slides

Next I found a 44 year old Kodachrome slide when I was a young guy, one I had also scanned with both my old HP Scanner and Epson flatbed scanner.

Scanned 15 years ago with my HP Film Scanner

Full-HPScanner

Plustek Film Scanner and SilverFast at 3600 dpi

SilverFast3600-2

Plustek Film Scanner and VueScan at 3600 dpi

VueScan3600-2

On a web page it is hard to see that there is much difference,

If I do small crop, you can see the difference in resolution. I also include a crop from a scan of the same slide using my Epson flat bed scanner. I have arranged these with the sharpest images first.

Very Good
VueScan7200-crop
Plustek Film Scanner and ViewScan at 7200 dpi
SilverFast7200-crop
Plustek Film Scanner and SilverFast at 7200 dpi
VueScan3600-crop
Plustek Film Scanner and ViewScan at 3600 dpi
Okay
Crop-FlatBedScanner-2
Epson Flatbed Scanner at Maximum Resolution
Mediocre
SilverFast3600-crop
Plustek Film Scanner and SilverFast at 3600 dpi
Crop-HPScanner
HP Film Scanner image.

The difference is now quite apparent. The resolution from old HP film scanner is lacking and the scan from the Epson flatbed scanner, even at the maximum resolution is soft.When using the PlusTek scanner at 3600 dpi, the VueScan software is also almost as good as SilverFast software at 7200 dpi while Silverfast at 3600 is quite lacking.

The Pluxtek scanner has an infrared channel for dusk and scratch removal, but that lengthens the time.   Both also support multi exposure.

Scan Times

The Pluxtek scanner supports infrared scan for dusk and scratch removal, but that lengthens the time.   Both SilverFast and VueScan support this feature as well as multi exposure.

These are times with the Plusteck scanner AFTER the preview has already been completed and adjustments selected. Each involves 3 scans, one for the image, one for the Infrared channel and a third for the multiple exposure, then processing and saving the image. SilverFast in particular takes a long time for “processing” after the 3 scans are finished while this is done quickly with VueScan. Time is shown in minutes:seconds using a 35 mm slide.

  • SilverFast at 7200 dpi: 12:37
  • VueScan at 7200 dpi: 5:23
  • SilverFast at 3600 dpi: 5:30
  • VueScan at 3600 dpi: 2:30
Pricing

SilverFast came free with my Plustek scanner, but I had to pay about $70 to buy it for my Epson Scanner as an upgrade for the old version that came with that scanner.  Trying to upgrade to more advanced versions of SilverFast can become very expensive, a real qusitonable thing since scanning of film is rather a one time thing for most people and not an on going process unless you are still shotting film.

VueScan offers a very reasonable price of $40, easily affordable. I selected the $80 option for the professional version that offers lifetime updates so I can avoid the issue I had with SilverFast where I had to pay to uprade to version 8 for my flat bed scanner, and even then that upgrade was not useable on any other scanner.

Without a question VueScan offers far better value and I suspect that SilverFast is packaged free with many film scanners because they want you to upgrade to a later version or one of their more deluxe versions.  I don’t like this scheme and like the more straightforward approach taken by VueScan.

Conclusions
  • The Plustek 8200i film scanner is much better than my old HP Film Scanner and my current Epson flat bed scanner.
  • When using the PlusTek 8200i film scanner, it is well worth buying VueScan software rather than using the SilverFast software that comes bundled.
    • VueScan scan times are only half as long as when using SilverFast
    • VueScan at 3600 dpi has much better image when highly cropped than SilverFast can produce at 3600 dpi.
    • VueScan is much easier to use.  Although SilverFast has a lot of features they are cumbersome to use.
    • SilverFast does a poor job of auto color correction of negatives when using multi-exposure while VueScan has no issue in this situation.
    • VueScan is easier to use and the controls, although not maybe as fancy looking, are more practical to use.  I am someone who is a semi-expert using Photoshop and Lightroom so for many users, this is even a bigger factor.
    • VueScan offers free upgrades and you can use the software on multiple scanners.
    • Upgrading to a more deluxe version of SilverFast is very expensive and the so called “upgrade” price is almost as much as the regular price.

Green in California

The hills in California are finally green after a dry spell over the winter we finally got some rain.  However I know this won’t last too long.  Finally we had a day with some cloud cover, but not the typical grey sky, so I headed out to try to capture the hills while they are still green.  I found a driveway right off of the highway that was quite appealing.  After parking off the road and walking less than 50 feet I was able to take the above photo.

I put the image on Facebook and Google plus and received some nice comments, one person thought it looked surreal and someone else claimed it was a product of just bumping up the saturation, which was not at all the case.  The reason why the photo looks like it does is a combination of a great camera, great lens and using 3 separate exposures combined into one.  The human eye can see a range of light that far exceeds the capability of even the best digital cameras, so by taking 3 or more exposures at different apertures, you can combine them using software to use the best exposure for each part, a technique called HDR or High  Dynamic Range.  To demonstrate, the photo below shows one of those three exposures, without any post processing on the left.  On the right side is the final image after combining 3 exposures.

SideBySide

You can see that it is not a matter of increasing the saturation, something that lower end cameras do automatically to make pictures look more vivid.  Instead the differences are one of exposure or how light or dark the image is in each part.  That is very beneficial with the sky area, letting the final product be closer to what my eyes saw than any of the individual images were able to produce.

Photo Details
Location
Bay Area, California
Camera
Nikon D800
Lens
Nikon 16-35 mm f4.0
Image
RAW
Focal Length
28 mm
Exposure
f8 with ISO 200, 3 exposures at 1/500, 1/1000, 1/250 sec
Post Processing
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom then Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 using 3 images

New Zealand Sounds

This image was taken from a ship sailing by the Sounds off the coast of New Zealand.

Photo Details
Location
The Sounds, New Zealand
Camera
Nikon D300
Lens
Nikon 18-200
Image
RAW
Focal Length
22 mm
Exposure
f18 and 1000 at 1/250 sec with ISO
Post Processing
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom then Nik HDR Efex Pro 2

Hobbiton, New Zealand

We visited Tarunga, New Zealand to see the area where they filmed the Lord of the Rings. Since they also used the area to film the Hobbit which had not yet been released, we had to sign an agreement to not publish any photos until after the film was released.

FJK201202-5845

Photo Details
Location
Tarunga, New Zealand
Camera
Nikon D300
Lens
Tokina 11-16 f/2.8
Image
RAW
Focal Length
11 mm
Exposure
f11 at 1/500 sec, with ISO 1000
Post Processing
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom then Nik HDR Efex Pro 2

Yokohama, Japan at Night

We were visiting Yokohama Japan and after dinner I had this great view but unfortunately I did not have a tripod with me, so I bumped the ISO up to 1,600 and shot this hand held.

Photo Details
Location
Yokohama, Japan
Camera
Nikon D300
Lens
Tokina 11-16 f/2.8
Image
RAW
Focal Length
15 mm
Exposure
f2.8 with ISO 1600, 1/40 sec hand held
Post Processing
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Japanese Tea Garden

Another view at the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Jose.  I like how the weeping tree settles over the pond.

Photo Details
Location
Japanese Friendship Garden, San Jose, California
Camera
Nikon D800
Lens
Nikon 16-35 mm f4.0
Image
RAW
Focal Length
16 mm
Exposure
 f5.6 with ISO 200, 3 exposures at 1/250, 1/500, 1/125 sec
Post Processing
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom then Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 using 3 images

Japanese Friendship Garden

This beautiful and tranquil garden is an expanse of peace in the middle of the city. The Japanese Friendship Garden is a living symbol of the “Sister City” relationship between Okayama, Japan and San José.

I used my Nikon D800 with 16-35 f4 lens  set at 16 mm focal length and f8 aperture on a tripod and took three different exposures at 1/1000 sec, 500 sec and 250 sec.

3ExposureHDR

After bring in all the images into Adobe Lightroom, I exported the three images to Nik Software HDR Efex Pro 2 to have it use all three images and create a single image, using the best exposure from each image for different areas, a technique called HDR (high-dynamic range).

Here are a few more images I took.  All were from a 3 eposure set and process in a similar fashion.

JapanesGardenHDR

FJK_0519_HDR-Edit

FJK_0555_HDR

WordPress Twenty Fourteen Theme

One of the new default themes for WordPress is Twenty Fourteen.  Is this a good theme to use for Photographers? This theme has a nice magazine layout and handles images well, supporting a “Featured Image”, which is the image that appears above this post.   The complexity is that there are several different options on how this featured imaged can be displayed.  If the right side bar is enabled in the WordPress theme, the image will be smaller.  If you use featured content at the top, you have an option to select either a grid format, with a reduced image size, or a slider approach where the image takes the full width.

To control the crop you would need to crop before uploading your image to WordPress.  I setup a custom crop in Photoshop.

By experimentation, I discovered that an image 1038 wide by 576 high will work best for all scenarios.    Otherwise it will crop an equal amount off the top and bottom of the image, assuming the original ratio is 3:2, as is the case for most DSLRs (the ratio of 35mm film).  In Photoshop I setup a custom crop ratio using 1038×576 that makes it easy to crop the image before I upload to Word Press.

2014CropFirst

This ratio is 1.80:1, which is close to that used in wide screen cinematography.  However most advanced still cameras use a ratio of 1.5 (3:2), which is not as wide.  It is a weakness of the WordPress Twenty Fourteen theme and so far there is not an easy way to customize this theme to use a different aspect ratio.

How about the images inside the post?  They don’t get cropped to a set aspect ratio as the featured image does.  Since the images inside the post are click-able to view the full image, you may want to use a larger size.  I often pick a width of 1920 pixels, which is as wide as most monitors now days.  A color version of the featured image would then appear as shown below, but if you click on it, a full size can be viewed.

FJK201401--7

However you can see that when viewed inside the post this image is not very large.  With this theme only the featured image, at the top, is large while those inside the post are constrained, even though I used an image with a width of 1920 pixels.  This may be enough of  reason to not select this theme for displaying your photography.

One of the advantages of the Twenty Fourteen theme is that it rescales for mobile devices.  If you look at how it looks on a smart phone, you can see the advantage of using a featured image for each post.  Both the left and right side bars disappear and the right content sidebar is accesible from the drop down.  Each post has the image to the left and the title to the right, which makes this a very friend theme for a smart phone.

IMG_0935

Is Full Frame Worth the Price and Weight?

I recently moved from a Nikon D300 (1.5 crop using a APS size sensor) to a Nikon D800 full frame and wanted to do a comparison.  Realizing that the differences would be hard to see with full size images on this website, I used a small crop area, as shown in the above photo.

The difficulty in doing this comparison is the vastly different pixel count between the D800 and D300. If you are making a large print the image of the D300 needs to be enlarged by 1.71 times more than the D800. So I used a smaller crop for the D300 images, then resized to get 740 pixels across.

Since this is not a scientific experiment but just one to satisfy my own curiosity, I decided to do a comparison using only the lens I have for each format size.  Therefore the differences can be partly due to the lenses.  The size of the crop for the D800 images was 1/10 the horizontal dimension of the original image, producing a  740×740 pixel crop due to the D800’s amazing 36 megapixel sensor (7,360 x 4,912 pixels).  The Nikon  D300 has a 12 megapixel sensor.   Click each image to see enlarged since this blog might resize to fit.

D800 with both Nikon 16-35 f4 and Nikon 24-120 f4 vs D300 with Tokina 11-16 f2.8

Starting with the widest I can go on both cameras (16 mm equivalent full frame) the full frame D800 is clearly sharper.

D800-16.0-35.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-16-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

D300-11.0-16.0-mm-f-2.8-Lens-at-16-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6
D300-11.0-16.0-mm-f-2.8-Lens-at-16-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

Going a bit less wide, 24 mm equivalent full frame, I used both new full frame lens set to 24 mm and the Tokina set to 16 mm, or 24 mm equivalent for full frame.   The first two images from the D800 look similar, as I expected based on my other comparison post between these two lenses.  The 3rd image with the Tokina on the D300 is clearly less sharp.

D800-24.0-120.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-24-mm-1-500-sec-at-f-5.6

D800-16.0-35.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-25-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

 

D300-11.0-16.0-mm-f-2.8-Lens-at-24-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6
D300-11.0-16.0-mm-f-2.8-Lens-at-24-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

 D800 with Nikon 24-120 f4 vs D300 with Nikon 18-200 f3.5-5.6

First at a moderate wide angle (35 mm full frame equivalent).  Here  the D800 full frame is much better.

NIKON D800 24.0-120.0 mm f-4.0 Lens at 35 mm 1-320 sec at f - 5.6_

D300-18.0-200.0-mm-f-3.5-5.6-Lens-at-36-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6
D300-18.0-200.0-mm-f-3.5-5.6-Lens-at-36-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

Next is a short telephoto (70 mm full frame equivalent).  Again a rather noticeable difference It is a combination of the full frame D800, 36 megapixels and a better lens.

D800-24.0-120.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-70-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

D300-18.0-200.0-mm-f-3.5-5.6-Lens-at-69-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6
D300-18.0-200.0-mm-f-3.5-5.6-Lens-at-69-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

Moving out to the longest I can shoot with the D800 (120 mm), the difference is similar.

D800-24.0-120.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-120-mm-1-320-sec-at-f-5.6

NIKON D300 18.0-200.0 mm f-3.5-5.6 Lens at 135 mm 1-320 sec at f - 5.6_

In summary, if you want to make large prints, then the full frame setup clearly has some advantages, but for sharing photos on the web, the APS size sensor will give you just about the same advantages for less money and less weight.