Category Archives: Equipment

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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.

Do You Need an Ultra Wide Lens?

I already purchased a Nikon 24-120 mm f4 lens for using a the full frame format Nikon D800. When I was shooting a D300, I had a ultra wide that I really liked, so I decided to also buy an new Nikon 16-35 mm f4 lens.  I could have bought a fixed prime ultra wide but I am not interested in constantly swapping lens.  My setup gives me an overlap in the range of 24-35 mm, where I do a lot of shooting.  I was curious in that range is there any reason to switch the the other lens, or should I just use whatever is on the camera.  I toke the same image with each lens from the same point and did small crop of the whole picture, using the crop area shown in the image above,  which across is 1/10 the horizontal dimension of the original image. Camera was set at 200 ISO, f5.6.  All shots were hand held and auto focus.

At 35 mm, this is how the tight crops compare.  Click and each image to view enlarged to a 1:1 crop.

D800-24.0-120.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-34-mm-1-500-sec-at-f-5.6

D800-16.0-35.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-35-mm-1-500-sec-at-f-5.6

I then shot both at 24 mm

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-24-mm-1-500-sec-at-f-5.6
D800-16.0-35.0-mm-f-4.0-Lens-at-24-mm-1-500-sec-at-f-5.6

The differences are not visible to me, even for this small crop.  I could do a crop in the corners, but being a practical photographer and not overly concerned about detailed charts this simple experiment is sufficient for me to conclude that there is no reason to switch to either lens so if I need something in the range of 24-35 mm, use whichever is on the camera.

For some they may question the need to buy an ultra wide zoom when I already could go to 24 mm, but there are times when I want something wider and I like the unique perspective that the ultra wide lens offers.   This is such an example.

D800 16035 f4 at 17 mm 1/400 sec at f10
D800 16035 f4 at 17 mm 1/400 sec at f10

For those who are into taking expansive landscapes, check out one of the ultra wide zoom lenses.  You can always crop an image to get in closer but sometimes you can not go wide enough to get the right perspective.  The Nikon 16-35 mm f4 lens gives you that extra wide angle and still goes to a moderate wide angle of 35 mm, making it a great walk around lens for some situations.

 

 

Nikon 24-120 f4 Lens

I just received a new lens, this one is a Nikon 24-120 f4 lens designed for the FX (full sensor size) camera.  I was looking for a mid range zoom and would have liked to get the 70-24 f2.8, but it was a very pricey and of limited zoom range, so I opted for the 24-120 even though it has somewhat mixed reviews.  I did some quick testing using my Nikon D800.  There are plenty of tests out there that use charts and you can get details, but I only want to use with the types of photography I might use it in but at the end I do give some links to real tests.

The first shot was at the widest range and using a rather wide aperture since the lens is it’s weakest there, 24 mm at 5.6.

FJK_0482-24mm

I then turned on the Vibration control, zoomed to 120 mm, opened the aperture all the way to f4.0 and hand held this shot at 1/40 of a second to test the vibration control and to see the other end of the zoom range.

FJK_0487-120mm

From the last image, I cropped only a small area to show the oranges near the center of the image.

120 mm f4.0, 1/40 second hand held - crop

Not bad, for a hand held shot at such a low shutter speed.  The vibration control seems to work well.   If I use another image taken at 70 mm, and do a crop to get a similar area it is not as sharp.  This  shows me that if I settled for a 24-70 mm zoom and needed to crop the image, I would have to overcome quite a disadvantage compared with this lens with a longer reach.  Of course in an ideal world one would have the Nikon 24-70 f2.8 and the Nikon 70-200 f2.8, but those two lens together would cost close to 5 times what I spent on this lens.

70 mm, f4.0, 1/50 second, hand held

This was just a quickly test, to make sure the lens was working correct.  My initial sense is that this lens is not as sharp as the Nikon 16-35 f4 that I recently purchased nor is it as sharp as the Nikon 24-70 f4 that I had a chance to use last month.  However it does provide a nice range and seems sharp enough for my needs.  It sits between the very expensive 24-70 mm f2.8 with a limited range and the 28-300 f3.5-5.6, which has even a very wide zoom range and a cheaper price..  I considered the 28-300 mm but I have been a Nikon lens with a similar wide range on my Nikon D300 and was always wanting something sharper and there are usually tradeoffs when you have something with over a 10x zoom range .   For those interested in detailed numbers test, you can see the DxoMark scores for these three lens mounted on a D800.  Click the link below to get to the details for each lens, here I just give the overall score, which let me to think my choice was kind of in the middle ground and a good match for the ultra wide Nikon 16-35 f4 lens I also own (reviewed here).

Nikon 24-70 f2.8: Score = 28
Nikon 24-120 f4.0: Score = 22
Nikon 28-300 f3.5-5.6: Score = 17

Nikon 16-35 mm f4 Lens

This morning I purchased the Nikon 16-35 mm f4 lens and immediately headed down to Carmel area to test it out.  It was rather large, as I expected but the weight was not so bad.   I find myself shooting a lot of landscapes and the Nikon 24-120 I have on order will not always be as wide as I want.  You can always crop but you can’t match the unique perspective of the very wide lenses.

I love some of the photos I was able to get with this lens when paired with a Nikon D800. The one above was taken at 17 mm, ISO 200, f10 and 1/400 second shutter speed.  It was post processed in Lightroom 5.

A super wide lens is not something you would normally take portraits, but this one turned out nicely.  Check out the small crop area of the camera strap to see how sharp this lens is.  It is the sharpest Nikon zoom lens I have ever owned.

FJK_0344

FJK_0344-2

For those interested in detailed test reports, this lens received a DxOMark overall score of 23 when mounted on a D800.  Not bad for a super wide angle zoom.  By comparison the much more expensive Nikon 16-24 f2.8 had a overall score of 28 but this lens can not accommodate filters and has a more narrow range.

Using DX Lens on Nikon D800 FX Body

The only full frame lenses I currently have are from the days of film, all manual focus.  After aquiring a Nikon D800, I ordered the Nikon 24-120 F4, which is designed for full frame.  When using my Nikon D300, I really liked my super wide Tokina 11-16 mm f2.8 zoom but buying yet another lens right now was stretching the bank.  So I did experimenting with my Tokina DX lens.  For those not familiar with Nikon terminology, FX is full sensor size, using the same area of 35 mm film.  DX is their name for their smaller sensor with a 1.5x crop, used on many of their DSLR cameras, such as the D300.  When I attached this DX lens to my D800, I could see that at the 16 mm focal length, I was not getting any noticeable vignetting, even when I was using the full image sensor.  Of course if I tried to zoom at to 11 mm, the vignetting occurred significantly, down to just outside the grid lines for the DX sensor area.  So what if I used this Tokina lens on my D800 and should I use the DX sensor area (which gives me 15.5 megapixels) and zoom as I wish from 11 to 16 mm, or should I use the full sensor area (which gives me 36 megapixels) and use only the 16 mm focal length?  These two images show those two extremes.  I left the filter on the lens for all these tests, but did discover that the filter is causing some of the vignetting so there is the option to remove the filter to go even wider.

11mm-DX Drop

11mm-DX Drop

I guess I am not surprised that the the perspective is almost the same for the ftwo photos.  This does open up the possibility of using this lens with the full FX sensor area, but limiting it to 16 mm focal length, which is indeed a very wide perspective.   This will give you the same perspective as using the lens at 11 mm and DX crop (1.5 crop).  By using the full sensor area you will end up with potentially a sharper overall image and for this lens I did such a test and can see that.

With the Nikon D800, there is another optional sensor crop besides DX and that is the 1.2 crop, which still uses 25 megapixels of sensor area.  This photo was taken using the Tokina DX lens with the 1.2 crop, zooming to 14 mm.  On the left is the image as taken where you can see some slight lens vignetting in the corers.  On the right the same image after applying lens correction and vignetting adjustment in Lightroom 5.

14mm-1.2 Crop

14mm-1.2 Crop Corrected

So how sharp is this DX lens. Here is a highly cropped portion of the above photo. Looks pretty sharp to me.

14mm-1.2Crop-Small Crop

In summary, if you are moving from a APS-C sensor camera like the Nikon D300  to a full frame camera like the Nikon D800, you don’t need to immediately sell off your lenses and you don’t necessarily need to use the FX crop sensor.  There is no doubt a lens designed for full frame works better, but you can see that you can often use those old lenses until you get the means to replace them.

Nikon D800 DSLR

Our daughter is quite the photography.  A few years ago she moved up to a full frame digital SLR, the Nikon D700.  That is a great camera, but a year ago, her husband decided to surprise her for Christmas with a Nikon D800.  Being so familiar with the D700, she just never used the D800 that much.  While visiting, her husband was taking some of us to Garden of the Gods, so I asked if I could borrow her D800, since I had left my Nikon D300 back home.  She was kind enough to let me use it, borrowing her great Nikon 24-70 f2.8 lens.  It was a cloudy day but using some post processing I was able to get some great shots.

DSC_1235

I was real excited when I saw what this camera/lens combination could do.  I have really enjoyed my Nikon D300, but always wanted a full frame DSLR.  My daughter said she wanted to sell the D800, since she only uses her D800.  It was a great opportunity for me, and by purchasing it she didn’t ahve to go through the effort to sell it.  I wrote her a check right then.  The next day, I returned again to Garden of the Gods, this time with some sun.

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I was lucky to capture many images with this wonderful camera.  I now need to decide what lens to buy.  I can use my DX lenses, but that would not take advantage of the full resolution.  I have several old prime lenses, but none are auto-focus.  In the mean time, I am just playing around with some of the images I did capture using some post processing.

DSC_1235_HDR-Edit

 

GoPro Hero WiFi Back and Remote Combo Pack

I purchase the GoPro Hero 2 camera over a year agot.  Although I used it a lot initially, putting it on my helmet to take photos and video while riding,  both when using my road bike and mountain bike, I found it difficult to use because I had no way to know if it was pointed in the right direction and I had to reach up to the camera to press the shutter or turn the camera on and off.  I was never quite sure if the shutter press or power button worked because I had to rely on a series of beeps and I can’t always hear those if there is a lot of background noise.  When I made the purchase, GoPro was promising a WiFi back and a remote, with the ability to use an iPhone to control the camera and preview what it was taking a photo or view of.

It seemed like a good way to go but it took a long time for GoPro to fulfill their promised device.  About the time they did, they released a new model, Hero 3, with WiFi built in.  I didn’t want to buy a new camera.  I was reading some mixed reviews of the WiFi back on the GoPro Hero 2 so I waited awhile, figuring they would work out the bugs.  I finally bought the WiFi Back and Remote combo pack and was able to get it for $100 at a local bike shop, which I thought was a good deal since it was priced higher on Amazon.com.

GoProComboPack

I opened up the box and in the usual GoPro fashion they make it hard to get to the contents and seem to put more thought into making it look fancy on the shelf.  They should take a lesson from how Apple packages things, but they probably think they have done that, but they have not.  Inside are all the things you need.  Besides the WiFi back and the remote, you get two new backs for the case, one water proof, since the current back would not fit with the WiFi back being thicker.  You also get a standard USB cable plus a special one for charging the remote.

ComboKitContents

Both the WiFi back and the remote needed to be charged first.  Both charge from a USB port, but as mentioned, the remote has a special USB cable that you don’t want to lose.  Once charged, I then downloaded the CineForm software from GoPro and updated the Hero 2 camera, WiFi Back and Remote with the latest firmware.  Initially I had a problem for CineForm to see the Hero 2 camera, but when I swapped out the 64 Gb SD card for another card, then it worked fine.  Part of the update process includes the need to register the WiFi Back and selected a password that will be used later for the WiFi conection.  That was a good thing because you would not want some stranger using their smart phone with your camera.

When you buy the combo pack the WiFi Back and  the remote are already paired on the WiFi.  For the iPhone I downloaded the GoPro app and then in settings I found the Go Pro camera, selected that, and entered the password I had created early.  I have read numerous reports in the web of people having a hard time to get the devices to pair, but I had no issue at all.

Some items to note before you go this route:

  • The remote is a handy device with a small LCD screen that essentially shows what mode the Hero 2 is in by having the screen be a duplicate of what you would see in the Hero 2.  That means you have the same lame menu system that the Hero 2 uses so you have to go through all the button presses to change things, but at least if they camera is mounted on your helmet you can do that with the remote.  It does larger buttons that are much easier to press than those on the camera itself.
  • The iPhone app allows easier controls than the remote plus a live preview so you can see what the camera is pointed at and recording.  Note that there is a 5 second delay in the live preview but that is much better than shooting blind and not knowing what you get until you download to a computer.
  • The biggest issue I have is that you can only connect the WiFi back to either the remote or the iPhone, not both of them at the same time.  I would like it if I could use the iPhone for preview and still use the remote as a shutter release, but that is not supported.  I am not sure if that is a limitation of the iPhone or GoPro’s issue, but to switch between the two you have to access the camera itself, not a great design feature for a camera that might be on your helmet.  You can use the iPhone to make the switch to the remote so if you want to use the iPhone to get things positioned and select the right options on the camera itself, you can then use the iPhone to switch to the remote, but to switch back to the iPhone you would need to do that on the camera itself (or using the remote to wade through the menu system).
  • The WiFi back has it’s own battery, otherwise you camera battery would drain too quickly.  If the WiFi Back battery get’s low, it will draw power from the camera.
  • There is a distance limit to use the remote or the iPhone and they are not the same.  I have no issue when either are within a few feet of the Hero 2, but for really remote applications, check it out before you go this route.
  • You can use the iPhone to turn the camera off and on, but the WiFi back stays on so make sure you turn it off when you are finished.

I guess I would give GoPro only a C grade on this.  First they took a long time to release a product that they promised upon which many people bought the Hero 2 expecting this ability.  It would be nice to have a Hero 3 with WiFi built in, but they they charge you $79 just for the remote, so the combo pack and a Hero 2 is an okay deal.  If I could use both the remote and the iPhone at the same time, I would raise my score to a B.  Although I think the Hero 2 is a great camera, the form factor and the lame menu system bothers me, but right now GoPro has the video and image quality and all the accessories one could ever want.

 

Continue reading GoPro Hero WiFi Back and Remote Combo Pack

Nikon D700 – Where it fits

Nikon has released a new full frame (FX) digital SLR named the D700.  In a simplified way you could think of it as a D3 sensor in a D300 body.  Until the D3 was released, all Nikon digital SLR were based on a DX sensor size with a crop factor of abotu 1.5.  The D700 is the second DSLR from Nikon that offers a sensor the same size as 35 mm film so that a lens will have the same field of view as it did on a film camera.

But where does this new model fit into the lineup.  As you can see from this chart, it is significantly more expensive than the highly rated D300 while also being signficantly less expensive than the D3.  As one would expect, the price point increases rapidly as the model moves toward the pro level.  One could argue that the best camera, strictly from a price point, is the D300.  Above that model, the price increases rapidly.

Fast and Shallow Once Again

It has been sometime since I have been able to use my old manual focus lenses. On my prior digital SLR there was no support for either focusing or metering. With the new Nikon D300, I am once again able to use them. I did simple test inside the house this evening using my 50 mm 1.4 AI lens. With the D300 you tell it the focal length and maximum aperture of the manual lens you have attached and it works fine from that point. Focusing is not as easy as with the older cameras that had screens geared for manual focus, but there is a rangefinder indicator that works. Here is a shot I took wide open, at f1.4, 1/125 sec, ISO of 400. Lighting is all ambient. Notice the very shallow dept of field.

As an experiment I took a second shot changing it to f2.0, 1/60 second, also ISO 400.

I expected a more shallow dept of field at f1.4 compared with f2.0 but it looked about the same.