Based on my experience with my Sony NEX camera and the reviews of their new flagship full frame camera, I'm going to sell my Canon gear and buy a Sony a99...but the plan is much more complex than that...
I've purchased some inexpensive lens adapters from Fotodiox. This allowed me to do some tests at the local camera shop with a demo model to make sure it would work at all. Making sure the camera will meter correctly in Aperture priority mode is the most important thing. Second is to make sure that the lens can properly focus to infinity. if it can't, then the clearances are wrong and the lens won't be properly usable. I already know that the in body image stabilization won't work because the adapted lenses have no electronic contacts. If the camera doesn't know the focal length of the lens, it can't do the correct math on how far to move the sensor...more on that later.
These tests worked so I bought the camera...in fact I also picked up a NEX-5R because I've become addicted to that system and the 5R seemed like an incredible camera too in it's own right. So why Sony and no a Canon like I'm already shooting? Why not Nikon? (as asked by just about everybody I know). Well there are two big reasons. First is focus peaking. The Sony has an electronic viewfinder and so has focus peaking both in the viewfinder and on the back LCD screen. I've already used this with my NEX-7 and it's an incredibly fast and accurate way to focus manual lenses. The other reason is that the a99 has better video functionality than any other camera for the type of work I want to use it for. If I can get the Super Steady Shot to work, then that's another huge advantage which no other camera can offer.
The solution to the image stabilization came to me while looking at alternative ways of adapting my lenses. This is how I found Leitax.com. Leitax makes lens adapters for many brands of lenses to adapt to many types of camera body. It so happens that they make adapters for Leica R lenses and Nikkor lenses to fit Sony bodies. These adapters are a bit more involved as they replace the factory bayonet with a new one machined perfectly to fit to the lens and the body alike. The big advantage of these adapters is that they are designed to be used with the focus confirmation chips. These chips are pre-programmed by to report a focal length and max aperture to the camera. They are simply glued into the new bayonet. Once complete my Leica R and Nikkor lenses will be Sony Alpha lenses with digital contacts. I'll then use the regular Sony Alpha to E-Mount adapter to mount them onto my NEX-7 and 5R. The NEX cameras will become my b-cameras for event photography and videography and share the same set of lenses. The final package will be very capable and extremely compact compared to using modern AF lenses with multiple DSLR sized bodies or a DSLR with big lenses and the NEX with it's own set of lenses. In time I will get some native Sony lenses but I'm holding out for now as Sony doesn't make any full frame weather sealed lenses and their pricing model at the moment is a bit steep compared to what I'm used to.
Some of the lenses I use are old Tamron Adaptall II lenses. These were above average lenses quality wise in their day and well constructed. Plus they are very cheap to buy today if you can find them. I'll have to use the Fotodiox adapters mentioned previously for them but there is a possibility that the focus confirmation chips which fit the Leitax mounts will also work on the Fotodiox adapters. If not, the lenses will still work, just without image stabilization...not the end of the world.
I'm still deciding on which lenses to keep as I have more than I need. I'm selecting lenses based on image quality, quality of construction, condition, and nice-to-haves like integral lens hoods and the ability to focus unusually close. I'm still making the final decisions but so far, this is likely what the full kit will look like until I can fill the holes with new lenses.
One other advantage of the Sony a99 over Canon DSLRs is that it has a crop mode which emulates a crop sensor by using only the center portion of the sensor. This provides a crop factor of about 1.4x and 2x (there is also a digital zoom mode which provides gradual simulated zoom up to 8x). Given the focal lengths above, I end up with the following usable focal lengths just with the 1.4 digital teleconverter: 17, 24, 35, 50, 70, 90, 105, 126, 147, 180, 250, 400, 560, 800, and technically speaking up to 3200mm with the full digital zoom...though there might not be enough quality there to make that practical. This is not bad considering I can carry all 7 lenses in a space smaller than just a hand full of modern pro grade fast, zoom, autofocus lenses. An argument can be made for a couple of high quality zooms being more convenient as lenses don't have to be switched as often, or at all, but I prefer the speed and quality of primes for the types of work I do. Considering it would cost over $4000 to buy the two main fast Sony pro zoom lenses, my solution is much more attractive right now. There are a couple of primes I'd like to add to the list but fortunately these are old Nikkor lenses and I can pick all of them up online for less than the cost of any pro grade Sony zoom.
I've only had the camera for a day or so so it's too soon to give you too many first impressions but so far I can tell you that I've made the right choice for the set up I want and the type of work I do. The manual focus with peaking works perfectly and with some custom programming on the buttons I can quickly get up to a 5.6x focus assist zoom on the screen and in the viewfinder using the aperture preview button...something not possible with optical viewfinder dslr cameras. Also, the layout of the screen and viewfinder shows additional information almost exactly the way it does in the NEX cameras so that all 3 have a very similar feel...this is nice as well when switching back and forth. The low light sensitivity, while possibly not as good as some of it's competition, is far superior to any crop sensor camera I've used and that's a good thing. My favorite thing is that with the battery grip, it takes 3 batteries. This is going to be great when working large events or doing a full day of video.
The next post in this series will be a review of the camera once I've had a chance to use it a bit.
I've been shooting Canon for a long time. My first DSLR was a Canon nearly 15 years ago now. That Rebel S became an Elan 7N which became an EOS 3. Years later came digital with a 50D and then a 7D. I got on the digital bandwagon late and when it came time to consider my full frame options, the 5D MKIII was the go-to camera in Canon's line up. I'm one of those crazy people who always felt that 35mm film, scanned properly was more than a match for modern digital cameras...at least the ones I could afford. To a certain degree I still feel the same way. I still shoot 6x7cm medium format film with an old Mamiya RB67. Scanned at 4000dpi, a single 6x7 slide or negative produces a single image with over 100 megapixels. For a camera only worth a few hundred dollars on todays market, the quality is hard to beat for the money.
Earlier this year, when the 5D MKIII came out in fact, I didn't feel all that highly about it and in an act of rebellion, I bought a Sony NEX-7. This small but powerful mirrorless camera has transformed how I look at modern digital photography. For the type of photography I do, the little NEX is easily the equal of my Canon 7D but in a much smaller package. The day I realized that I could adapt all old manual focus lenses to the NEX format was an epiphany. With simple adapters purchased online, nearly any lens ever made was now ready to be used on my NEX.
In just 6 months, I've accumlated nearly 20 manual focus lenses for use on my NEX-7. In fact I don't use any modern E-Mount lenses any more. Some of these old lenses are considered legendary by some and the optical quality in some of these lenses can't be matched by any but the best modern lenses...if at all.
As a professional photographer I've been able to get by with an APS-C sized crop sensor for digital and medium format film the rest of the time but a full frame digital camera was inevitable. When I was looking at the work I could do with my little NEX compared to my Canon cameras and a small selection of L lenses, I realized that I preferred the old lenses. There's more of them, in many cases they are better quality, they're smaller and don't have messy electronics to deal with, and overall those 20 lenses cost less than my 5 select Canon lenses. I wanted a full frame camera but wanted to be able to use those old lenses which had become my favourites. Unfortunately you can't manually focus those lenses on a Canon DSLR very well even if you bought the required adapters as the autofocus system is useless and the focus screen can't help you like it could in the old manual focus days. In the NEX-7, the electronic view finder has focus peaking as in higher end video cameras. This allows me to focus the lenses rapidly and effectively every time. With this system I don't miss autofocus one bit.
There are a few other cameras which have focus peaking but none of them have a full frame sensor...or so I thought. This week I was introduced to the Sony Alpha A99. To make the long story short, this camera is very close to making me jump ship and sell all of my Canon gear...to be continued...
I recently provided some product photography services to a great local business specializing in imported olive oils, balsamic vinegars, and other specialty foods. Evoolution is located in the downtown core on historic 104th Street and while only recently opening their doors, they are already making a big splash...most recently at the Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival.
Some of these photos have been used by Avenue Magazine for their shopping guide both online and in print for their November issue and the upcoming December issue. The tasting bar alone is worth making the trip but also check out their great holiday gift ideas.
Yesterday I was called by Metro News Edmonton for an online article about Google Business Photos. Laurie Callsen wrote a great article about the program and even received some feedback from one of my customers. I'm glad to see she chose MilArm; an example which is less mainstream. It's great to see that people are talking about it. Hopefully this will help get the word out about this fantastic service that can help businesses of any size. Check out my Google Business Photos page for more details.
Part one of my test put two best-in-class macro lenses to use on the street. One from just a few years ago and one from well over 20 years ago.
A macro comparison wouldn't be a comparison without some true macro shots so I set to work setting up a macro studio at home. I don't shoot studio macro shots often so it's a little improvised but it gets the job done. The goal was to get the conditions as identical as possible for both cameras. For this test I used a Manfrotto tripod with a gear head and a sliding video mount plate to make all adjustments. It's crude but it served well enough. An Einstein firing into a 60" umbrella directly over the camera provided all light.
I shot various items with varying levels of detail, texture, and colour so that the images could be compared side by side. I thought images would need to be cropped to account for the difference in focal length but this wasn't the case...at 1:1 magnification they are very close. The NEX-7 is known to have a better dynamic range and colour reproduction than the 7D but I don't think this was a significant factor in the results. There is a slight difference in colour between the images. It's unknown if this is due to the lenses or the cameras. Both cameras were set to identical shutter, aperture, and ISO settings. Slight discrepancies in exposure between the cameras were adjusted in Adobe Lightroom 4 but no other adjustments were made other than fixing the white balance to Daylight in Lightroom. Each subject was shot at various aperture values from wide open through f/16.
I'll start with my conclusion. Keep in mind that these are full frame lenses being used on APS-C sensor cameras. You can view the results below and see for yourself after that...
The Canon lens is excellent and it's hard to imagine a lens being any better...or needing to be. The lens is as sharp as any sane person would need a lens to be. In the corners there is just a hint of softness wide open. It's so subtle I'm not even sure it's not in my head and has to be blown up to 100% to even try to find it. Bokeh is fantastic. Shooting a small object on a white background produced no flare in the lens even when the light was turned up too high.
The Tokina is also excellent and produces fantastic results. At it's sharpest there is no perceivable difference in sharpness between the two lenses. It is also slightly soft in the corners wide open more so than the Canon. Again, you have to look very closely to see it. There is some chromatic fringing wide open but it's slight and is only obvious at 100% magnification. This is gone at f/4 (the next stop on the ring) completely as is any softness in the corners. Bokeh is great though I feel that the Canon is better. The Tokina does flare when shooting into a white over exposed background. Perhaps not the best lens for high key photos but certainly I've seen worse. Considering the age of the lens this isn't surprising. The Canon no doubt has much more sophisticated technology built into it for preventing such things. This lens extends when it focuses which makes macro work a bit more tedious requiring constant adjustment of the camera compared to the Canon. This is quite tedious without hardware dedicated to macro work. The contrast produced by this lens when the lighting is correct is the best I've seen.
NOTE: It has occurred to me that the depth of field is so shallow wide open at 1:1 magnification on these lenses that the slight softness in the corners could have been accentuated by the edges of the subject being slightly further away from the lens. I haven't tested this but during the tests I did perform it was obvious that wide open, the depth of field is incredibly shallow. Care must be taken to make sure everything is perfect. I have no doubt that small discrepancies can impact image quality in these conditions. Something as simple as the sag in the camera due to the weight of the lens can throw things severely out of focus or change the focal plane and make it impossible to get the entire subject at the same focus. I did my best to prevent these things from impacting the testing but it's obvious by looking at my samples my samples that I was off in some places when the lenses were wide open.
The Canon lens produces one of the highest image qualities I've seen in any lens I've used. It's sharp at all apertures, controls flare very well, is built solidly, has weather sealing, and goes to 1:1 with internal focusing. While the Canon costs significantly more than what I paid for the Tokina, it still commands a surprisingly high price despite it's age. Even at top dollar, you'll pay half what the Canon sells for new. From what I've seen comparing the two, it would be hard to go wrong with the Tokina if you had the choice. If you require any of the features offered only in the Canon like weather sealing, it's pretty much your only option.
The below pictures were taken at 1:1 magnification and at various apertures ranging from wide open to f/16. The only edits which were done were slight adjustments to the exposure so that they are all the same and the white balance was set to Daylight in Lightroom.
|Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS||Tokina AT-X 90mm f/2.5|
|Canon f/16||Tokina f/16|
|Canon f/11||Tokina f/11|
|Canon f/8||Tokina f/8|
|Canon f/5.6||Tokina f/5.6|
|Canon f/4||Tokina f/4|
|Canon f/2.8||Tokina f/2.5|
You may have to head to the gallery (http://bit.ly/OeMQLU) and look at these images full size to see any major differences...that's how good and how closely matched they are. Here's a quick sample for the pixel peepers out there.
|Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS||Tokina AT-X 90mm f/2.5|
|f/4 Near Top Right Corner||f/4 Near Top Right Corner|
By f/4 you can see that both lenses are performing at an outstanding level of sharpness with no softness or other flaws in the image. I like to think that the Tokina outperforms the Canon when considering micro-contrast but at this level it's a non-issue...they're both amazing lenses.
|Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS||Tokina AT-X 90mm f/2.5|
All images were over exposed slightly to accentuate the flare. Even on black the Tokina is flaring a little while the Canon is rock solid in both images. This isn't a deal breaker for the Tokina but I'll have to be more careful when using it to make sure I don't get too much light coming into the lens.
To see the full size images, please jump over to the gallery: http://bit.ly/OeMQLU