Dave Tameling: Blog https://davetameling.com/blog en-us Copyright by Dave Tameling - dave@davetameling.com dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:43:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:43:00 GMT https://davetameling.com/img/s/v-12/u612179564-o367809846-50.jpg Dave Tameling: Blog https://davetameling.com/blog 86 120 Sony Multi Interface Shoe Microphones https://davetameling.com/blog/2015/1/sony-multi-interface-shoe-microphones When I bought my Sony a99, it was one of the first cameras in the Sony line up to have the new Multi-interface hot shoe that promised a new generation of accessories which interfaced with the camera directly through the shoe. As soon as it was available I picked up the XLR audio unit, despite it's high price tag, to go with it which brought to the table one of the features lacking in most DSLR video style productions: In camera XLR audio recording with fully manual tactile controls.

Sony a7sSony a7s geared upSony a7s with XLR module, shotgun microphone and wireless receiver.

The XLR unit has stayed with me for several cameras and is now best friends with my a7s. Because the XLR box requires it's own mounting, it can't mount directly to the camera (Sony has since resolved this with a new model that mounts directly to the shoe). This is no good for bare bones guerilla filming where you don't want any extra bits and pieces to get in the way. Unfortunately I'd become very much accustomed to the XLR module as it had almost entirely eliminated the need to use an separate audio recorder most of the time. I wanted something small, easy to pack every day, that I could use for impromptu video sessions.

Last year I saw the Sony ECM-XYST1M stereo microphone demonstrated at a trade show and I was blown away. A small stereo microphone with integrated shock mount, 90 and 120 degree microphone positions, low pass filter, a line out for use without the interface shoe AND a fluffy windscreen? Sold! I pre-ordered one on the spot!

This microphone has been my mainstay for subtle low key work and B-cameras. It was a perfect match for my NEX-7 and is even more so on my a6000. I now own two of these microphones for when I'm using my a7r and a6000 and secondary cameras for my a7s. It's very solidly built and sounds very good for what I need it to do.

The only one downside is that you can't manually control audio levels while interfacing through the shoe. This is true on every camera I've tried these microphones on. The work around for cameras with an external mic jack is to just plug it in. I've since learned that this is a standard shortcoming of the multi-interface shoe for audio. No microphone interfaced via the shoe will have anything more than auto-gain as dictated by the camera. This is a step backwards in my opinion but there are always cons to go along with the pros.

My current go to wireless microphone is also a Sony, the UWP-V6 kit. It's a great kit that's never let me down but it's not exactly what you want to carry around every day. The V6 kit is the same as the V1 kit but includes an XLR transmitter for use with a stick mic and that means even more to carry. Add in the XLR cables, windscreens, microphones, and other goodies to complete the kit, I found myself hunting for something more compact which I could carry around all the time and use for impromptu interviews and guerilla video shots. The UWP-V series has been recently replaced by the UWP-D series which are fully digital, have bigger screens, a better interface, an available adapter which lets you connect the receiver directly to a Multi Interface Shoe...and a higher price tag unfortunately.

What I ended up trying and recently buying was the Sony ECM-W1M. A bluetooth based wireless system. The receiver plugs into the multi-interface shoe and is very compact. A switch on the side lets you record from the transmitter, both the transmitter and receiver at the same time, or in 5.1 surround with certain Handycams which support it. The transmitter is tiny. Not much larger than a AA battery and runs from a single AAA battery. It has an integrated microphone and a clip to attach it to clothing. The kit also comes with some accessories for mounting and a couple of ear buds. The earbuds allow two way communication between the camera operater and the person with the microphone. It's a neat feature but I can't see it coming in handy that often. The transmitter also has a microphone port with plug-in power. The transmitter seems to pair well with my Rode Lavalier mic. Both fit neatly into my everyday camera bag. 

To quickly test these microphones I performed a quick test, trying to compare everything fairly and with as little bias as possible. I recorded some video using several combinations of equipment, extracted the audio and posted it below so that they can be easily compared. The first test combinations are as follows:

  • Sony a7s + XLR-A1M audio module + UWP-V6 kit Lavalier transmitter and receiver

  • Sony a6000 + ECM-XYST1M stereo microphone

  • Sony a7r + ECM-W1M transmitter and receiver + Rode Lavalier microphone

  • Zoom H1 stereo microphone.


I also wanted to compare the wireless range of both the ECM-W1M and the UWP-V1 but then came to my senses. The Bluetooth module is rated for 300 feet and I'm sure that this is an optimistic estimate in ideal conditions. The UWP pack is battle tested and with the high power setting on the transmitter and the dual antenna diversity receiver, it can easily handle a distance several times as far and through several walls if needed. 


  • There is no substitute for a professional wireless microphone. They just work, sound great, and the peace of mind you get is worth the higher price tag.
  • The ECM-XYST1M is a trooper. Solidly built, sounds fantastic, affordably priced, and is super small. The only down side is the lack of manual audio gain when interfacing with the camera via the shoe. I'm glad I bought a second one. It's taken over as a b-cam mic over my Rode Videomic.
  • The ECM-W1M hasn't impressed so far. The size is great, and the design is pretty good aside from the receiver not having a twist lock like the stereo microphone does. Unfortunately I just don't care for the way it sounds. I need to investigate further and try to figure it out. The waveform from the W1M once I pulled it out of the video in Adobe Audition was very strange. The other microphones produced wave forms which were all very similar with only small variations in amplitude due to the auto gain factor. The waveform for the W1M however was huge. Almost every peak slammed right to -3dB. If there is a settings fix to adjust this behavior, then I think it has potential. I'm going to try it on the other cameras and see if the results are all the same. I'll post a future update if I can get it to sound good.
  • As for the Zoom H1, what can you say about this oldie but goodie? It feels flimsy, has a terrible way to adjust the settings, but it almost never fails to get the job done. It's certainly showing it's age and this is the first time I've used it since buying my first XYST1M microphone. I should note that the audio gain in-camera was very adaptive and smart while the auto gain in the H1 was very stupid. I cleared my throat once and the recording was very quiet for the rest of the entire recording...I had to do the whole thing over once because of that. All three cameras were recording during that peak and they all handled is amazingly well.
dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) Blog ECM ECM-W1M ECM-XYST1M H1 Microphone Sony Test UWP UWP-V6 Wireless Zoom a6000 a7r a7s https://davetameling.com/blog/2015/1/sony-multi-interface-shoe-microphones Thu, 15 Jan 2015 06:04:02 GMT
High Speed Video Test between 3 Sony Cameras https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/11/high-speed-video When I made the switch to Sony, one of the features that appealed to me at the time was the ability to shoot true 60p video in 1080p. Several years later and video frame rates are a hot topic with modern cameras right up there with 4k.

Currently cameras like the 5K MKIII still can't shoot 60p at 1080p resolution while others such as the GH4, a7s, and others can shoot HD upwards of 120 frames per second.

I've recently had the opportunity to use a Sony a7s along side an FS700 to do some high speed tests comparing 60, 120, and 240 frames per second; the maximum the FS700 can record at 1080.


The FS700 was a rental that I had for the weekend. This is the first time I'd used one for a professional gig having only played with them before in-store. The FS700 is an amazing camera and produces amazing imagery but it's built in an awkward package with awkward controls and menus. It would take me a long time to get comfortable with the form factor if I actually owned one. The basics are simple enough and the powerful features help you to see past those shortcomings. It can record video at frame rates up to 960 frames per second but the resolution and quality suffer greatly. 240fps is the highest usable limit.

The a7s is a camera I've recently purchased as it's a camera that's great both for video and for low light event photography. It can record video up to 120 frames per second though at a reduced resolution of 720p. Combined with the best ISO performance of any camera available today, picture profiles which include SLog2, and 4k video via an external recorder make the a7s one of the most interesting cameras on the market today. I prefer this camera because it's so much like my a7r...identical save for a few tiny features and the extra video settings in the menus. The learning curve was nowhere near that of the FS700 which I'm still trying to figure out. It should also be noted that when in 120p mode, the sensor crops to a Super 35 size creating a crop factor. This can be combatted with a Speed Booster if you've got one. This cropping introduces some aliasing and moire to the image but the overall quality is quite impressive even upscaled to 1080p.

I have experience overcranking 60p footage and have always felt that it wasn't quite enough. It can be very useful for subtle effects but has little to no effect on very rapid movement. I wanted to see how exactly the differences between 60, 120 (at 720p), and 240 frame rates compared to each other recording the same movement.

The below video shows some video of a toy quadcopter taking off at 4 different frame rates. I went with this demonstration because it has a combination of slow smooth motion and high speed rapid rotation of the rotors.

Sony Multicam Slow Motion TestSlow motion test between 3 Sony cameras. FS700, 240fps a7s, 120fps NEX7, 60 fps

The most apparent difference that became apparent to me in these tests is that there is such a thing as too much. I made this video but watching the 240fps clip bores me to no end! In this case the 60p clip looks smooth but not neccessarily 'slow' like the 120p and 240p clips do. I shot as many different things as I could and found that for some applications, 240 isn't enough...like a popcorn kernel popping...it's just too fast. For normal human motion like people dancing, I tended to think the 120p frame rate was better than 240p. Faster motion like my dogs shaking, lapping water, or barking, 240p was the best. The FS700 can carefully control it's frame rate and shoot below 24 frames per second down to 1 frame per second. This is useful for making in-camera timelapse videos.

One of the differences of the FS700 is that it's Super Slow Motion mode has a convenient 7 second buffer that can be set to trigger at the end of the press of the record button. That is to say that when you press record, the previous 7 seconds are saved to memory. This prevents overly long clips and waste of memory space...though it also prevents longer recordings should they be desired. The ability to play back the clips slowed down is a huge help especially if you want to show client the work as you're recording it. None of the other Sony cameras I've used have this feature.

Another thing which became very apparent to me was the need for light. I recorded people dancing at a party Halloween night and in front of a white seamless with 2000 Watts of Tungsten light, I still had to run at 2000 ISO with the kit lens wide open at F/3.5 to get a proper exposure. To shoot high speed indoors with my choice of F-stops, would require a LOT of light. The a7s combats this need with it's amazing ISO performance and I'm looking forward to shooting slow motion video in dimly lit conditions where no other camera can.

It's apparent to me after using both that the a7s was the right camera to buy (I can't always still rent the FS700). 120 frames per second is plenty for most applications even if it is only 720p and the low light performance is more useful than I ever thought it could be.

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) 120fps 120p 240fps 240p 60fps 60p FS700 High Speed NEX7 Overcrank Slow Motion Test Video a7s https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/11/high-speed-video Mon, 03 Nov 2014 16:30:00 GMT
Sony Multi Terminal Shutter Release Work Around https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/9/sony-multi-terminal-shutter-release-work-around

When I left Canon and switched to all Sony cameras, I had to deal with the reality that my shutter release cables weren't going to work and that I'd have to buy new ones. Little did I know that Sony was going to ditch the old Minolta style release and go with an all new multi-terminal on all of their newest cameras. All of the current Alpha cameras now use this port instead. The good news is that many more cameras (like the lower end mirrorless) now support cable shutter release 

where previously they didn't but it meant I had to buy all new cables again!

Not wanting to go with the flow, and due to a lack of availability locally, I went a different way and ordered an adapter which converts the Canon 2.5mm cable release as found on older 

Rebel cameras to the new sony Multi terminal interface. It cost me dearly but not as much as a new shutter release cable as I still had the cable I bought to use with my Powershot G12. It worked well in most situations but not all. For me, the adapter didn't work with my Gigapan Epic Pro.

This was a huge blow as I'd been looking forward to putting a smaller camera with bigger megapixels on my Gigapan...the combination seemed more than ideal! Unfortunately the shutter release just didn't want to work. Contacting Gigapan, they had already encountered the issue themselves but didn't have a solution yet. Their engineers don't miss much but I couldn't wait for them to find a fix...I had to get mine going as I had clients depending on me to product G

igapixel panoramas for them. 

I tried different combinations of cables, adapters but even today there are only a couple of third party cables out for this new port. Nothing worked...until I started to think outside the box...

One of the first things I did with the adapter when I received it was use it with my Pocket Wizards to create a wireless shutter release for the camera combined with Pocket Wizard's E3 Canon shutter cable and the adapter. I thought that if I could get the Gigapan Epic Pro to trigger a Pocket Wizard, then it should take care of the rest and my problem will be solved.

To make this happen, all I needed was a simple adapter from my local electronics store as the input on the Pocket Wizard is a 3.5mm stereo phone jack and the Canon shutter release is a 2.5mm. With the adapter in place, everything worked perfectly.

The receiving unit was placed in the cameras hot show where it would be secure and out of the way. I wanted to make sure the transmitter was also secure so I looped the lanyard around one of the uprights on the Epic Pro and added a piece of velcro to the side of the unit (my pocket wizards are always equipped with velcro for attaching them to my small flashes). My first test was at a football game where I shot over 1000 exposures without a single complaint from either Pocket Wizard and no misfires. I've tested with both the Pocket Wizard Plus III and X. The former works fine though I've had trouble with channels under 20 and the X units don't seem to work at all. It could be that their auto switching ability is confused by this set up and they don't know if they're supposed to send or receive.

I believe this solution could also work in reverse as a way to enable the shutter confirmation on the Epic Pro without the requisite hardware by using the Pocket Wizards in the opposite direction from the camera to the Epic Pro.

I have no doubt that Gigapan will resolve the issue eventually either with a firmware update, their own shutter release cable, or both. For now this solution has proven to be reliable and with the Pocket Wizard X units available at a much lower price than we've ever seen before, it's not an impossibly expensive solution if you need a work around right now.

I've just received shipment of a new Sony cable from TriggerTrap, one of the first 3rd party cables to be produced and I'm trying to put it in place of the adapter I originally bought as it was obviously hand made by cutting apart a Sony factory shutter cable...no double why the cost was so high.

This set up hasn't let me down yet through several very large Gigapan projects; most recently a 360 degree shot at a football game:

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) Cable Gigapan Pocket Shutter Sony Wizard Workaround a7r adapter blog https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/9/sony-multi-terminal-shutter-release-work-around Thu, 11 Sep 2014 00:06:14 GMT
Time Flies! https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/5/time-flies What happened to spring!? I just realized today that I haven't posted anything on my blog since March. Thanks to everybody who's reading these and now that summer is here I'll be doing my best to keep a steady flow going. I have a few articles on the go right now which will be done soon but just to let you know what's going on with my blog, I wanted to give you a few teases in the hopes that you come back soon!

Next up is an article comparing mirrorless cameras to high end camcorders. The more I shoot video with mirrorless cameras, the more I see the death of small chip camcorders...we'll see.

Why buy a camcorder?Coming soon to the blog. Why buy a camcorder when all this fits in the palm of your hand just as easily?

After that I'll be blogging about my tests using a ColorChecker Passport to grade video. I've worked out a slick workflow with Adobe Speedgrade which lets me correct any video, shot in any camera setting (IE: Flat) and bring it to a 'normal' state. I've just finished testing it with an actual video job I had and I'll be writing it up soon. It should be of interest to photographers like myself who have a hard time thinking in terms of video!

I've also just figured out how to get my a7r mated to my Gigapan Epic Pro. There were some technical difficulties but the 36MP monster is finally ready for proper trials. It's been raining a lot here lately but as soon as it gets nice again, I'll be doing some testing with this as well and will post my results in a blog post.


Thanks for your patience everybody! 


dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) blog coming soon update https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/5/time-flies Fri, 30 May 2014 18:00:20 GMT
Sony Alpha 7r comparison in low light https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/3/sony-alpha-7r-comparison-in-low-light 11 I've had the chance now to use Sony's 36 megapixel powerhouse for a few weeks now for a wide range of work from settings in studio to both indoor and outdoor events. I'm still convinced that it's the best camera available right now for me but it's not perfect. It's certainly a unique camera and it's hard to put into words how it compares to my experience using Sony's other cameras. I decided to do some tests between the cameras paired with my own observations to put some perspective into where this camera sits amongst it's peers.

For special event use, I'm done with big cameras. The cameras, batteries, accessories, and lenses are all smaller on mirrorless cameras and it makes a huge difference. I can carry a lot more for the same weight or go minimalist and carry next to no weight and still have the essentials covered. Even with the battery grip and a zoom lens, the 7r fits nicely in a shoulder bag with room to spare. Add to that jockeying for position with press photographers and a half a dozen TV cameras on tripods and I have the advantage. The only down side to the 7r for events is when the light is autofocus speed.

To demonstrate the low light performance of these 3 options, I set up a controlled test in my living room at night using a focus calibration target for AF speed and ISO performance. All three cameras were tested with the same lens where possible and with the Metabones Speedbooster on the NEX-7. A light meter was used to calibrate the amount of light to a specific level.

Autofocus Performance

To test autofocus, I set up a a Spyder Lenscal focus calibration target and an LED video light. I turned the light down until my Sekonic meter couldn't register the light anymore and returned an error. The last reading I received before the errors was 0.5 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 6400. I used an f/2.8 lens on all cameras and shot at the target to see what would happen. For the a99 it was a 28-70 Tokina zoom and for the E mount cameras, I used the 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens. I also tested the 7r with the 24-70 f/4 zoom. I was worried the pancake lens, notoriously soft wide open, would hinder the autofocus n the E-mount cameras but it was the only f/2.8 lens I could use to compare with the a99. The results from this test were as follows:

a99: Hit focus for an average of 1 in 10
NEX-5R: Hit focus for an average of 9 in 10
NEX-7: Hit focus for an average of 10 in 10
a7r (f2.8): Hit focus for an average of 10 in 10
a7r (f4): Hit focus for an average of 8 in 10

The a99 was hopeless in this level of light and would only hunt and rack back and forth until giving up. I was very surprised by this! I found the 5r to hunt a little but found focus almost every time. The NEX-7 and 7r were surprisingly fast and hit focus every time, fairly quickly, and without a lot of hunting. Even with an f/4 maximum aperture the 7r performed surprisingly well with what I considered to be an acceptable hit rate. I switched the 7r to the 55mm f/1.8 Zeiss and kept turning down the light. The focus kept hitting 100% of the time even after the light was turned down to it's minimum and turned to be facing away from the target about 12 feet away. Only when I turned the light off and the target was illuminated with only a tv across the room was the autofocus unable to lock on at all. Despite the light being so dim, I was still able to focus manually using the super bright electronic viewfinder. Something that would never be possible with an optical viewfinder. This test is completely unscientific and had the benefit of a high contrast target. With a real world targets, the results might have been different. I was hoping that my light meter would allow me to measure the light right down to the lowest levels but that wasn't the case. Below are two photos. One taken with the f/2.8 lens with the video light and one taken at f/1.8 in near blackness to give you an indication of how dim it was. They're dark because I was hand-holding the camera and needed some shutter speed plus I wanted to show how it looked to my eyes. Through the viewfinder, the target was bright as day albeit noisy and distorted somewhat.

7r - 16mm f/2.8 Pancake - 1/25 - f/2.8 - ISO64007r - 16mm f/2.8 Pancake - 1/25 - f/2.8 - ISO6400At this level of light (0.5 sec, f/2.8, ISO6400 as per Sekonic meter), the 7r was able to hit focus 100% of the time while the a99 was barely able to hit 1 in 10. 7r - 55mm f/1.8 - 1/50 - f/1.8 - ISO64007r - 55mm f/1.8 - 1/50 - f/1.8 - ISO6400This level of light was from a TV across the room. The exposure settings were within 1/3 of a stop of the previous test (one stop faster shutter and at f/1.8 instead of f/2.8) and still at ISO6400. Autofocus wouldn't lock on but manual focus was still possible.

Up until now I always assumed that phase detect autofocus was king but I was dead wrong. While it can be faster than contrast detect in most conditions, it's not always better. This was one of the reasons I was considering keeping the a99 but now there is no advantage in my mind. Especially since I was having focus accuracy issues with my a99...I've seen no such problems with my other cameras.


ISO Performance

Next I wanted to test ISO noise between these cameras. I didn't want to get carried away and shoot dozens of photos at different settings. All I wanted to accomplish was to show the level of noise at high (but not crazy high) ISO levels and throw the Metabones Speedbooster into the mix. The following photos were shot at ISO6400 on the a99 and the 7r and ISO3200 on the NEX-7. I used one of the best lenses I have which will fit on all three cameras, a modified Leica R 50mm Summilux f/1.4. This lens has had it's bayonet replaced to a minolta/sony bayonet. All three cameras metered the calibration target the same at 1/3 of a second at f/5.6. 

7r - 50mm - ISO6400As you can see ISO6400 looks very good on the 7r.

7r - 50mm - ISO64007r - 50mm - ISO6400 - cropped a99 - 50mm - ISO6400a99 - 50mm - ISO6400 - Cropped NEX7 - 50mm - ISO3200 with SpeedboosterNEX7 - 50mm - ISO3200 with Speedbooster - cropped

You can judge for yourself from the extreme crops of the bubble level on the base of the calibrator. I feel that the 7r looks very good at ISO6400. More importantly, the NEX-7 looks a tiny bit better to me at ISO3200 and with the Speedbooster than the a99 does at ISO6400. I always suspected this to be the case and they're certainly close but the NEX-7 is a very good APS-C camera and I knew that with the speed booster it could come close to full frame performance. The newer Sony mirrorless APS-C cameras like the a6000 have better ISO performance than the NEX-7 and very good autofocus in a package that's going to be less than $700 and will still fit in a coat pocket. I can't see any reason to keep the a99 on this front either when the performance combination of the NEX-7 and Speedbooster are just as good. I'm afraid this test is the nail in the coffin for my beloved a99. It's been a great camera and I've had no regrets owning it opposed to a Canon 5D mkII or mkIII but Sony is innovating in a way nobody can keep up with right now so I have to say goodbye.



There are many things to consider when comparing cameras for real world use and tests like this rarely tell the whole story. What these tests do provide however is an opportunity to dig deep into the finer details. This has allowed me to notice the little things that really make the difference in the end. I could write a whole post about it but some of these things include the ergonomics of the cameras, their weight, how I don't really miss not having a top LCD and buttons for ISO, drive, white balance, etc. in the 7r. The fact that the battery door on the 7r battery grip is flimsy but the ergonomics are clean and simple and much better than the complex set up on the a99. I'll likely miss the fully articulated screen of the a99 but it always felt flimsy to me as well...the screen on the E mount cameras all feel very solid.

I've read my fair share of reviews on these cameras as I always do before I buy but the only thing I've learned is that everybody is looking for something different. To some the shutter noise in the 7r is a problem for street photography and for others the flash sync speed is an issue for flash photography. Some don't like the 'plasticy' feel of the a99 and some don't like the tri-navi controls on the NEX-7...which I love BTW and am sad to see go away. All I can tell you is that this is the second time a Sony camera has caused me to stop, think, and immediately send my best, favourite, camera to KEH. I hope it doesn't become a habit but at the rate Sony is going, it won't be long before they've changed the game again.

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) 7r Autofocus ISO Light Low NEX-7 Sony Test a7r a99 blog https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/3/sony-alpha-7r-comparison-in-low-light Mon, 24 Mar 2014 16:18:53 GMT
Sony Alpha ILCE-7r First Impressions https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/3/sony-alpha-ilce-7r-first-impressions Sony ILCE-7R with 24-70 F/4 Zeiss lens

When the Canon 5D MkIII came out, I was a happy Canon shooter. I was looking to upgrade to full frame and wanted to get onto the MkIII band wagon. The price was much higher than I expected and far outside my price range at the time. I was beginning to shoot video and was unhappy with Canon's choice to put crazy high value on cameras with strong video capabilities. The C series, the 1D-C, and even the MkIII...I wasn't Canon's biggest fan.

In a fit of defiance, I bought a Sony NEX-7 instead of a 5D MKII. Spec wise it was every bit as good as my Canon EOS 7D. I immediately fell head over heels in love and before I knew it I was selling all of my canon gear and owned an SLT-a99 and a NEX-5r as well. The small size, large sensors, and the ability to adapt to all of my vintage lenses had me hooked.

I knew that one day Sony would put a full frame sensor into a small mirrorless camera but I didn't expect it to be a 36MP sensor with the new 7r. I've waited a bit just in case there were bugs with these new cameras and despite a few groans from the peanut gallery about light leaks and other non-issues they seem to be fantastic cameras. DXOMark has rated the 7r sensor as one of the best they've tested.

Last week I picked up a 7r and in just a few photo shoots it's living up to all of my expectations. I'm still in the process of evaluating it but there's a very good chance it will replace my a99 as my primary camera. I'll be comparing the 7r to my a99 and my NEX-7 and a Metabones Speedbooster.

Having only used it for a few days, I can give my first impressions about the camera...

The size is perfect. Very reminiscent of old 70's SLR cameras like my Minolta film cameras. For medium sized hands it's perfect. If you have big mitts it might not fit well but there is a battery grip available which might help solve that issue. The camera is small enough that I'd be happy using it for street photography and big enough that I can use it for professional work without getting any doubts from my customers expecting the 'big black camera'.

The sensor is fantastic. The resolution, while too much for many people, suits my commercial photography work perfectly. If you pay attention to the DXOMark data, the ISO performance is very close to the more expensive Nikon D800, D4, and Canon 1DX...far better than the a99, which I was happy with....and all much more expensive cameras. I've taken a few shots at ISO 6400 and forgot to apply noise reduction to in post production because the noise wasn't bad enough. Dynamic range is fantastic, especially at ISO 50. This camera also lets you use multi-frame noise reduction which takes 4 sequential photos and merges them to reduce noise. It softens the image but it's very effective. In good light, the level of detail is unlike anything I've seen outside of medium format film scans.

The menus system is much more intuitive than in previous NEX cameras...a welcome feature. It's all new so requires some getting used to but it's much easier to find what I need so learning it won't take long. Hopefully Sony will figure it out and put the same menu in all their cameras soon.

The autofocus isn't amazing. As good as any other contrast detection only NEX camera. Quick enough in daylight and hopeless in the dark. For most of my work I'm focusing manually using the focus peaking or focus assist zoom anyhow and I don't shoot anything like sports where lightning fast AF is required. Thanks to the digital viewfinder, pair this camera with a fast lens and you can focus manually in ambient light far too dark to see well with the naked eye...try that with your Canon DSLR! This is another reason I'm shying away from the a99. I don't use it much now with autofocus and using it exclusively with manual focus lenses makes the translucent mirror technology useless.

At 4-ish fps, it's very slow but still in the ballpark of the 5D MKIII. The type of photography I do doesn't need a high speed frame rate and on the rare occasion that I do, both my NEX-7 and 5r cameras can do 10fps so I have alternatives which are faster than anything reasonably priced which Canon was offering at the time I decided to switch brands.

Video recording doesn't appear to have any major issues. My NEX-7 cuts out due to heat fairly easily but the a7r can record for hours at room temperature without issues. With the addition of exposure zebras and what seems to be very good video autofocus control, it's an excellent video camera. The only thing missing is the higher bit rate codec but I'm still on the fence as to how important that is. Being able to shoot 60fps at a full 1080p is a much more useful feature to me.

High ISO video recording is also possible. All of my other cameras have a ceiling of ISO 3200 when it comes to shooting video. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the a7r will let you record all the way up to 25,600. I'm sure this looks terrible but it's nice to have the option.

The silent control dial is something I'll miss. My favourite feature of the a99 is the programmable silent control dial on the front which lets you control settings in real time during video recording without causing any noise. This is absent on the a7r. The a7 cameras have the advanced interview ISO hot shoe just like the a99 which means it works with the XLR adapter. I mainly used the silent control dial for audio gain anyhow but the XLR unit has analog dials which supersede the dial. With the XLR adapter I used it to control ISO on the fly silently. The A7r is no worse than most other DSLR style cameras which shoot video so it's not really a minus in the grand scheme.

Speaking of the XLR unit; it's a must have for video because you need to go into the menu to control audio gain in camera on the a7r much like the Canon 7D. Very annoying. When not using the XLR adapter, I'm shooting using dual system audio and have the in-camera set to auto-gain anyhow so it's still better than my previous workflow where dual system audio was the only choice I had. Given the small size of the 7r body, it's much easier to mount than on a full sized camera. Handling the 7R with the XLR adapter on a bracket feels very natural where as on my a99 it feels bulky and awkward.

I bought mine with the 24-70 f/4 Zeiss lens...a great little lens for the money. This lens is about the perfect size for this camera as a stabilized zoom. Any bigger and it might get awkward. The stabilization works well and lets this lens operate in lower light just fine. It's easy to get hooked up on f/2.8 but for live events, parties, and street photography I've come to prefer stabilization as the depth of field becomes too shallow at f/2.8. I'll be curious to see what it's like with the new 70-200 f/4 FE lens. With the 24-70mm lens, it fits perfectly in my Thinktank Urban Disguise shoulder bag with lots of room left for a flash and a fast prime lens without getting crowded or overly heavy...one of my beefs with spacious shoulder bags. By contrast, my NEX-7 is swimming in this bag and the space is wasted. It's possible to put all three mirrorless cameras with lenses in this bag and still have room for an extra lens or a flash in a configuration which makes them all easy to scoop out as needed. Much more convenient than a backpack...My Thinktank streetwalker pro might have become cavernous and obsolete.

I'm on the fence right now as to the fate of my a99. I have a strong feeling that I'll be selling it along with all of my a-mount autofocus lenses. if I need rocket fast autofocus (which the a99 doesn't really have anyhow), I'll swap it out for the soon to be available a6000...currently claimed to have the fastest autofocus period...or a future full frame E mount camera which I'm sure will have better autofocus. I'll be conducting a bit of a test before I make that decision and will post the results here. I'll be throwing my NEX-7 and 5R (with a Metabones Speedbooster) into the mix so I can really tell which cameras are worth keeping around. One thing is for sure, I'm hooked on what Sony is cooking lately...

My happy little Sony familyForgive the quality of the photo...with all my cameras in the picture, this one had to be taken with my cell phone


dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) 7r First Impression First Look ILCE-7R Sony a7r blog https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/3/sony-alpha-ilce-7r-first-impressions Thu, 20 Mar 2014 19:14:51 GMT
Sony Playmemories Timelapse Camera App 2.0 https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/2/sony-playmemories-timelapse-camera-app-2-0 One of my more recent camera purchases was a Sony NEX-5R. I like the combination of small camera with large sensor. One of the features of this camera is built in wifi and the ability to download/buy apps via the Sony PlayMemories system. Some of these apps are amazing and some still need a bit of work. One app which I was happy to see added was a timelapse app. I've used the timelapse app quite a lot as it's far more convenient than connecting my other cameras to an intervalometer type device. I've even had the opportunity to shoot for Sony Canada using the camera when I helped them document a release event for the RX1 last year. Several Sony NEX and Alpha cameras now feature app support including the latest greatest A7 and A7R models.

I'm a huge fan of timelapse video and it's a mainstay for much of my video production projects so this was an exciting addition for me. Version 1.0 of the app featured some presets for popular scenes and the ability to customize all of the settings manually. The camera can either bake the final video in camera at 24p or 30p...or shoot a series of stills for external processing...including RAW files with full manual settings! The app even tells you how long your video will be as you set the number of photos and the interval. Unfortunately the number of shots is capped to 990 but this is still plenty for many lapses.

Having the camera create the video in camera sounds great and it can be handy for quick turn around time or fun little videos. In practice it leaves zero room for error compared to shooting individual images...especially RAW images. For example the sunrise preset allows you to change many settings but locks white balance at 5500k. On a cloudy day, especially in the winter, the final video looks pretty blue. Exposure can be off as well. Shooting RAW images can help correct both of these issues. You can't stop and restart the camera when it makes the video in camera and if the battery dies prematurely, you lose the final video.

Version 2.0 just came out and Sony added what they call exposure tracking in the sunrise and sunset preset modes plus the custom mode to smoothly adjust the exposure through the timelapse recording. Getting this exposure correct is the holy grail of a good sunrise or sunset timelapse so I was very curious to know if it would work. Normally you have to babysit the camera and make exposure adjustments as the day gets brighter or darker and then blend everything together in post. Software like LRTimelapse can handle this quite easily but having it taken care of in the camera could save a significant amount of time by allowing me to let the camera run without me AND by requiring less work afterwards to process the images. This is especially the case if you can't babysit the camera to check and adjust the exposure manually.

Here's a quick video showing the interface and menu options. As you can see there is a surprising number of settings you can adjust from the menu.

Playmemories Timelapse App 2.0 Menu

I wanted to test this out to see if it actually works as advertised. I know from playing with hacked cameras in the past that it's entirely possible to have a camera average out it's exposure to eliminate the variation of exposure from frame to frame which results in a flickering effect in the final video. Normally I shoot RAW and then use software to adjust the brightness of each frame up or down accordingly to create a flicker free smooth transition through the video.

With Aperture priority mode, the meter in the camera adjusts the shutter speed as light increases or decreases. The tracking program in the timelapse app prevents the shutter speed from changing wildly from shot to shot. Most of my tests showed the shutter speed change in a very regular and even way. None of the test videos I shot required deflickering as part of the editing process. The only issue is that the exposure is based on meter readings so it's not perfect. Strong backlight (like from a setting sun) can under expose the foreground significantly. Shooting RAW stills instead of the video mode allows this to be corrected during the edit.

As always, I used the view of the front street from my living room as a test. 990 frames and 1 minute intervals (the max), the camera will run for 16.5 hours. This requires the AC power adapter. And with temperatures running around 20 below, I didn't want to do it outside either. The two videos below show just how effective the exposure tracking is. Shot with the NEX-5R and the Sony 16mm pancake lens at f/9 and a daylight white balance. The first is the straight out of camera images converted to video. The exposure is pretty good but the white balance doesn't leave for a flattering video. The second was processed with Lightroom 5 and LRTimelapse allowing for a slightly different crop, full retouching of the images, and a smooth transition in white balance between night and day scenes. The result is significantly different. Both videos have been sped up 2x so that the 16.5 hours runs in 16.5 seconds.

Playmemories Timelapse App 2.0 Test Unedited

Playmemories Timelapse App 2.0 Test Edited These videos also demonstrate some of the finer details of shooting a timelapse. It's very important you know everything about the scene you're shooting. When I set up the camera at 4am I carefully cleaned the glass and shielded it from glare with a lens hood. What I didn't realize and what I didn't notice until I saw the final images is that the outside of the window was also dirty. This is obvious when the direct sunlight is coming in later in the video. There are also reflections from some light in my living room later in the video that I didn't anticipate. If this were a video of a one off event, I would have seriouly compromised the quality of the final product by not considering these things before hand.

On another note, one of the common criticisms I hear of the Sony cameras is battery life. With an EVF, constant liveview, and a smaller than average battery, it's assumed battery life is poor. In the majority of my tests, getting 720 or more shots and over 2 hours of continuous shooting was no problem. Even in cold temperatures, getting over 400 shots was no problem. For lapses with very long intervals and a high shutter count upwards of the 990 limit, I use the AC adapter.

This is a great addition to an app that I already welcomed with open arms. The 5R is very small and easy to mount in strange places making it a perfect camera for shooting timelapse video with the camera placed remotely or where it's inaccessible. I'll certainly be putting this to good use in the future.

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) 2.0 app nex playmemories review sony test timelapse https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/2/sony-playmemories-timelapse-camera-app-2-0 Fri, 07 Feb 2014 16:47:28 GMT
Lens Review - Tamron 200-500 f5.6 SP https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/1/lens-review-tamron-200-500 If you've been keeping up with my blog, my Facebook page or my Twitter feed, you know I'm a fan of old lenses and Tamron Adaptall lenses in particular. There weren't many great lenses made with Adaptall mounts but I have most of the lenses worth owning. One which I'd always wanted to try was the 200-500mm f/5.6 SP. This was the pro equivalent of their 200-500 variable aperture consumer lens and came in two versions before they stopped making them in 1992 after nearly a decade of production.

First Impressions

I found mine in mint condition at a local pawn shop for $300 including the stitched leather lens cap to cover the massive 95mm filter threads. While many of these lenses weren't worth much when they were new, this lens was worth thousands...enough that on a 1983 B&H Photo price list I dug up on the internet, it's the only lens that said "CALL" in the price column. There really was no lens like it when it was new and even today there aren't any modern equivalents even from the deep lens catalogs of Canon or Nikon.

My copy came with the lens cap and an internal Skylight filter but not the fancy case it would have come in when it was new. Despite that it's in fantastic shape and looks like it's rarely been used. I knew it was a good deal but when I got it home and had a chance to check the numbers, I learned that this was the second generation version of this lens which was an improvement over the original design which wasn't an 'SP' lens and only had a constant aperture of f6.9...bonus!

The lens itself is a beast and like all well built classic lenses it's all metal and glass. The zoom is completely internal and the focus spins and extends the whole front of the lens. It has huge 95mm filter ring surrounded by an integrated hood. With the hood and focus fully extended it's VERY long. One note about the filter size. I don't intend to use this with any kind of filter on the front. This lens has an internal filter which can be removed on a tray out the side of the lens. It's much easier to carry and buy 43mm filters than 95mm filters. The front element is recessed enough that I'm not all that worried about the need to protect the lens. It's going to be on a monopod or tripod nearly every time I use it so it should be fine. The lens has D-rings for it's own strap so if hand holding does ever happen, some additional security can easily be arranged.

The focus is smooth but not so tight that it won't creep slightly if you lower the lens straight down. The zoom ring is tight and everything works perfectly. It has a tripod foot which is pretty small and very close to the camera side. I immediately put a long Jobo lens foot on it so that it can be properly balanced on my tripod. with a camera such as my NEX-7, the pair is VERY front heavy.

The image quality of the lens is quite good. I wouldn't put it up against any of Canon's newest, biggest 300mm+ L primes but at $300 this lens is punching way way above it's weight. Stopped down the sharpness is pretty good and so far I haven't seen any big issues with flare, or vignetting. CA seems to be what you'd expect from a lens of this vintage and it's 30+ year old lens coatings. At larger apertures purple fringing is pretty bad but completely correctable in Lightroom so I don't consider it to be a big deal. Distortion isn't terrible and vignetting is only an issue at larger apertures.

The potential for a lens like this is pretty amazing when you factor the cost. With a crop sensor camera on it, the 500mm becomes 750mm and with a teleconverter (this lens was designed with teleconverters in mind like all long lenses) you can bring that up to 1050mm or 1500mm or even 2100mm full frame equivalent if you stack both of them on there and throw a crop sensor behind it!). There's loss of quality of course but it's always a compromise with devices like that. Tamron made a limited edition 2x teleconverter specifically for this lens. I'm always on the hunt for one but few were made and they are exceptionally rare. I have both of the regular 1.4x and 2x SP teleconverters...both were easy to find in good condition and dirt cheap. If shopping for a 2x Adaptall TC keep in mind that the element on one side protrudes and will actually touch down first when you set it down. I looked at 6 or 7 before I found one that didn't have scratching in the centre of the element. Look for one with caps at least. They're both common and unpopular enough that you can pick them up new in the box off eBay for very little money.


Despite having a constant aperture, this lens needs lots of light. Shooting hand held on an overcast day shutter speeds need to be in excess of 1/1000 to get a sharp image especially since you need to stop the lens down to at least f/8 to the best image quality out of it. In my testing on one day in particular I needed an ISO setting of 2000 to 3200 in the middle of the day to get the best quality images. For the tests I did below I really needed to wait for a clear sunny day so that I had as much light as possible to work with.

I took the lens out for a dry run with my Sony a99 and NEX-7 to see what it could do with both a full frame and crop frame sensor and with the teleconverters to see how far I could stretch things and how much they would impact quality. The above photos was taken with the a99 at 500mm hand held at Elk Island National Park of a lone wandering buffalo. The lens let me get a close shot without having to get TOO close. the overcast day forced ISO very high and the image had to be sharpened and adjusted in Photoshop before it looked passable. A monopod would have made things much easier but this guy came out of nowhere and it was this shot or nothing that day. This is certainly a lens that makes you plan your shots...especially with the lack of autofocus.

A quick side note in regards to the Metabones Speed booster. I tried mine with the NEX-7 and this big lens thinking that I'd be able to turn it into an f/4, 500mm powerhouse of a lens. It's a nice sentiment but unfortunately the speed booster doesn't work all that well with long lenses which have very wide rear exit diameters. Unfortunately with this lens there is some hard vignetting. It can be cured with a about a 1.1x digital zoom in camera but it's not really worth the hassle. Normally the crop factor you get with a crop sensor is a desirable trait with lenses this long as it makes a long lens very long.

The most common comment I get regarding my use of old manual focus lenses is the lack of autofocus. It's amazing to me how many people think that without autofocus, it's impossible to get things in focus...especially if they're moving. On a modern DSLR this can be true as the with most cameras the only focus assist comes in the form of a live view zoom. On both my Sony a99 and NEX-7 which have focus peaking and electronic view finders, getting focus is relatively easy. True capturing fast action isn't going to be nearly as easy but with practice it's not hard at all. With peaking AND the focus assist zoom, it's possible to be MORE accurate than the built in autofocus at the cost of speed.

Testing an old lens like this takes a bit more care and attention than a modern lens because of the lack of EXIF data. I actually have to take paper notes to remember my aperture and zoom settings for each frame so I can report them back here. For this reason I kept things fairly simple.

I took a series of boring photos from my living room of the HVAC unit on the roof of the building across the street from my condo. It's very uninteresting but has everything I need to test a lens. Dark and light areas, a strong contrast in front of the bright sky, and stickers with very fine print (especially from a couple of hundred feet away).

The lenses I used for these comparisons were:
Tokina AT-X Pro 80-200mm f2.8 zoom for Sony/Minolta
Tamron Adaptall 200mm f3.5
Nikon Nikkor 180mm f2.8 Ai-S ED (modified for Sony/Minolta mounting)
Tamron Adaptall 200-500mm f5.6
Tamron Adaptall 1.4x Teleconverter
Tamron Adaptall 2x Teleconverter
Vivitar 500mm f/8 Mirror lens

Photos were taken with all lenses at similar focal lengths and aperture ranging from wide open to f16. I won't post all of those boring photos but here are some interesting comparisons I made. The below photo is 4 lenses at 200mm (or close) and with apertures wide open.

These lenses all turned in an average performance. The 80-200 zoom was my least favourite but I've since created a correction profile for the lens which fixes the CA and vignetting very well. The 200mm Tamron prime lens showed poor contrast and some colour shifting which is easier to correct in post but left the images straight out of the camera very flat. The 180mm Nikon and Tamron 200-500mm lenses were my favourites despite some vignetting; both showed good results considering their age. Stopped down to around f8 or f11, all lenses performed as is to be expected with the primes looking sharper than the zooms. The Tamron 200mm prime still has contrast issues and the newest lens of the bunch, the 80-200mm Tokina is OK but not as good as the other lenses.

500mm mirror composite500mm mirror composite
Mirror lenses have been around for ever and the design hasn't changed much over the years. My copy is made by Vivitar and is a perfect example. For a 500mm lens it's very short and very light weight. As you can see from the image above, the image quality is typically poor, the aperture is fixed, and the bokeh looks wonky. Here you can see just how big a difference there is between a good mirror lens and a proper zoom with glass in it.on

This above photos is not a crop but rather the combination the NEX-7, the 200-500mm lens and both teleconverters. This provides a 35mm equivalent of 2100mm!!! My experience with teleconverters in the past had me convinced that this image would be the worst of the day but I was pleasantly surprised. Of all the photos in this review this is the only one which has been edited just to show what's possible. No sharpening just some adjustments to boost the contrast a bit. I never expected to be able to read the fine text on the stickers of the HVAC unit. For some scope on how long this is, here's the view around 50mm...


The Tamron 200-500mm f5.6 SP lens is an excellent lens. Certainly there are better lenses but for the price that this lens can be found, you won't find anything else to compare it to. It's a bit soft wide open like many lenses but is much improved around f11. There is magenta fringing in the high contrast areas of an image but it's easily corrected in Lightroom. Manually focusing this lens is easy thanks to the focus assist feature of the Sony cameras and would make a fine wildlife lens. It's a pain to handhold but it can be done. This lens is also shows a good contrast...possibly better than any of the other lenses tested.

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) First Impression Lens Sony Tamron Teleconverter Test review https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/1/lens-review-tamron-200-500 Mon, 20 Jan 2014 21:47:29 GMT
Random Photo Day - Hazy Poplars https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/1/random-photo-day---hazy-poplars Hazy PoplarsHazy PoplarsPoplar trees on a hazy winter afternoon in Elk Island Park.


A photo of some poplar trees on a hazy winter afternoon in Elk Island Park. The light was poor and the Buffalo were nowhere to be seen.

Photo was taken with a Sony NEX-7 and Leica Summilux 35mm f/1.4 M. It was HDR processed in Photomatix.


dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) Elk Island Park Poplar Random Photo Day Winter https://davetameling.com/blog/2014/1/random-photo-day---hazy-poplars Thu, 16 Jan 2014 20:25:46 GMT
Atomos Ninja-2 - Part 3 - Field Test https://davetameling.com/blog/2013/12/atomos-ninja-2-field-test Please be sure to catch parts one and two of this three part post...


For this test I'm going to be using a few set ups to get some test results. First I'll be using both the Atomos Ninja-2 and the SmallHD DP4-EVF with my Sony SLT-a99 on my newly rebuilt shoulder rig in some real world testing. I'll also be using it to record from my Canon XA-10 and from a GoPro Hero3 Black. In all cases I'll be recording in both devices at the same time for some A-B side by side samples.

The XA-10 is a camera I keep expecting to grow out of but always find a use for. Last year it was Canon's smallest, least expensive pro camcorder (now replaced with the XA-20). It has all the features standard to a pro video camera which aren't present on DSLR style cameras making it a perfect camera to set and forget. I honestly wasn't sure what to expect from pairing the Ninja with this camera but it's on the compatible list of cameras so it needs to be tried. The XA-10 is the most storage friendly camera I have as it has 64GB of internal memory and two SD slots. With the ability to span recordings from one slot to the other, the capacity for long recordings is unmatched...especially with lower quality compression. As a favour I filmed a local seniors association christmas theatre show using the XA10. It was the perfect opportunity to see what the Ninja could do.

The first thing I noticed was the weight. Clamped to the handle of a fluid head combined with a lightweight camera like the XA-10, the fluid head had to be locked often to keep it from falling over. It took some repositioning before I found a neutral balance. Compared to the small, light XA-10, the Ninja is a boat anchor.

The other thing I noticed was that the screen was far brighter than the built in screen on the camera...not brightness brighter but exposure brighter. Images which were properly exposed (or appeared to be) on the camera screen looked blown and washed out on the Ninja. This was both annoying and made it difficult to use the Ninja-2 without the built in monitor.

I tested zebras and peaking on the Ninja and found that with both turned on, the image becomes so cluttered and noisy combined with the above exposure issues that it's nearly impossible to see what's going on in the scene. This is especially true with scenes with small, fine detail...like the wide shot of a choir.

That said, the ease of use was phenominal. The XA-10 touch screen interface is bulky and cumbersome by comparison. As a recorder, it's simply amazing.

The audio meters on the Ninja-2 are also much more advanced and finely detailed than those built into the XA10...I liked this a lot. Switching meters off on the camera de-clutters the screen some what...a good thing if the screen is already small and cluttered.

The filming took place in a community centre gymnasium with some harshly coloured LED stage lights and little else other than the fluorescents in the ceiling...a good test in other words as I wanted deep shadows...typically where AVCHD falls flat.

****As a quick aside...I'm having issues with the USB dock for reading the hard drives. As of this writing, I'm using the hard drive in a different enclosure (modified to fit the Atomos drive casings) while I go through the trouble ticket process with Atomos...which hasn't impressed me so far****

The results of this test were a bit shocking. There's almost no difference between the footage recorded at 24p 24Mbps AVCHD and the ProResHQ recorded by the Ninja! The video looks identical and only freeze frames blown up to 400% or more show the slight differences. I didn't even bother posting a comparison video...it's just not worth it. Below are TIFF rips from the footage actual size and blown up so you can see for yourself.

This is the original frame...


And here are the blow ups of the XA-10 and Ninja-2 side by side...the only place you can see a difference...

XA-10XA-10 Ninja-2Ninja-2

If you look closely enough, there is a tiny bit more detail in the Ninja-2 though in many of the shots that just resulted in more gain noise than actual detail. The AVCHD compression does a good job of cleaning up the noise to reduce storage requirements.

I can only conclude that in this case the AVCHD codec is optimized for the small sensor in the XA-10 and that other than for workflow benefits, there isn't much reason to use the Ninja with this camera. In my case that's a relief. I can continue to use the XA-10 as I always have without worry that I could be getting more out of it.

My test with the a99 as much more controlled. In this case I set up a simple scene in my living room and recorded using several combinations of camera and Ninja settings to see what would result. At higher ISO ambient conditions, the results were similar to that with the XA-10. I think there's just too much noise when the ISO or gain is high for the Ninja to really stretch it's legs. When I set up another scene in front of some big windows and got the ISO down to 400, then I started seeing some interesting differences. 

At 24p, as with the XA-10, the difference can barely be noticed. In the first shot of my dog Ellie sleeping, and at an ISO of 3200, I can't tell any difference between the internal 24Mbps AVCHD codec and ProResHQ. In the second shot of a couple of my cameras, there are slight differences in sharpness and detail but you have to blow up the image several times it's normal size to even begin to notice. This scene was shot at ISO 400. Both were shot with a Nikkor 180mm ED Ai-S at f/2.8

This second example is just of the cameras but at various camera and Ninja settings. I was surprised to see that there were strange interlacing problems with shots taken at 30p (60i according to the camera). These issues reduced detail in the Minolta's faux leather grip and in the lettering on the front of the lens significantly. There was also a moire introduced on the ridges of the focus ring. This was recorded by the Ninja-2 when recording at 60i but not at 30p with a 2:2 pulldown. With the pulldown the images look as sharp as they do in 24p. In this example at least the Ninja-2, set up correctly, showed a great improvement of image quality. I likely didn't notice this before because I almost never shoot 30p. The majority of my footage is 24p, with 60p shot for overcranking.

On that note, it appears to be possible to record 60p in the camera and 30p in the Ninja-2 at the same time without issue. The only problem being selecting an appropriate shutter speed.

If you work with ProRes a lot, there are definite benefits to using the Ninja. With enough footage recorded, transcoding to ProRes HQ alone can take at least several hours even with a fast computer. If you're like me and do everything on a MacBook Pro, that pretty much stakes claim to your computer resources and sets your project behind from the start.

Speaking of MacBook Pro computers, the drive dock which comes with the Ninja-2 has dual USB ports. One for data and a supplimental one for extra power. The Macbook pro only has one USB on each side making plugging both in without a hub impossible.

So where does that leave me after this completely unscientific test? Well I have to say that it's an impressive piece of technology but doesn't quite live up to all the hype. As a monitor, I wasn't impressed. It does an OK job but compared to my SmallHD DP4, it really fails. The Newer models of Atomos recorders now come with the ability to adjust screen settings using a monitor calibration unit but this option isn't available on the Ninja.

As a recorder, I'm very happy with the controls and the ease of use. I like editing in ProRes so this can save me a lot of time. Even more if I edit directly off of the hard drives that the Ninja-2 records to. I have to admit that I was expecting amazing things from the ability to record straight to a very high bitrate ProRes file but the results didn't knock my socks off. I'm not sure if that's because the latest AVCHD codecs are that good or because the HDMI output is still only 8 bit 4:2:2 compared to the 4:2:0 captured in camera. I'm sure in time I'll find scenes where the Ninja puts that to good use but in the examples I've tested with, they're nearly identical. It may come into play when images require a lot of colour grading and post processing.

In the writing of this article I found a good one about recorders at B&H Photo which explains a lot of these funny terms and technologies. If you're curious about reading a thing or two about it, check it out here.

Because of what the unit can do, and despite what it doesn't to well enough for me, it's still been a good purchase and I'll be using it on a regular basis with my video work. Because of my disappointment with the monitor quality, I might have been better off with the Blackmagic Hyperdeck Shuttle but I'm not a fan of designs with built in batteries which have to be recharged...seems like a recipe for a bad day in the field. The bottom line is that this is a piece of hardware which compliments the rest of the system and doesn't have to take the place of the internal codec.


dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) Atomos Canon Field test Ninja-2 SLT-a99 Sony XA-10 a99 review https://davetameling.com/blog/2013/12/atomos-ninja-2-field-test Fri, 20 Dec 2013 17:15:00 GMT
Atomos Ninja-2 - Part 2 - Comparison to SmallHD https://davetameling.com/blog/2013/12/atomos-ninja-2-comparison-to-smallhd Please be sure to read part one if you haven't already...


I've been a faithful user of a SmallHD DP4-EVF kit for a while now. Having added video services to my portfolio after nearly 20 years of SLR photography, the learning curve was cruel and the DP4 helped me wade through dangerous waters thanks to focus peaking, false colours and other features that were as alien to me as the dark side of the moon.

AtomosNinja1-007Ninja 2 and DP4Ninja 2 and DP4 with viewfinder side by side

About a year ago I switched from Canon to Sony SLT and NEX cameras for the majority of my photo and video work. These cameras have proper video auto focus, focus peaking, and other dedicated video features so I didn't strictly need the DP4 anymore to ensure good, in focus, shots. That said however I still feel that my best work is done with the assistance of the DP4 regardless of which camera I'm using.

Because I had the DP4 already in my stable of tools, I was hesitant to buy the Atomos Ninja-2 as it sort of does the same thing and cheaper recorders which don't have monitors built in (like the Blackmagic Hyperdeck Shuttle) can be purchased for cheaper. In the end it took a good sale price, what seemed to be the most intelligent design running, and the promise of a user friendly experience which won me over.

The third and final part of this review will be saved for the recording features of the Ninja-2. Right now I'm just looking at it as a monitor as compared to the DP4. This is a 100% UNscientific comparison and just my observations having owned both for less than a week so take that with a few grains of salt.

A quick comparison of the two...

The Ninja is much bigger and heavier than the DP4. Obviously it does more and holds a hard drive so that shouldn't be surprising. That said, it appears to be built in a very sturdy way with more metal in the chassis compared to the DP4.

AtomosNinja1-008Ninja 2 and DP4The Ninja 2 is much larger and heavier than the SmallHD DP4 They both use the same Sony style camcorder batteries that seem to be the staple for video accessories but the DP4 comes with replaceable back plates for Canon, Nikon, and AA batteries. It also comes with a D-tap power lead and a traditional power input where the Ninja 2 uses an AC adapter with a dummy battery instead.

AtomosNinja1-011Ninja 2 and DP4Ports are arranged a bit differently on each unit with some additional features on the DP4

The DP4 can also take analog video input from a dongle cable plugged into the bottom of the unit and has a USB port for powering additional external accessories. Both have headphone jacks and HDMI pass through.

On the DP4, there are 3 threaded mounting points and the sides and the bottom with the option to flip the display though this doesn't work well with the loupe viewfinder. On the Ninja 2 there are just mounts on the top and the bottom though these are the sturdiest places to mount a monitor anyhow.

In addition to the screen protector pictured, the DP4 comes with a folding hood/shade which is a great addition for use outdoors. I would like to have something similar for the Ninja-2 and wish it came with some sort of a hood. The screens are very similar only, as seen above, the Ninja-2 is prone to finger prints because you'll be touching it all the time. They don't show all that bad when the screen is on.

AtomosNinja1-013Ninja 2 and DP4The image reproduced on the DP4 is far better than the Ninja-2 but the Ninja has some features not present in the DP4 Side by side, the screens look very similar. The OSD of the Ninja-2 disappears and reappears with a single tap. The live audio levels display is very good (they were recently improved with the latest firmware updates) and very welcome is the on screen headphones volume. Accessing features like false colour, focus peaking, etc. is very easy on the Ninja-2. While the DP4 has some programmable quick buttons, the menus are cryptic and difficult to navigate. I was intimidated by it for a long time before I got used to using it and still make mistakes hitting the wrong button. It's cost me a shot more than once looking for a feature I felt I needed in the heat of the moment.

The image on the DP4 appears to be sharper, brighter, has more contrast, has better colour reproduction, and a more correct exposure. Also, things like brightness, colour, gamma, and more are adjustable so they can be made even better in the SmallHD unit. I've found the default settings to suit me fine. I wouldn't have a clue what to adjust or how to improve them anyhow. That said, I like the fact that the DP4 has so many settings and features. You never know when you'll need a 1:1 blow up or freeze frame or picture in picture. For me, most of these features go untouched. I use it as is with just the Focusassist+ and the Falsecolour programmed to the quick keys.

AtomosNinja1-014Ninja 2 and DP4The false colour features of these two monitors is very different. The false colour feature of both is easy to get to. One press of the shortcut key on the DP4 and 2 on screen taps on the Ninja 2. I was surprised to find that they aren't the same at all! Not having any experience with traditional professional video cameras, I honestly don't know what that means but I can see it being very confusing if I wanted to use both monitors on a regular basis. I assume that Atomos and SmallHD have decided to use a different colour system. It could also have something to do with the fact that the image on the Ninja-2 looks brighter and blown out when the exposure looks perfect on the DP4 and on the back of the camera (and to the cameras meter). As it stands I'll be using the DP4 as a monitor more often so I'm going to stick with the false colour there so I don't get confused. One nice feature is the scale on the side of the screen on the Ninja-2. It makes learning the colour scale they use very easy. The DP4 actually has two falsecolour modes; one which colours only over and underexposed parts of the image and one which colours the over, medium, and under exposed areas. The brightness and colour rendition of the Ninja-2 as a monitor gives me some concern as this is not something which is obviously adjustable in the Ninja-2. Fortunately I don't plan on using it as a monitor very often. Once I've field tested for part 3 of this review, I'll know better if it's a real issue or not.

AtomosNinja1-015Ninja-2 and DP4Focus peaking on the Ninja-2 is exactly how I'm used to on the Sony a99. DP4 has their own version called Focusassist+ Focus peaking on the Ninja-2 works exactly like it does on the Sony complete with selectable colours. In comparing the back of the a99 to the Ninja-2, the results are identical. SmallHD has their own version of focus peaking called Focusassist+ (though it has traditional peaking as well). Focusassist+ is unique to their monitors and instead of highlighting the sharpest pixels in another colour, it changes the whole image to show strong contrasty edges in the in-focus portions of the image. It can be a bit strange to look at at first and takes some getting used to but, as they claim, it's a very effective way to get quick and accurate focus. I'm fine with either method but sometimes it's nice to have a second opinion.

Also on the NInja-2 touch screen is monochrome mode and exposure zebras. The DP4 doesn't have a zebra mode that I'm aware of but does have a monochrome and blue-only modes in addition to on screen framing guides, cross hairs and scaling modes for cameras which don't output 16:9 images from their HDMI ports.

One more thing to note: The Ninja-2 has a very intuitive battery level display with a menu mode which shows only that in big icons on the screen. The DP4 shows only battery voltage if at all which isn't very intuitive unfortunately. With 2 batteries the battery life is very good so it's not been an issue so far.

AtomosNinja1-016Ninja-2 and DP4The non-monitor display of the Ninja-2 beside the DP4 This is how I'll be using these monitors most of the time; with the DP4 acting as monitor and the Ninja-2 acting as a recorder with a very intuitive, very simple touch screen interface. In the above image the Rec and Mon buttons are greyed because it hadn't synchronized the 3:2 pulldown yet for 24p operation. On this screen I can see my timecodes, audio levels, battery status and play back recently recorded clips. The playback shows in the DP4 monitor as it's connected to the output of the Ninja-2.

In conclusion, I think that as a monitor, I'm not sure the Ninja-2 is a great option unless used in conjunction with a higher quality monitor. The DP4 is good but not best in class...I'd consider it entry level for good monitors and as a monitor it appears to be far better than the Atomos. That said, the Atomos can bring features like falsecolour, zebra, focus peaking and audio monitors to cameras which have none of those features PLUS it's a video recording unit. Considering the cost of the DP4-EVF, the Atomos is still a good buy for those who need it. I honestly can't say one is better than the other overall. It's not quite an apples to apples comparison but as monitors go, the SmallHD takes the win on image quality and the Atomos takes the win on user friendliness.

In my dreams there's a collaboration between SmallHD and Atomos which combines the user fantastic interface and recorder from the Atomos with the screen tech and features of the SmallHD...

More on the recording features in Part 3...

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) Atomos Comparison DP4 EVF Ninja-2 SmallHD https://davetameling.com/blog/2013/12/atomos-ninja-2-comparison-to-smallhd Fri, 06 Dec 2013 17:15:00 GMT
Atomos Ninja-2 - Part 1 - First Impressions https://davetameling.com/blog/2013/12/atomos-ninja-2-first-impressions This year Canada has been over run with the US Black Friday shopping tradition and I was able to pick up an Atomos Ninja-2 and two Sandisk Extreme II 240GB SSD drives all for about $260 off the regular retail prices. I've had a few ideas as to how I could use the Ninja in my workflow but wasn't sure due to a lack of reviews with Sony hardware. I took the plunge and decided to just find out for myself how well it would work.

AtomosNinja1-001Atomos Ninja-2

Since abandoning Canon and switching to an all Sony set of hardware, my video workflow has changed a surprising amount. Many of the little bugs involved with shooting video on a Canon or Nikon DSLR simply aren't issues with the Sony STL-a99. While it's Sony's first attempt at a pro grade camera with strong photo and video features, it's (in my view) one of the best options out there for the money. I also use a NEX-7 and NEX-5R as professional cameras. Both fill their niches very well and while they shoot good video, they also have drawbacks just like many DSLRs.

Despite all of the great video friendly features of the a99, one of it's limitations compared to other hybrid video cameras like the 5D III and the GH3, is the codec. While Sony's AVCHD codec is exceptional, it tops out at 24Mbps at 30 frames per second...good but not great.

The a99 isn't capable of RAW like a Canon with the Magic Lantern hack but I've never been a fan of RAW. The workflow is just too bulky and slow and requires far too much storage.

The a99, however, does sport a clean HDMI output with full 4:2:2 colour while the internal recording is only 4:2:0. In theory, recording the HDMI stream gives you better quality and lets you record with a less lossy compression, preserving more of the detail of the original image. Recorders like the Atomos Ninja let you capture that stream. In the case of the Ninja 2, straight to Apple's ProRes codec in 422LT, 422, or 422HQ quality settings and directly to a 2.5" hard drive.

I should note that the list of cameras which have a clean HDMI out are small but growing. Unfortunately my Sony NEX-7 and 5R don't have clean outputs but my Hero3 cameras and Canon XA-10 do so I should get a lot of mileage out of the recorder. I'm hoping that in future Sony E-Mount cameras, there will be opportunity to use the Ninja. These small but powerful cameras have become a staple to the way I run my business.

Older Ninja kits came with 2 batteries and a hard carry case. This version only has one battery and no case but seems to come with a better quality hard drive USB dock and battery charger. Other than the Ninja 2 itself and 2 hard drive caddies, this is what comes in the box:

AtomosNinja1-005Atomos Ninja-2 power accessoriesLots of power accessories come with the Ninja-2 The AC adapter is a nice touch and the plethora of international plug adapters is nice as well. These Sony stye batteries are the same used with most of my video accessories so the charger will be a spare.

I've been playing for a few days now and I can say two things about it...it's bulky, heavy, and sturdy, plus it's incredibly user friendly. I'm used to my SmallHD DP4 monitor so this is a tank by comparison but way easier to use. the all on screen touch menu is a dream compared to the click-wheel menu system on the DP4. In playing with it for just a few minutes I was already recording. A quick scan of the online manual led me to the more advanced features. There aren't too many of those...it's pretty straight forward and does what it says without too much fluff. I intend to use mine as an easy to use touch screen recorder more than a monitor but I often record with more than one camera so having an extra monitor now should come in handy once in a while.

AtomosNinja1-008Ninja 2 beside the DP4The Ninja2 is quite a bit bigger and heavier than the SmallHD DP4 even though the screen size is almost identical.

The 240GB drives record for hours...anywhere from 2 hours and 50 minutes to over 6 hours! depending on which quality setting you choose and at 24p. With two drives and some restraint on the record button, it's enough for any job and dumping footage to a computer is faster than ever thanks to a speedy drive and the included USB3 dock. 480GB drives are coming down in price and SSD drives in the Terabytes are becoming available so the room for growth is certainly there. There is no options other than ProRes or the Avid editing profiles (which are optional an unlocked with a special code from Atomos). It would be nice to be able to record to a high bit rate AVCHD or h.264 without 30 minute limits but it's not something which would be desirable all that often.

I haven't put it through it's full paces yet but that will happen soon. Here's what I've observed so far...

  1. Starting and stopping recording on the camera doesn't seem to have any effect on the quality of the video recorded by the Ninja. No blips, flashes, changes in resolution have been observed.
  2. The a99 has no timecode over HDMI like with higher end Sony cameras like the NEX-FS700 and FS100. External syncing of video clips will still be needed when mixing footage recorded in the Ninja and in the camera.
  3. The monitor is good and has all the features you want (peaking, false colour, etc) but isn't as good as my SmallHD monitor which seems to have better colour reproduction, a sharper display, better focus peaking, and has WAY more features (more on that in part 2)
  4. The HDMI pass through allows the use of a second monitor and lets you use that monitor to view playback on the second monitor but only if the Ninja is operating. No signal passes through if it's off.
  5. There's no capacity to record 60p. The a99 is the only full frame camera which records true 1080p at 60 frames per second so I understand but it would be nice and I'm not yet sure what happens to the Ninja recording if the camera is set to 60p. Perhaps it's possible to record 60p and 30p at the same time!
  6. It's not possible to record video on the a99 in any photo modes as the HDMI out is cluttered with OSD stuff. No shooting photo and video at the same time.
  7. The unit has the ability to set scene and shot numbers for clips before you roll. After recording you can review the clips, mark them as picked or rejected with a nifty thumbs up/thumbs down system and set in and out points. You can also export to xml files but I don't know much about that yet. For me this can eliminate much of my workflow before I even get get the footage into the computer.
  8. The NP-FM500H batteries for my a99 appear to be compatible but aren't as they are a bit shorter than the larger NP style batteries used in Sony camcorders. The terminals line up but the slots which hold the battery in are in a different place...too bad.

Continue on to part two...


dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) Atomos DP4 First Impression Ninja 2 SmallHD Sony a99 https://davetameling.com/blog/2013/12/atomos-ninja-2-first-impressions Thu, 05 Dec 2013 20:03:27 GMT
Ghosts and Speed Boosters https://davetameling.com/blog/2013/10/ghosts-and-speed-boosters It's no secret I love my Sony NEX mirrorless cameras and my using my Sony a99; Sony's flagship full frame, full bodied, camera. While they lack a few pro features that I like to have, the NEX series cameras have proven themselves worthy and easily match much larger cameras.

When Metabones came out with their Speedbooster, the internet buzzed with the possibilities of using full frame lenses on an APS-C sensor sized camera AND gain one stop in light gathering ability. The Canon EF adapter was, and is, by far the most popular but as I'd sold all of my Canon glass, I had to sit and wait for the Sony Alpha/Minolta mount version to come out.

Even once it was available I was a bit hesitant. I was afraid that my NEX-7 with a speed booster would leave my far more expensive a99 collecting dust! Eventually I took the plunge and ordered one as the reality is I don't rely on just one camera and if the NEX-7 were transformed into a mini-a99, that would suit me just fine!

It was right around the time that I received my Speedbooster, that I recieved my favourite lens back from repair...my Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux R. With the power of the Speedbooster, this lens collects light as if it were an F/1.0 lens!

Until yesterday I'd only played casually with the Speed Booster; getting a feel for how it works and how it impacts image quality. In casual use I've learned a few things which have led me to treat it like a teleconverter in reverse. Here's why I digress and get technical...you can skip to the photos at the end now if that's not your thing.

First, the Speed Booster amplifies light; the opposite of a teleconverter. This lets you take a fast lens and make it faster. This is the feature which gets the most press. I've discovered another use. At middle apertures, you can stop a lens down to a sharper aperture and not lose any speed. A lens which is good at f/2.8 and great at f/4 is still effectively an f/2.8 when you stop it down one stop...at least when it comes to light gathering. Combined with the shrunk image circle, you can increase effective sharpness of a lens dramatically (depending on the lens).

Depth of field is deceptive as it's not impacted by the Speed Booster. This is moot in a way as your field of view is no longer cropped but equivalent to a full frame camera with a full frame sensor so the perspective is different anyhow.

There are limitations to the Speed Booster as well. When used on a long telephoto lens, the exit pupil at the rear of the lens is larger than the Speed Booster can capture and the result is a hard vignette. Except for the light gathering boost granted by the Speed Booster, there really isn't much reason to use it with such a long lens. That said, My old Tamron 200-500 f/5.6 can effectively operate as a 500mm f/4 lens...which is just crazy. With a touch of 1.1x digital zoom, the vignette goes away but I'd rather have the 750mm cropped focal length.

Last night I was invited by a friend to go on the Old Strathcona Ghost Walk in historical Old Strathcona, Edmonton. It runs nightly this time of year with Halloween right around the corner. I decided this would be a great oppotunity to see what f/1.0 would be like with my NEX-7 and the Summicron.

Much of the walk is in the back alleys and residential areas so I knew the combo would be put to the test.

While some photos required a crazy dose of ISO, many got by with a reasonable amount. I was even able to snap some brackets for HDR processing hand held.

The Ghost Walk starts at historical Walterdale Theatre 1/50 sec f/1.0 ISO1600

Some ladies from NAIT covering the Ghost Walk1/50 sec f/1.0 ISO3200 - Unedited

Mural in the alley behind the Wee Book Inn1/50 sec f/1.0 ISO1600 - Unedited

Humphrey the ghost?1/50 sec f/1.0 ISO16000 - Processed in LR5 - beyond noisy but still impressive.

Ghost stories (and ghostly lens flare) at Strathcona High SchoolHDR image processed in Photomatix Pro f/1.0 ISO3200 Hand Held bracket - Noisy but I'm amazed it even worked.

Check out the Edmonton Ghost Tours at http://edmontonghosttours.com/

Metabones Speed Boosters can be bought directly from Metabones: http://www.metabones.com/buy-speed-booster

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) 50mm Edmonton Ghost Walk Leica Metabones NEX-7 Old Strathcona Review Sony Speed Booster Summilux f/1.0 f/1.4 https://davetameling.com/blog/2013/10/ghosts-and-speed-boosters Thu, 31 Oct 2013 03:25:02 GMT
The Big Change Part 2- Hello Sony https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/12/the-big-change-part-2 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. 

a99 with pineapple


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.

  • Tamron SP 17mm f/3.5
  • Leica Lietz 35mm Summicron f/2 R
  • Leica Leitz 50mm Summilux f/1.4 R
  • Leica Leitz 90mm Summicron f/2 R
  • Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AiS Micro (Macro)
  • Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 AiS ED
  • Tokina 400mm f/5.6 (Nikkor Ai Mount)

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.

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) 5r 7 alpha focus chip leica leitax lenses manual focus nex nikkor nikon sony https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/12/the-big-change-part-2 Wed, 05 Dec 2012 18:05:53 GMT
The Big Change Part 1 - Goodbye Canon https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/11/the-big-change-part-1 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...

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) 7D NEX NEX7 brand loyalty canon full frame manual lenses https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/11/the-big-change-part-1 Thu, 29 Nov 2012 01:04:06 GMT
Evoolution in Avenue Magazine https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/11/evoolution-in-avenue-magazine 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.

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) Avenue Magazine Edmonton Evoolution product photography https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/11/evoolution-in-avenue-magazine Thu, 08 Nov 2012 15:00:00 GMT
In the News! https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/11/in-the-news 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.

View Larger Map


dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) Dave Tameling Google Google Business Photos Laurie Callsen Metro News Panoramic Street View Virtual Tour YEG360 https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/11/in-the-news Wed, 07 Nov 2012 15:53:06 GMT
Old Macro New Macro Part 2 https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/10/old-macro-new-macro-part-2 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.

testing set up

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 1:1 F/16 Canon f/16 Tokina 1:1 f/16 Tokina f/16
Canon 1:1 F/11 Canon f/11 Tokina 1:1 f/11 Tokina f/11
Canon 1:1 F/8 Canon f/8 Tokina 1:1 f/8 Tokina f/8
Canon 1:1 F/5.6 Canon f/5.6 Tokina 1:1 f/5.6 Tokina f/5.6
Canon 1:1 F/4 Canon f/4 Tokina 1:1 f/4 Tokina f/4
Canon 1:1 F/2.8 Canon f/2.8 Tokina 1:1 f/2.5 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
Canon 1:1 F/4 top right f/4  Near Top Right Corner Tokina 1:1 f/4 top right 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
Canon Flare on Black

Canon F/2.8

Tokina Flare on Black

Tokina f/2.8

Canon Flare on White

Canon f/2.8

Tokina Flare on White

Tokina f/2.8

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

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) bokina canon comparison macro tokina https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/10/old-macro-new-macro-part-2 Tue, 09 Oct 2012 02:57:25 GMT
Old Macro New Macro Part 1 https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/10/old-macro-new-macro Macro lenses have always had a reputation for being well made with high quality optical designs. While not all macro lenses have been exceptional, most true macro lenses are at least very good.


The first macro lens I purchased came late in my photography experience in the form of a Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Di SP for Canon EF. This lens is one of the best bangs for the buck in lenses that you can currently buy new. It's a plastic body lens, has slow and noisy autofocus, but the optics are top notch. Many consider it to be one of the sharpest lenses currently available anywhere. With it's slow autofocus performance, it proved to be only good for macros and sat on the shelf a lot so I sold it to a friend who needed it more than I did.


This year I came to need a macro lens again. Knowing that autofocus wasn't really required for macro work, I looked for something older so I could save some money and still get top quality. The first lens I picked up was a Tamron SP 90mm f/2.5. This lens is a classic macro lens which is well known for high quality optics. Knowing it was the grandfather of the new Tamron I sold, I felt confident that it would serve well. Unfortunately the lens I bought used had an issue with it's aperture mechanics. With a lens that old and 9 aperture blades, it happens. Fortunately the shop I purchased it from was able to swap it for another lens.


This is how I came to own the Tokina AT-X 90mm f/2.5 Macro. This was a virtually new specimen complete with 1:1 adapter and the carrying case...it even came in the original box and came with instructions! I didn't know at the time but this lens is famous for being one of the best macro lenses ever made and one of the sharpest lenses ever made. It's also renowned for having excellent bokeh. So much so that its nickname is the 'Bokina'. It's a tank of a lens that screams of classic quality construction. For a lens first released in in the 80s and based on a Vivitar design from 1975, I was dying to know if it could stand up to the best today had to offer.

It was with that thought that I went out and rented one of the best current macro lenses which would fit my Canon cameras. The EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS was introduced in 2009 and was the first lens in Canon's line up to offer Hybrid Image Stabilization. With it's weather sealed design and 'L' quality, it is one of the higher quality Canon lenses.

Tokina AT-X 90mm f/2.5 Macro

Introduced in 1986

8 Lenses in 7 Groups

f/2.5 to 32

8 aperture blades

18.7oz / 530g

Up to 1:2 Macro, 1:1 with extender

Not Weather Sealed

Front Element Extends on Focus

Effective focal length as tested 135mm

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM Macro

Introduced in 2009

15 Lenses in 12 Groups

F/2.8 to 32

9 rounded aperture blades

23.8oz / 675g

Up to 1:1 Macro

Weather Sealed

Internal Focus

Effective focal lens as tested 160mm


I don't own a full frame camera which can mount the Tokina so the comparison will be done on APS-C sensors. The Canon will be mounted on my 7D and the Tokina on my Sony NEX-7 via an adapter. These cameras have very similar image quality and should be good enough to see if there are any appreciable differences between the two lenses. Part one of the test will be on the street using these lenses as regular medium telephotos, the Tokina without it's macro extender as the lens can't focus to infinity with it mounted. Part 2 will focus on true macro capabilities in controlled conditions with each pushed to their limits.

Canon and Sony side by side with Extension tubes fitted


Today I took both lenses to the local farmers market to see how they handled in the real world. My observations follow:


Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 L IS USM

For a 100mm lens, it's big. Bigger than my 135mm f/2 L and while it's heavy, it feels like it should be heavier. Considering it has 4 stops worth of image stabilization, internal focusing down to 1:1 macro, and Canon L glass quality, some bulk and weight is to be expected. It handles well for a hefty lens. This would be a good portrait lens but if you don't need macro capabilities there are better lenses to own in this focal length ball park like the 100mm f/2, 85mm f/1.8, and 135mm f/2 L...all of which are cheaper, faster, and smaller lenses.


The image stabilization works very well and allows you to handle the heft at lower shutter speeds. If hand held macro shots are your style, this lens delivers. You can easily get the f-stop values you want for macro work in natural light without having to push ISO too high. If you're walking around with this lens for a while, IS will be a welcome feature especially in failing light.


Canon Macro 7820

In the morning shade of one of the farmer's market booths, I shot this close up of some Kale. At ISO 800 the shutter speed at f/8 was down to 1/15 of a second. It looked good at the time and the IS worked well but still wasn't quite sharp when I got it home. One of the pitfalls of trusting autofocus for macro shooting is that even the slightest shift after the camera focuses can ruin the shot despite amazing image stabilization.


Canon Macro 7809

In better light, hand holding macro shots is no problem.


The autofocus is fast on this lens and can be switched between macro only ranges and longer ranges in case the autofocus hunts. The bokeh looks good as one would expect from a quality lens such as this with 9 rounded aperture blades. As with most macro lenses it's sharp wide open and at most apertures. At no time did I notice unreasonable levels of sharpness even wide open in the corners

Canon Macro 7816 Shot at f2.8

Canon Macro 7812 Shot at f/4.0


Tokina AT-X 90mm f/2.5 macro

This lens without it's 1:1 extender is much smaller and lighter than the Canon lens but is very beefy for it's size. It feels very sturdy and handles well despite being quite a bit of lens to have mounted to the skinny NEX-7. The focus ring has a lot of real estate to grip on which is nice since it rotates nearly a full 360 degrees from infinity to it's minimum 1:2 macro focusing distance. It's not quick to manually focus this lens except when your subject is near it's infinity focusing distance. This is a poor lens for capturing any sort of action. Even in this configuration 1:2 macro isn't bad and you can still get a lot of great hand held macro shots.

bokina macro 5417

bokina macro 5418

Once I got the pictures back to the computer the thing there were two things which struck me as amazing about this lens. First was that the bokeh really does live up to the hype. This is pretty amazing considering it has 8 non-rounded aperture blades which aren't even symmetrical. Stopped down, they produce an uneven shape which you can see in the picture at the top of this post. Despite this the bokeh looks really good, especially wide open. The other is the contrast. Pictures taken with this lens just appear to have a pop that I haven't seen before with other lenses. Typically I need to make tweaks in post production to get the blacks to look black and the whites to look white but I felt zero need to make any edits to the images I shot at the market. These two things combined create a background separation which is the best I've ever seen from a lens. Subjects in the foreground really stand out. For this reason I feel that this lens would make an excellent portrait lens. I own the outstanding Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 Ai-S and would really like to compare them to see which works best for portraits.

bokina macro 5411 bokina macro 5410

On the way home I took a few shots at f/32 just to see what they would look like. Normally a lens produces it's poorest results stopped down to it's smallest aperture. I was surprised that the images, while not exactly sharp, were better than I expected.

bokina macro 5420


Based on what I saw today I can only say that both of these lenses are outstanding. Each have their pros and cons. Certainly there are features which make the Canon lens superior with it's weather sealing and image stabilization. That said, the Tokina cost me over $1000 less than what the Canon lens is worth new which is extremely good value in my books for a lens which is easily the equal of the Canon for image quality, if not better.


Full resolution versions of the photos can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/OeMQLU

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) bokina canon comparison macro street tokina https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/10/old-macro-new-macro Sun, 07 Oct 2012 15:00:00 GMT
Back to the Mac - Part 5 https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/7/back-to-the-mac-part-5 So I've finally been able to spend a few days with my new MacBook Pro Retina and it's been a bit of a life changing experience. As I've always claimed, there are pros and cons to both Windows and MacOS worlds. Here are some observations I've made.


  • Where's the Bluray support? There appears to be none natively in the Lion operating system. To watch movies will cost money buying a third party app, and burning the bluray disks might require yet another.
  • Parallels is amazing. Running Windows applications so seamlessly inside another operating system is amazing. I never imagined emulation would converge to this point. I'm using it to run Oloneo PhotoEngine, my preferred HDR processing app and so far it's flawless.
  • The screen is a amazing...but. The Retina display is fantastic and light years ahead of what I'm used to. It's a step up in a big way. That said, the applications aren't there yet. For example watching an HD movie or Bluray looks good but isn't as sharp as on my HD TV. I suspect the screen is doubling the pixels and actually running at less than 1080p. It's the only reason a 40" TV should look sharper at 10 feet than this screen should at 10 inches. I have no doubt, like with the iPhone and the iPad before it, that things will not take long to catch up.
  • It's supported by my Drobo! After a big scare last year with some lost data, I bought a Drobo FS networked RAID array. It's a fantastic device but didn't work with Windows as seamlessly as I'd have liked. I used Synctoy to manually push my files across when I needed them to be. I've just learned that the latest Drobo firmware allows shares to be created on the Drobo which have full Time Capsule compatibility. I don't know much about the Time Capsule app yet but I've heard good things.
  • The Trackpad is great. I was originally planning to use my Microsoft 6000 wireless mouse. Loading Microsoft's Mac drivers resulted in several crashes and a completely intert pointer. I can't handle that level of unreliability so I ditched it and just went with the one button track pad. Soon after I learned that the track pad driver is very versatile including 3 and 4 finger gestures. A two finger tap gives me what I'm used to being a right click...good enough for me. Being able to move whole windows, access the desktop, and open the Launchpad with just a few fingers is fantastic and just the kind of convenience I like.
  • No NTFS. I could read NTFS volumes but not right to them. This stalled me as I'm currently using several USB hard drives from my Windows computer to work with video. I had to buy $20 worth of third party drivers just to get back to work. Not a terrible price but something I would have expected to have been free in the Windows world.
  • iTunes. I was never a huge fan of iTunes but had to have it as I've got an iPod, an iPad, and a wife who loves her iPhone. Now that I see how all these devices integrate together with the full computer, it's actually a pretty amazing piece of software. Combine later innovations like iCloud and Airplay which I've not really looked into before and it's already become a staple for managing most of my media. I just wish it liked more formats of video as I've ripped many of my old DVDs to hard drive and it's not crazy about all of them.
  • Magsafe is genius. Having damaged notebooks by dropping them on their plug, I can appreciate how smart this is. Apple really did strike gold with this innovation and I'm not sure I'll ever go back. I only wish they could do the same with the plugs for iPod/iPad/iPhone.
  • Thin is king. I've been carrying it around with me every day since I got it and I can honestly say that it hasn't been a huge burden. I've certainly had a sore shoulder a few times but since the bag also carries cameras, lenses, and other heavy stuff, that likely would have been the case regardless. An ultra book or Macbook Air would be easier to carry but the MBP Retina is a much better computer per pound in my view.
  • Getting my wireless printers to work has been so easy I almost don't believe it. Even scanning over wireless from a multifunction Canon works natively. Compared to my experience with Windows lately, this is a real joy.
  • One down side is that there are far fewer free programs available. So far I've had to buy several smaller programs ranging from $10 to $50 just to get the basic functions I was used to having for free in Windows. Quicktime Pro, NTFS write drivers, media encoding programs which support the formats I need, etc.
  • The Battery life is impressive. I use stand by all the time and would have no problem closing the screen and leaving it for a day or two.
  • Boot time. While some Windows Ultrabooks might claim a faster boot time, the MBP Retina boots fast and comes out of standby/hibernation really fast. I can pull it out, bring it out of standby, check and send several emails and have it back in my bag in the time it took my Windows notebook just to boot.
dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) 5 Apple First Impression Mac Macbook Part Pro blog retina https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/7/back-to-the-mac-part-5 Fri, 13 Jul 2012 06:53:10 GMT
Back to the Mac - Part 4 https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/7/back-to-the-mac-part-4 The MBP Retina arrived yesterday while I was out. As fate would have it, I ended up getting an iPad 3 while I was out so when I got home, I was ready to drink the Retina Kool Aid!


I was going to do an unboxing video but I decided against it for two reasons. First, I got home late and wanted to get working with it as soon as possible. There are lots of videos out there already including a great tear down on iFixit.com where you can see it inside and out in great detail. Instead I wanted to just give you my first impression after one night of playing around with it


First, physically it's gorgeous! This is the first computer which isn't all plastic for me and I approve! It feels solid and durable. I've been using an original iPad since it was still a fairly new product, have never used a case, and it still looks new. Because of this I knew that the new iPad and the new Macbooks would be just as good. Judicious use of Gorilla Glass and aluminium should keep both working for me through the worst incidents. Size wise it's not that much smaller than my Sony and side by side it's hard to believe that one is a 15" and the other a 17". Then I double checked and realized that the Sony is actually less than 17 and the Apple is more than 15 so they're closer than the published numbers would lead you to believe. The Sony is a bit wider and deeper but the big difference is in thickness. I've yet to measure but the Macbook Pro seems less than half as thick as the Sony and is almost half the weight as well despite all the Aluminum.


One difference which concerned me was the ports. My Sony seems to have one of everything including VGA, HDMI, Expresscard, SD slot, and Firewire. This MacBook Pro is missing a few things I'm used to but with an HDMI port, USB ports, and Thunderbolt ports which adapt to seemingly everything. I'll miss the Expresscard slot as I used an Expresscard CF reader for high speed transfers but my USB 3.0 reader is also very fast. One thing of note is that there is no Kensington lock hole on this model. That is something I use sometimes but the unit is so light and thin that it's not hard to just never leave out of your sight or bag or whatever...I'll manage.


The screen is very nice. While it's not as bright as the previous generation of screen, it's plenty bright for me....testing in the summer sun will be the ultimate test but I rarely need to do that so it's not a realistic test. Unlike my Sony, the adaptive brightness actually works. When it gets dark in the room, so does the screen. Plus adjusting the brightness in real time when it's not quite right is much easier. I'm confident that in the sun, it will crank the brightness up automatically. The viewing angle is great and the colours were very similar to my calibrated 27" monitor right out of the box. The glass surface is glossy but is supposed to have less glare than previous models. So far the only issue I've had with glare came from a ray of direct sunlight...which will doom any screen.


This might be old news to the Mac fanboys but last night was my first experience with Parallels. Buying, downloading, and installing Parallels was super easy. I had Windows up and running from my OEM disk in minutes without even reading the quickstart guide. Parallels integrates so seamlessly with the MacOS that the applications run in windows within the MacOS without ever having to look at the Windows Desktop. I can even see the whole start menu of windows right from the MacOS desktop...it's so much better than my previous emulation experiences.


Lightroom 4 was one of the programs I installed and I have to admit that it's not ready for the Retina display yet. Once it's updated to support the retina display, it will be gorgeous. Currently photos look soft on the screen. Also not quite ready is Adobe CS6. The graphics card supports Cuda but it seems to not be working with Premiere or SpeedGrade yet.

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) Apple First Impression Mac Macbook Macbook Pro blog part 4 retina https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/7/back-to-the-mac-part-4 Fri, 22 Jun 2012 06:45:00 GMT
Back to the Mac - Part 3 https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/6/back-to-the-mac-part-3 Today is the day. It's on a FedEx truck finding it's way to my doorstep. Just enough time for some final thoughts before things get hands-on!


There seems to be equal amounts of praise and criticism to the new MacBook Pro Retina. Fortunately I ordered mine before a lot of it came to the surface. Had I waited, the sceptics might have soured my enthusiasm and I might have waited. I had a chance to play with a demo yesterday and it seemed fine to me.


It's amazing to me how much negativity has sprouted on the internet over this computer. Perhaps that was already there in the Apple world and I've been oblivious to it for the most part until recently...it's surprising none the less. It seems that every group from designers to photographers to video editors to plain old fanboys have a bone to pick...even celebrity status professionals have chimed in with equal parts enthusiasm and scepticism. I thought I would narrow in on a few popular arguments and offer my two cents. This one's a bit wordy and there aren't any pictures. I'll make it up once I it in my hands, I promise!


The RAM and Hard Drive aren't upgradable.

It's true! All of the RAM is solid state and all of it is soldered directly to the motherboard. The 'hard drive' is also solid state and on a proprietary daughter board. I'm not sure why it couldn't have been mSata like in an Ultrabook but it's Apple and they like to do things their own way sometimes. Apple says that this is approach has something to do with them working more closely with hardware partners but all I see is marketing. Consumers have whole heartedly embraced the Macbook Air (which was the first of their computers to have non-upgradable Solid State storage). We have told Apple that having a thin, light machine is more important than the ability to upgrade in the future...they don't have to be told twice.


My take? I have used notebook computers almost exclusively for many years now and all have had components which could be upgraded. Some more than others but always the hard drive and the RAM. Since my first notebook I've only upgraded the RAM in one of them once to try and breathe life into a 4 year old machine, and the hard drive in one of them once but only because of an out of warranty failure. With this purchase, I'm already upgrading from 4GB of RAM to 8GB and to the latest generation of i7 processor...from a computer which performs perfectly well today for my needs. I can't see myself wanting more than this for at least 2 or 3 years. At the rate these computers are advancing, 3 years is about as long any machine lasts before it's obsoleted by new technology anyhow. I have no doubt that most notebook computers (PC and  Apple alike) will be suffering to keep up with the demands of users and the requirements of software by then...adding some RAM or a bigger hard drive won't really do much to delay that. I'd rather have a smaller notebook with the power I require as I am a power user and will likely upgrade the whole system (regardless of who's I buy) before 3 years. I feel that this design helps them bring costs down as well. It's not a secret that the new MacBook Pro Retina costs less than a 15 inch 'old' MacBook Pro with similar specifications. The fact is that even with the maximum storage Apple offers (over 700GB), I'd still be using external hard drives for video work and for backing everything up so either way my workflow stays the same. It might not be as fast as it can be in an ideal world but it will be faster than I'm used to and that's fine with me.


The battery is glued in!

Also true! The huge 90Wh battery is built in and glued to the Aluminium chassis. To upgrade the battery will require a trip to a Mac Genius with $200 in your hand. Many folks are upset about this but this is also a trend started by Apple. This is in fact, by my math, the 5th generation (at least) of non-upgrade ready batteries in Apple products starting back with the iPod. The iPod, iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Air have all been incredibly successful with the same design. I can't help but wonder how many nay sayers own one of these previous products happily.


I've done the math and for me this isn't a big deal. Apple claims the battery will last for 1000 full recharge cycles. By the standards of most electronics hardware, that's a very high number (the original MacBook Air was good for only 300 cycles). If you fully recharge the battery every day, that's 2 years and 9 months. Plus you have to realize that the battery isn't going to just quit at that point. It should have at least 80% capacity from when it was new...more than the standard battery in the 'old' Macbook Pro models or about 72Wh. I've used notebooks for years and some Dell's I've used would need a new battery annually as they would degrade to the point where they could barely run the computer for 30 minutes. Mind you this was in the day when there was no such thing as a 'mobile' processor and power notebooks used full blown desktop Pentium 4 chips...they were hot and very hard on the batteries.


In my case I also use my notebooks plugged in when ever possible. You never know when you're going to need to run on the battery so why do it when you don't have to? The 10 minutes it takes me to find an outlet in the airport could pay dividends when the plane is stuck on the tarmac having it's wings de-iced. Not only does this provide you with working time when you need it, but it preserves the battery in the long run. If I fully charge the battery only every other day (for example...it's likely to be less often than that in reality), the longevity of the battery jumps to at least 5 years before it will 'only' hold 80% charge. If anybody is using this notebook in 5 years it will be my wife, another relative who was in need of a good computer, or a school to which I charitably donated it...it won't be the computer I still edit on...that I'm sure of.


It's Unfixable!

iFixit is a very popular website famous for tearing down consumer electronics just days after (or even before) they hit shelves to show us the insides to help people fix their own hardware. I love their tear downs and coming from a computer engineering background, I can appreciate the service they're providing. They have stated  that the new MBP Retina is 'unfixable'...and they're not happy about it. I respectfully disagree and think that their comment should have been that it's not 'fixable at home in your living room'. I've owned notebook computers for nearly 2 decades and even while it was my every day job as a bench technician to take apart and fix notebook computers, I didn't fix my own at home. Very few people do. The reality is, as a professional photographer, I don't have the time or the skills to do this myself with the level of quality, speed, and confidence it takes to get me back into my editing quickly enough. I leave this to the experts because without my computer I can't make money and could lose customers. Even if I can't fix it, Apple can. And even if I could, I'd still take it to Apple for service and not do it myself.


Now there are other arguments which do hold some water...The LCD screen is fixed/glued to the glass and aluminium housing making it impossible to replace without replacing the whole unit. This makes the replacement cost more. That said, I've worked for Dell and I can tell you that replacing the whole LCD panel is standard practice for most computer notebook manufacturers. Regardless of the cost of the whole unit vs just the LCD panel inside, the time it takes to replace the whole unit is much much shorter (minutes) than the time it takes to replace the LCD inside of it. The time it takes to replace is certainly factored into the cost and the higher the skill level required of the technician, the more that replacement costs per hour. The bottom line always rules and the path of quickest, cheapest resistance always prevails.


As long as Apple can fix it, there is no difference to me and there won't be to many many others. If you're a DIY type or a tinkerer or plan to use this notebook for 7 years past the warranty expires...it might not be the best choice for you. Many won't be buying one because it's hard to service and that's fine...we all have different needs. It's not enough to make me regret my decision.

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) Apple Mac Macbook Macbook Pro blog part 3 retina https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/6/back-to-the-mac-part-3 Thu, 21 Jun 2012 15:22:22 GMT
Back to the Mac - Part 2 https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/6/back-to-the-mac-part-2 Straight out of Shanghai, factory direct, my new Macbook Pro is on it's way to me. I'm very happy that I decided to expedite the shipping if for no other reason that I'd be kicking myself now if I didn't and knew it could get here faster!


In the few hours I spent considering this purchase, I had to decide if there would be any compatibility issues. I didn't have time to confirm everything as working or not...even now some things might still surprise me. If you're changing over from Windows to Mac (or vice versa), it's something you want to think about because your computer investment can quickly become pricey if your existing hardware and software aren't compatible. Running Windows via Parallels will be a must but I have an extra copy of Windows 7 around already. Below is some of the software and hardware which apply to me.


  • Western Digital USB 3.0 Hard Drives - This was something which turned me off of Apple computers up until the new Retina came out with USB 3.0 ports. I do the majority of my video work on external hard drives and the extra speed is essential. When these (500GB) drives aren't big enough, I'll likely upgrade to Thunderbolt drives to get an even larger boost in speed.
  • Microsoft Wireless Mouse 6000 - Heresy? Maybe but it's the mouse I have and the mouse I'm used to. Microsoft offers Mac drivers.
  • Pantone Huey Pro - Mac Drivers are available.
  • Lexar USB 3.0 CF/SD Card Reader - This should be fully compatible.
  • Belkin USB 3.0 Hub - This should also be fully compatible.
  • BenQ 27" LCD Monitor - This monitor accepts VGA, DVI, and several HDMI inputs. Since it's native resolution is 1080p, the new HDMI port on the MBP Retina should be perfect for me.
  • BenQ Projector - This is a low resolution compact projector I use at events. I'll need the Thunderbolt-VGA adapter but it should work fine.
  • Sandisk Expresscard CF reader - No Expresscard slot!
  • Sandisk Expresscard USB 3.0 card - Still no Expresscard slot!
  • Memorex USB DVD/Bluray Burner - Inside this great drive is Pioneer hardware so I'm hoping it works. Despite being Memorex brand, it's the most compact, USB powered Bluray burner I could find for under $200. It's served me well and I hope it continues to do so.
  • Canon and Brother Printers (some wireless some wired) - Mac drivers available for all printers.


  • Adobe Creative Cloud - Adobe is very Mac friendly. My CC license should get me what ever I need.
  • Lightroom 4 - Same for Lightroom. My retail disk has both Windows and Mac versions on it.
  • DSLR Remote Pro - This is a Windows only program which should work in Parallels but hasn't been tested to my knowledge.
  • Oloneo PhotoEngine - This is also a Windows only program but has been tested in Parallels and should work fine.
  • FolderFTP - This is an automated FTP folder monitoring app. It's Windows only. I have to find a Mac equivalent.
  • Microsoft SyncToy - Obviously this is Windows only. An on-demand backup application will need to be found.
  • CrashPlan Client - CrashPlan is a great service that has clients for all operating systems.
  • Google Drive - I believe there is a Mac client for the new Google Drive service.
  • Google Picasa - I use Picasa for a few things but will be trying to migrate those tasks to Lightroom.
  • Google Chrome - I'm going to give Safari an honest try mainly because of the support for the Retina display.
  • MS Office 10 for Windows - Windows only. Should work on Parallels but might use this as an excuse to use Google apps more.
  • Drobo Dashboard - My onside backup device is a Drobo FS. The Drobo Dashboard client should work on Mac.
  • Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE) - Now that I have a Creative Cloud subscription, I should be able to use Photoshop CS6 to assemble my panoramas.
  • GoPro CineForm - The GoPro software is available for MacOS.
  • Samsung Kies (desktop software for my Samsung Galaxy) - To my knowledge, there is a MacOS version available.


When I bought my first Mac years ago, there was really no such thing as programs which ran the same on Windows and MacOS. Now however, many apps work on both and the rest can be emulated using Parallels. There were windows emulators back then but it was unstable technology which never worked very well.

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) Apple Mac Macbook Pro blog part 2 retina https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/6/back-to-the-mac-part-2 Tue, 19 Jun 2012 16:22:59 GMT
Back to the Mac - Part 1 https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/6/back-to-the-mac-part-1 In the mid 90s I enrolled in college. It was a whirlwind event as I hadn't planned to attend but a combination of sudden job loss and the fact that the girl I was dating at the time lived next door to the program head of Computer Engineering Technologies at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), got me to jump in at the last minute...starting class a week late after getting approved from a waiting list.


I soon realized (or at least convinced myself) that I needed a new computer and that a notebook would likely be the best way to go despite the cost. I convinced myself that as I'd be learning to be a programmer, the platform shouldn't matter. I'd be learning to program in Unix (Linux wasn't yet the Juggernaut it is today unfortunately) after all so I started looking into a PowerBook. Code was code and programming languages transcend computer platforms...don't they?

Image from the Wikimedia Commons

Unfortunately that sexy Black PowerBook G3 which cost me about $2700 at the time (and which took most of my school years to pay off too) proved to be almost useless because NAIT used only PCs and insisted that I do the same. I made do for a while but had to submit and go back to the PC world as it was defined by my educator. I later sold the computer to my grandmother (who took to computers like a duck to water!) and moved on.


Jump to last year when I was starting my photography business. I bought what I thought was a top of the line Sony Vaio. 17" screen, quad core i7 processor...I was ready to take on the world! Only later I learned that the screen on my carefully researched investment couldn't reproduce reds properly even with regular calibration and defiantly refused to fit it's bulk into every bag I tried to put it in. After 10 months of working with an external monitor to get around the colour problems, I started researching my next notebook.


After much careful research I decided that the new Asus Zenbook Prime (yet to be released) was the way to go. It was small, thin, powerful, and had a proper IPS screen even if it was only 13". I was sure that this was the ideal computer for me as I am always on the move and don't operate out of a traditional studio.


This all came crashing down around me when Apple announced the new MacBook Pro Retina this week. A computer which would be tough, fast, thin, light, and all around amazing featuring a display with 2880x1800 resolution!. Less than an hour after the press release, I realized that the Zenbook Prime had been trumped despite the fact that 'Ultrabook' computers are supposed to be competing with the MacBook Air...not the Pro. The fact is that the new MacBook Pro is as thin as the Asus, has equal battery life specs, and is only slightly larger and heavier otherwise. It costs more but the top of the line Asus I was planning to buy would have cost quite a bit more than the $1000 'Ultrabook' benchmark anyhow.


The new MBP Retina had obsoleted many leading edge machines with a computer which was the answer to all of my professional photography needs...and was positioned to beat the PC competition to market as Apple started taking orders for them that day! I swallowed hard, drank the Kool-Aid, and ordered one before they back ordered. This is an expensive and snappy decision but I'm confident that I've made the right one.


This will be the first in a series of blog posts documenting the journey back to the Mac. Hopefully I didn't screw up again.

An unboxing post will be coming as soon as it gets here. It should ship in about a week.


dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) Apple Mac Macbook Pro blog part 1 retina https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/6/back-to-the-mac-part-1 Thu, 14 Jun 2012 01:37:35 GMT
Edmonton and Area Corporate Challenge https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/6/edmonton-and-area-corporate-challenge For the second year in a row I've acted as the official volunteer photographer for the Edmonton and Area Corporate Challenge. I always have so much fun working this event that I always try to keep 2 weeks free in the summer so that I can help out.

After 17 days of shooting over 170 Edmonton and Area companies compete in 22 sporting events, I've taken over 6000 photos. Of those, I've published over 800 of them to a gallery on my website.

This year I have a new website connected to proper analytics so I've been able to see just how popular the photos are. I thought I'd share some statistics as the numbers amazed me long before the event was even over. These numbers are still growing but these are the figures from May 27th when the first pictures were published until yesterday, June 12th.


Number of visitors to the gallery: 2,413

Number of page/picture views: 100,207

Number of visits from China: 6

Average pages/pictures per visit: 41.5

Busiest day: May 28th (21,415 page/picture views)

Busiest time of day: 8am to 11am (over one third of all traffic)

Most viewed picture:

The U of A boys sure know how to bring it!Corporate Challenge 2012-1013 The U of A boys sure know how to bring it!
All of the photos from their show were very popular!


Now that the games are done for another year I want to thank the organizers, volunteers, and participants for making my job easy again this year. You all showed amazing dedication and spirit and it was my honour to do what I could to preserve some of these memories for the future.


See you next year!

dave@davetameling.com (Dave Tameling) 2012 Google Analytics blog corporate challenge edmonton statistics yeg https://davetameling.com/blog/2012/6/edmonton-and-area-corporate-challenge Wed, 13 Jun 2012 18:33:21 GMT