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Sony A7RII review Part III

In todays part of the review series on the Sony A7RII the simple question….
Do we still need HDR?

 

The answer you may give yourself, but let me first tell you my opinion.
When I shot with Canon I often shot HDR in difficult situations (lighting wise), always 2,1,0,1,2 and I edited those with mostly NIK, when I switched to Sony I found that I actually didn’t need the HDR shots anymore, there is so much detail recoverable in the files that I found myself more and more shooting non HDR and “fixing” it in DxO optics or Capture One (or even Lightroom).

 

Now with the A7R shooting HDR was not perfect, the camera was not as fast as the Canon and I decided to just forget about it. With the A7RII we have a new chance, shooting 5 frames a second and this combined with the new Lightroom HDR merge option you can actually work very fast (and very good) with HDRs so I decided to test this out, but ….. I needed a scene were it would make sense, and we indeed ended up in such a location today. Muir woods.

 

Let me start by showing the HDRs.
All were shot handheld in the order 2,1,0,1,2
Editing was done in Lightroom and tinting in DxO Filmpack 5
I tried to stay away from doing HDR like Highly Destructive Retouching, but I do like some detail 😀

SF  (343 of 689) August 05 2015-HDR-Edit

SF  (424 of 689) August 05 2015-HDR-Edit

SF  (467 of 689) August 05 2015-HDR-Edit

SF  (509 of 689) August 05 2015-HDR-Edit

SF  (554 of 689) August 05 2015-HDR-Edit

 

 

Now these were the HDRs, now let’s look at some images I shot under the same circumstances but now used Lightroom (DxO doesn’t support the files yet and I wanted to keep everything in Lightroom) to get some HDR like looks.

SF  (445 of 689) August 05 2015-Edit

SF  (449 of 689) August 05 2015-Edit

SF  (601 of 689) August 05 2015-Edit

SF  (600 of 689) August 05 2015-Edit

SF  (457 of 689) August 05 2015-Edit

 

SF  (618 of 689) August 05 2015-Edit

Now a lot will be taste of course, but I have to be honest…. I think the Sony A7RII does pretty well without shooting HDR. The HDRs look smoother without a doubt, and it’s very fast to do with the new HDR option in Lightroom, and it will in the end give you slightly better files, but it will also take up 5x as much space on your harddrive.

 

For me it’s a matter of that I will shoot it more than with the A7R for the simple reason it’s so much faster and as mentioned before with Lightroom you put the HDRs together in seconds, but if we really need it….. I think the dynamic range is pretty “sick” 😀

Sony A7RII a first look Part II

Today part II in my review on the new Sony A7RII.

 

The first time I really pushed the Sony A7RII was actually the first day we were in San Francisco. During that day we visited several areas that are perfect for street photography. For me street photography is something I really love to do but also demands a lot from the camera I use, so let me tell you how the A7RII performed during the day.

 

I will divide the review in topics and tell you my personal opinion, in the end you will see a rather expansive album from that day with the images shot with the A7RII. All images are tinted like I normally do.

 

Colors
Colors are like I’m used from Sony, the AWB (Auto White Balance) works very good and the colors are very nice, no surprises here.

 

Battery life
I get a lot of questions about this.
I’m using a grip with 2 batteries (the camera is delivered with 2 batteries), the reason I use the grip is mostly due to the size, I like a bit more “beef” on my camera. During the day I used the camera a lot and also did some reviews, left the camera on during walking etc. still I got app 650 images out of the 2 batteries and ended with 20% in the last one (after which I switched both batteries), if you like to walk around a lot and shoot a lot I would advise 2 extra batteries, I can’t imagine someone needing more for photography. Normally I would never shoot 650 images during a day, but in this case we tested a lot and there was a LOT to shoot actually.

 

Noise on high-ISO
VERY VERY impressive. Noise is very good under control, up to ISO6400 I would use now without any reservations, even up to 12800 is no problem at all for nice A4 prints, after that it starts to get a bit more noisy, but as soon as DxO optics supports the files and you can use their awesome PRIME noise settings I would not be surprised if you can use it all the way up to the maximum ISO. Do remember you’re looking at 42.5 MP on 1:1 on your screen and that is “ridiculous” to judge noise, you can make billboards with an iPhone6 (we see these a lot now in SF) and that’s only 8MP, so noise on a 42.5 MP image…… don’t worry too much just shoot and you will be surprised.

 

You can see difference on lighting of course, with tungsten or fluorescent you will get a bit more noise than outside but again overall I’m not afraid to push the A7RII all the way up and still have some images that can be printed on A4 size without a problem.

 

Speed of AF
AWESOME, the A7RII is snappy and fast, I hardly missed any shots, and of course you can make it “hunt” with the SLT mirror inside (I use a convertor with SLT mirror for my A glass) I’m still using the contrast AF setting but also that is faster than the A7RII, seeing the fact that most improvements can be expected in the Phase detection AF (convertor without SLT mirror) I can’t wait to test this out, but at the moment I’m already more than happy with the response of the A7RII with the SLT convertor.

 

On the street I would love a camera that focusses instantly, sometimes you literally only have less of a second to take your shot and with the A7R I have to be honest… I missed some shots because the AF was just a bit too slow, the A7RII was a champ today, it snapped into focus, never hunted on the street and the images are RAZOR sharp. Of course you can make it hunt… like any camera that is… just point towards something with HEAVY sun light straight into the lens or an object without any detail… but that are extreme circumstances and I don’t know any camera that will focus correctly under these circumstances, but where it SHOULD focus…. well dude it focussed VERY fast.

 

Look of the files
I still don’t know what it exactly is, but when I shoot with Medium format there is a certain “magic” to the files, call it depth, or microdetail but the images are simply put “rounder” more 3D, in my review of the A7r I already mentioned that the A7r did this very well and I’m very happy to say that the A7RII takes another step in that direction, below two images that really hit the spot for me in this “look”.

SF day 2 (281 of 814) August 04 2015 \SF day 2 (100 of 814) August 04 2015

Panorama mode
Yes I use this quite often, I know it’s just a JPG but man it’s so easy and fast and the results are very good.
With the A7r you needed a very fast card to make this work flawless (especially on wide) so I was a bit worried for the A7RII but the speed on the sensor read out seems to work wonders here too, just sweep the camera and the panorama is done (nice). I do have to add I’m using a 64GB SD card type 3, so these are pretty fast cards.

 

Auto ISO
AWESOME, finally Sony implemented the minimum shutter speed and man that makes a HUGE difference, it was one of the things I really missed from the Canons and I never understood why Sony didn’t include it, but now we have it. I programmed one of the custom buttons to jump straight into the menu of the shutter speed so I can change it very quickly.

 

Overall speed
The camera not only feels faster but it is also faster, with 5 frames a second I got some images I couldn’t get with the A7R, and ok it’s not a speed monster with 12-14 frames per second but seeing the fact you’re shooting a 42.5 MP camera I’m more than impressed with it.

 

Dynamic Range
The camera is using a new type sensor (backlit) and this COULD of course have an influence on the dynamic range, but as we are used from Sony, the dynamic range is again “sick” I never ever owned a camera that could pull so much details out of a file like the Sony cameras (sensors). Some people actually comment on my files that they look to “HDR” “Dynamic” and that that would be a reason to not buy the camera…. do remember that you can ALWAYS limit your dynamic range, but you can’t add dynamic range to a camera (unless you shoot HDR), when the files come out of the camera they don’t look much different than what I got from my Canon cameras ( a bit more dynamic), but when you start pushing and pulling the files that’s when the “magic” happens.

 

We will have to wait for DxO labs when they test the camera, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this is one of the most dynamic cameras out there at the moment.

 

First “careful” conclusion
Absolutely happy, very impressed with the ISO and speed (both handling and AF) and I just LOVE something in the look of this camera. For our next outing I will couple some Leica R glass with the Sony and see how well it handles manual focus on the street.

 

Is it the best camera in the world?…. at the moment for me I’m afraid it actually is, the combination of speed, resolution and dynamic range is something I really love, add into the mix that you can mount every lens on it (ever build) and have in camera image stabilization, insane high ISO and the “new” body all adds to a pile of things I already liked about the A7r….

 

More soon.
For now enjoy the album, click on one of the files for the gallery view, and… sorry for the overload on images.

 

Sony A7RII part I

Sony A7RII a first look

 

This is the first blog post in a series I will be doing on the new Sony A7RII camera.
I got the camera a few days before the release and was able to work with it to write the review, the problem was is that we didn’t had any model shoots planned due to the trip to San Francisco and PhotoShopWorld, but don’t worry. In this first part I’ll give you my opinion and thoughts, and after that I’ll show some of the results I shot during our travels and update my thoughts as we go, so you will explore the camera with me instead of reading a totally prewritten review, interesting idea right :D, so let’s start.

 

Today (August 5th) sees the release in the Netherlands of one of the best cameras in the world, the A7RII, although… well that’s what Sony would love me to write of course, but is it true?

 

A few years ago I was asked to do a press introduction for the A99 in Dubai, and although at first I declined, I was a Canon and Medium format shooter and didn’t really take Sony serious, of course they had nice glass but Sony…. Cameras? Nah….

 

Eventually I decided to let Sony send me this A99 to check out, I did however tell them that I would be brutally honest and if I didn’t like it I would write so on my blog….. to my surprise they challenged me and told me that whatever I thought about it I could write down. Well that’s having confidence.

 

To make a long story short, I switched from Canon to Sony and never looked back (well I do miss the Sigma 120-300 f2.8 A LOT), the first time you see the dynamic range you can pull from these files and the sharpness of the images in combination with the look from the Zeiss lenses… well there simply was no turning back. The only thing I had to get used to (A LOT) was the EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) but as soon as you are used to it, again there is hardly any turning back, seeing what you get before you press the shutter is awesome in street and travel photography, but even better when shooting with flash and you want to under expose the ambient, you just dial it in as you like and let the flash system do it’s work… awesome.

 

The A99 was a great camera (and still is), but the market changed for me when Sony released the A7R.
The A7R was again a camera I had to get used to, for fashion and street work I love high-resolution images, but I’m not wowed by 36MP as many reviewers where when the camera was released, I was used to shooting 60-80MP on my Leaf digital backs so 36MP well…. It’s great but not something that would take me away from the real deal, and that’s the size of the camera vs the quality.

 

Very quickly the A7R became my main camera, it seems that every lens that was ever made fitted that little camera (well I had to add a grip otherwise I didn’t feel comfortable with it), I love to play with old lenses like my Leica R lenses, or the really funky M42 lenses that will flare as soon as you take them out. Now not only did the lenses fit but thanks to the EVF and peaking (you will see a bright color around the areas that are in focus) I could see what was in focus, and if that was not enough I could also zoom in to very close and ridiculously close to really fine tune the focus.

 

The A7R seemed to be the perfect camera… well ok I still don’t like that little USB connector which always scares the living daylights out of me when tethering but that’s about it… oh yeah it doesn’t has image stabilization but overall…. It’s very very good. But as most people are… we are always waiting for new stuff and the rumor mill is always turning.

 

When Sony send me their new A7RII it was hard for me not to write about it earlier but they specifically asked me to wait till the 5th of August because that’s the official release in the Netherlands.

 

At the moment we are in San Francisco really trying to push the A7RII to it’s limits but I would love to share my initial thoughts on it without showing any shots yet.

 

Improvements
As you are used of me I won’t list the list you can find anywhere, I hate to waste your time, I will just mention the stuff that really got me excited and that I think are the game changers for me (and probably a lot of you).
One of the things that’s a real biggy for me is the image stabilization, we now have 5 axis image stabilization, and in short that’s just awesome, it means that even with those old lenses we now have steady shots with longer shutter speeds.

 

Also the A7RII introduces an extensive option to change the shutterspeeds with AUTOISO (Thank you so very much, I’ve been begging for this since I got the A99 and it’s a shame it took so long, but I’m very happy with this), I actually programmed one of my custom buttons to change this on the fly (very handy)

 

For HDR shooters there is also much to be happy about, new bracketing options and……. yes a timer function (thank you Sony).

 

The first time you look through the viewfinder you have to be careful not to drool on the floor after you picked your jaw up… well ok it’s just awesome, it’s bigger and better

 

AF speed has improved too, 399 on-sensor phase detect AF  points plus 25 contrast detection. I use the SLT adaptor for my A mount lenses but according to Sony you could get just as fast AF without the SLT mirror now, plus A LOT of coverage on the sensor (according to Sony the highest density in the world, but that is for the Phase detect AF), as soon as we are back in the Netherlands I’ll try the AF without the SLT mirror and let you know. But if you read online there are several tests out there that claim that Canon lenses now focus very fast and even track with the metabones adaptors, most of these tests have been done on pre-samples so imagine what happens with the real camera….. well we will see.

 

One of the things I also found in the box was something I’m also very happy with. As you know I shoot tethered a lot and as mentioned before the USB connector on the A7series is… well fragile. With the A7RII you will get a small screw on plate that will not only guide your cable but also has a screw system that will take all tension off, a little bit like a jerk stopper on steroids (LOVE IT).

 

They also raised the ISO to an insane 100.000+ (102.400 to be precise), I already took some images around the house and I have to say even the highest setting is not that bad actually, seeing it’s a 42MP sensor means that if you look 1:1 on your monitor it’s like viewing a billboard from armslength and yeah indeed you see noise, but if you print this… well I challenge you to try this, trust me the noise will be almost gone (or hardly visible on an A4 print) especially when using a program like DxO optics. Anyway images up to 12800 I would have no problem in using for publications.

 

Further more there now is a silent shooting mode (and it IS very silent), less vibration in the shutter (handy for high resolutions) and of course the Electronic first curtain option (which I personally never us).

 

Oh and it does 4K video too, and very well from what I heard, I love video but I’m not an expert, one of the things I do like is that it does it on the card or via a clean output, I don’t want to carry a separate harddrive with me during travels or on the street. Combining the 4K video with Image Stabilization is of course a big thing especially now that it’s possible to shoot it on the card. I do love to shoot the occasional video clips during travels with my camera and now it will fit the material that Annewiek shoots on 4K pretty well.

 

And to be honest the list goes on and on……
Is it the best camera in the world?
Well it depends on who uses it of course, I like the speed a lot (5frames a second) but for some people they will need 14frames a second, but then again they won’t need the 42MP probably.

 

I love the size of the camera, but I love a more heavy camera and the new body adds some “beef” to the A7R which in my opinion was just a bit too small, some people will still prefer a FujiFilm Xx00, although I think that the A7RII without grip and E mount lenses is just as compact.

 

Some people will nitpick that the RAWs from Sony are not “real” 14 bits and suck, well that proves probably that Sony is indeed taking over the market because in all honestly, I love to push my files and I never ran into problems with my not “real” RAW files, and seeing the fact that these “rumors” are spread even before the camera was officially released shows the “fear” and “frustration” in the market more than the fact that Sony wouldn’t be releasing a game changing camera.

 

That said, I REALLY love the A7RII, it adds a lot of extra benefits to the A7R which I already loved and it shows that Sony is very rapidly becoming a major player in the camera market. In fact when I started using Sony I once said that in probably 10 years Sony could become the number 1, it’s now 2 years later and I have to say I was probably wrong… in Medium Format almost all sensors are already Sony, in most DLSR’s from Nikon you see Sony sensors, when Canon released their 5Ds people were disappointed that it didn’t have a Sony sensor and the cameras Sony puts on the market are indeed revolutionary.
Now did I forget something….
Well I promised not to be to technical but there is one thing I really can’t bypass because it’s a first ever on the market in these kind of cameras. The A7RII is the first camera with a backlit sensor, meaning it will capture more light and is MUCH faster in it’s readouts where you can see a lot of the benefits right away, because to be honest I was stunned by the speed it captures those whopping 42MP files.

Bildschirmfoto-2015-06-10-um-20.04.47-700x420

Conclusion (for now)
I still have to really push the camera further, but the first shots are incredibly impressive, I love the new feel (A7II users know what I mean) and the overall quality is just breath taking. High ISO is a REAL step forward and the AF speed is very fast, but more on that in the next blogpost in this series.

 

Is it the best camera in the world?
Well if you’re like me travelling a lot and want a light camera but don’t want to take ANY sacrifices on quality this is THE camera at the moment. The detail is absolutely stunning and when you zoom in you can see every little detail in the skin of a model and when you look very closely you might even spot some of the DNA from the sheep the sweater was made off…….

 

Yeah it’s a very nice camera.

 

 

 

Video review Sony 24-240 Lens and loads of travel and street photography tips

Today the final part of my review of the Sony E-mount 24-240 lens.
During the review period Annewiek took some video of me shooting and sharing tips on Texel.
You can see some of the shots and the tips in this episode of Quite Frankly.
Feel free to share the video.

 

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