...E_T shutterbug 


 

Is it worth getting the NEX 16mm f2.8 prime lens for your Sony NEX camera?

May 22, 2013
Is it worth getting the NEX 16mm f2.8 prime lens for your Sony NEX camera?
So I was weighing up the pros and cons of whether it was worth getting a Sony NEX 16mm f2.8 pancake lens in already having the NEX 18-55mm zoom lens to use, and having conducted a much more thorough round of research on it, this is what I can conclude.

The NEX 16mm f2.8 lens has significantly lower default barrel distortion than the Samsung 16mm f2.4 equivalent on their Mirrorless Compact System (MCS) camera range, and generally it could be said that the 16mm Sony lens on the Sony MCS perform a little better too in some regards. The Samsung lens seems to get relatively positive reviews on technical review sites for what it is where as the Sony NEX 16mm f2.8 lens seems to get a little more stick from technical reviewers, maybe because of what is expected of Sony? Keep in mind that the Sony NEX 16mm f2.8 lens for e-mount MCS camera's is still significantly cheaper at rrp than the 16mm f2.4 for Samsung MCS cameras.

From picture samples it seems that shooting at the widest possible aperture for this lens of f2.8 (wide open) at a macro focal depth with the NEX 16mm f2.8 will bring on some interesting bokeh effect at the boarders and corners, in such a scenario the slight blurring at the corners wouldn't matter anyway as its not noticeable amidst the bokeh effect.

From the samples images it's also the NEX 16mm f2.8 lens is clearly very sharp at the centre but is noticeably a little blurred at the corners when shooting between apertures of f2.8 and f4. Meaning you need to stop down past f4 (the threshold is said to be around f8 for best results) in order to get greater clarity across the entire frame, by which point the light drop off will significantly increase even with the built in software assisted vagnette compensation active. 

The aluminium coated construction of the lens is said to be of high quality whilst having a solid premium feel to it overall. 

The Sony NEX 16mm f2.8 pancake lens also has significantly far less default optical barrel distortion than the Sony NEX 18-55mm f3.5-5-6 zoom lens does at the widest viewing angle of 18mm, but if you're using Photoshop this shouldn't present too much of an issue as there is an auto lens distortion correction profile included with Photoshop for the Sony NEX 18-55mm lens.

If you already have the 18-55mm lens and photshop (and you're not too concerned about the less compact form factor of it) it might not necessarily be worth getting the sel 16mm due to the technical limitations of the NEX 16mm pancake lens and the comparative performance of the 18-55mm lens in terms of sharpness and clarity (in being very similar beyond the slight blurring and chromatic aberration found at the corners on the 16mm f2.8 lens which doesn't happen on the NEX 18-55mm lens), they seem to be quit similar in this regard which is strange considering the 16mm f2.8 pancake is a none zoom prime lens. For still image photography the money could be better put towards other types of more serious camera equipment that would give better physical optical performance if you're thinking of seriously progressing at some point with the same kinds of 16mm viewing angle. (even at 15mm on some zoom lenses for other types of camera's)

But having said that if a more compact lens for general use is a must for your Sony NEX MCS camera with less default optical barrel distortion, then it might be well worth considering.

The sel 16mm f2.8 pancake lens should be ok to use with the NEX-3, 3C, 5, f3, 3N, 5N, 5R, and 6. Essentially all nex camera's that have a 16.1 megapixel rating and under. However it's said that any potential optical flaws become much more pronounced on the 24 megapixel sensor of the NEX-7.

If you're working within a tight budget constraint and are looking for a very sharp wide angle prime lens for taking still images, you might want to consider the Sigma 19mm f2.8 EX DN lens. Its said to be a pancake lens, but when you see it you'll think its anything but. It's nowhere near as compact nor does it have as wide a viewing angle as the Sony 16mm f2.8 E-mount lens, but its been touted as one of the sharpest prime lens for the NEX camera that you can buy for the price. It might also be worth noting that the Sigma lens has also been recently updated and revised with a new set of optics and exterior designs too, which has the slightly different naming convention of the Sigma 19mm f2.8 DN-ART (just DN at the end instead of EX DN). For even better performance on a budget NEX prime lens you might want to consider the Sigma AF 30mm f/2.8 EX DN lens which seems to be getting rave reviews  (or the 30mm f2.8 DN-ART update). Needless to mention that you obviously won't be able to get as much into the frame with the 30mm as you can with the NEX 16mm or Sigma 19 at the same distances. The new updated E-mount ART series of Sigma lenses also see's an additional 60mm f2.8 DN-ART prime lens variant that might be worth looking into. All the mentioned Sigma lenses should glean excellent still frame results on the NEX 7 too.
 

shooting tips - Getting the most out of your Sony NEX-F3 (Central weighted, flexi-spot or multi-zone focus?...and why it's still worth shooting in JPG on the F3)

May 14, 2013
shooting tips - Getting the most out of your Sony NEX-F3 (Central weighted, flexi-spot or multi-zone focus?...and why it's still worth shooting in JPG on the F3)
Focus

I generally only ever use the central weighted focus setting for measured macro photography snaps, in such situations it's easier to see the focal detail without necessarily having to drop into the zoom view mode all the time to check focus detail. There's also the fact that in most cases you'll also optionally have far more time to fine tune settings and drop into zoom preview mode anyway.

It's also perfectly possible to use the central weighted focus setting on infinity focus snaps too, however I've found that the focus peaking meter can more often than not be a little miss-leading, even though it says that it's focused in certain areas the final result isn't necessarily as sharp as it could be away from the centre of the image when using central weighted focus. 

Generally if you don't have the time to carefully measure and tune each pre-shutter frame the multi-zone focus is your best option. Whilst in this mode it evaluates multiple focal depth's across the frame to give you the sharpest optimum in between focus for the entire frame (or at least a large portion of it) rather than just the sharpest focus at depth at the centre of the frame (or your chosen focal point if using flexible point focus), which is certainly generally more ideal and better for infinity focus pictures. Of course it's also perfectly possible to manually set the focal depth to optimum sharpness with greater inclusion of the wider frame when using central weighted or flexi spot focus too, but it does take a lot more time.

Still well worth shooting in JPG as well as RAW on the NEX-F3

I used to only ever shoot exclusively in RAW whilst using the NEX-F3. However, I've found that some pretty decent and very usable results can also be achieved for JPG images too via the camera's own on board RAW to JPG image processing. The camera seems to apply HDR to JPG's in a way that blew me away in numerous instances to say the least, and in alot of cases it even saved me a lot of post image capture processing work. Having discovered this it only seemed prudent to set the camera to the mode which allows it to shoot and write RAW as well as  JPG image files at the same time to SD for every snap taken.  
 

The 18-55mm kit lens isn't as bad as some people would have it...(... from taking pictures using this lens thus far, this is what I can conclude from my experience of it)

April 25, 2013
The 18-55mm kit lens isn't as bad as some people would have it...(... from taking pictures using this lens thus far, this is what I can conclude from my experience of it)
People complain about the lens distortion at the widest viewing point on the Sony E-mount 18-55mm lens. But these are the types of people who usually don't know how to use a lens that has been designed to incorporate the broadest range of shooting styles. At 18mm the SEL 18-55mm does exhibit some slight image curvature,(obviously nowhere as much as an actual fish eye lens) however for the types of pictures that many people want to take, it often helps create more of a dramatic visual effect when used on spaces (with or without a subject placed at the centre) and on architecture. There once used to be a time where people would go out of their way to get lenses that would create this slight effect despite not knowing that it was these slights of specific distortion that caused it.


At about 27/28mm the barrel distortion is less apparent.

At about 50 to 55mm its even less so.

Even at 50 to 55mm camera shake shouldn't really be a problem because the NEX camera is so damn light. But even if it is the image stabalisation should more then help when shooting at 50 to 55mm. 

50 to 55mm is also ideal for less distorted portrait snaps.

If you're really serious about minimising lens distortion to avoid funny shaped looking heads for portrait snaps you'll need a different type of lens altogether, and the pursuit of minimal image distortion for portraits through default physical optical properties with the least amount of software correction doesn't come cheap either. 

Funnily enough, I reckon a large amount of this would also apply to the Canon 18-55mm lens for canon crop sensor camera's too.

But even if you use what I've written here as a general guidelines for taking better snaps within the limitations of an 18-55mm lens, there will still be some distortion present at 50 to 55mm. It might also be the case that you want an even lesser degree of lens distortion, say for more scientific based application or for quantity surveying (but I would have thought in such instances the necessary equipment would have been provided to begin with), or for more general applications, you maybe just want to stop someones head from looking a funny shape in certain pictures. Whatever the case in such instances, Adobe Photoshop will prove to be an essential tool which I'll cover in another part.
 

How to get RAW image capture features on a compact camera? (...buy a powershot SX130)

April 24, 2013
How to get RAW image capture features on a compact camera? (...buy a powershot SX130)
The powershot SX130 already gets part way their to a sort of D-SLR feel but in compact none interchangeable lens form. Pixel count isn't everything, especially when it comes to image quality, and even at 12 megapixels the SX130 still produces excellent quality images. But aside from the large D-SLR like LCD screen and sort of similar control layout (bar a few buttons and dials) there was just something about it that felt a little incomplete in not having RAW image capture capability. That was until I found out that there a none destructive firmware mod for it! 

It works by placing files on your SD card. After which you just switch it on and there should then be some additional sub-menu's that allow for the additional features of shooting in RAW with EV bracketing. Restoring it to stock firmware is just simply a case of removing the files that you placed on the SD card.

The version for the SX130 has been tested as stable. However the separate and current SX150 firmware mod is known to have some serious bugs, and its claimed that it has bricked some powershot SX150's! So SX150 owners might want to wait a while for a more stable version. As ever use this mod at your own risk, and I'm no way responsible for any potentially messed up SX130 if you decide that RAW snaps might be useful to you on your SX130.
 

Ricoh 16 megapixel APS-C but smaller and none modular...(...pocketably smaller)

April 17, 2013
Ricoh 16 megapixel APS-C but smaller and none modular...(...pocketably smaller)
It only seemed appropriate to keep the run of stuff on snapper gear going, at least the stuff that caught my interest, and having briefly mentioned Ricoh recently it looks like they've decided to extend their APS-C camera range beyond their modular "chop 'n' change" parts of their GXR series that are available for the general consumers side to optionally throw money at amidst all the other competition. They've now made a none modular stand alone APS-C sensor camera for people to optionally buy, but at $800 for this just released GR with APS-C sensor, is it really worth it when you could buy the GXR and a whole bunch of modular sensors for different things to boot? Or at least the GXR would give you the option to upgrade the sensor for less if they ever do get round to releasing the higher spec stuff for general consumer acquirement for the GXR. I guess the GR does far more for down sizing their previous 16 megapixel effort for a vastly more pocketable APS-C sensor based snapper box within the Ricoh fold more than anything else, albeit at a pretty hefty premium short of actually having a more recognised household brand name stuck on it. But generally it'll no doubt be indicator of where general household brand names might be heading on the pocketable none-interchangeable lens compact front. 

It also didn't really surprise when I learned that Nikon (a long established house hold name in camera gear that have Sony sensors in them) already have something similar on the market for a vastly higher price, in fact it makes even more sense that something like this should come from Ricoh, could this set the way for other manufacturers to follow suit with less costly versions depending on demand?

It won't be long before we see a whole bunch near pristine APS-C sensors needing to be re-purposed at some point.




 

 

Canon powershot SX150 IS...(...hands on quick review and general impressions)

April 16, 2013
Canon powershot SX150 IS...(...hands on quick review and general impressions)
Its a pocket-able (as in it actually fits in your pocket) JPG only camera with 12x optical zoom. Ideal as a backup camera for people who have DSLR and want to take snaps where a DSLR or MSC might be a little impractical (in JPG). The control layout is roughly the same as on a DLSR too. What do I reckon? [...what I reckon]
 

Tru digital x0.45 58mm thread wide angle multiplier lens

April 10, 2013
Tru digital x0.45 58mm thread wide angle multiplier lens
wide camera angles are great. It basically means you can fit more in the picture/frame without having to physically move, which is ideal if you're in a confined space or in a situation where you're not able to move any further backward in order to fit more in the picture frame. But for all those who are shooting in wide open spaces (if not lacking the will from sheer laziness) lacking the common sense, you can simply just move back a few metres and crop the top and bottom of the image down a little on the computer afterwards for the same kind of wide angle effect (potentially with less lens distortion too). But if an affordable wide viewing angle lens is what you need without having to shell out for 400 plus lens you might want to read on. 

 

I was reading a number of user responses on various sites and blogs, from what I gather there seemed to be a little confusion about what the "L" means on canon lenses and what the difference between a prime and zoom lens is...

April 8, 2013
I was reading a number of user responses on various sites and blogs, from what I gather there seemed to be a little confusion about what the
L is a lens grading created by Canon and are specific to canon lenses. Some people reckon the "L" denotes "luxury" (more likely correct) but I'm personally partly more inclined to go with "Low dispersion" for the sake of diplomacy, but then again if that were entirely true the entire time L lenses have existed why did they not call them LD lenses to begin with? It's like someone just makes this stuff up as they go along whilst deciding to say it mean "Low dispersion" in order to sound like it was done on technical grounds and to come across as less elitist in trying to make people not think it originally meant "luxury" because of the original marketing ploy that was used to try and sell them to people with the money to buy them. (...and breathe...) Anyway back to the point, the L lenses are the upper pro grade lenses that command a high premium price as a stand alone after sales item. They generally don't come as standard with camera bodies or camera body kits and are usually sold as individual items (more often than not costing more than the camera bodies themselves!). They posses far superior optics and build quality than standard kit lenses. L lenses can help the user capture sharper images with more vivid colours just through their physical optical properties alone even before any kind of digital editing might be applied with the appropriate expertise. Once you've used an L lens you'll find it difficult to go back to using standard kit lenses if pro grade optics for producing the best image quality possible is your main concern. They also generally tend to retain their value much better than standard kit lenses when sold as second hand. 



Prime lenses usually have a fixed zoom whilst allowing you to make adjustments to the focal depth. They also tend to have the kinds of optical properties that allow for more pristine images that are less tainted by optical flaws. Many generally have a larger potential maximum aperture which allows for greater light transmission and faster camera shutter speeds. This in turn allows for many of them to handle much better in lower lit conditions which result in less potential blur (with the appropriate camera settings) whilst capturing movement. The wider the aperture the faster the lens is (usually with suitably matched optics). What we mean by a fast lens is that it is able to capture movement and motion much more quickly with the potential for less blur (dependent on lens optical properties). A wider aperture does not always result in sharper images which is why certain lenses need to be stopped down a little. (stopping down means to decrease the aperture size to a smaller standard setting). However there are lenses out there that have a constant open aperture of different ratings that cannot be adjusted/altered, but in such cases the optics have been designed and implemented in such a way that the lens will enable you to capture sharp images even with a fixed aperture that cannot be stopped down. 

 

Canon 35-135 mm 1:4-5.6 USM lens...

March 26, 2013
Canon 35-135 mm 1:4-5.6 USM lens...
It's not the most current of lenses, but the optics on this thing as far as I can gather would give modern equivalents a serious run for their money. The USM (ultrasonic motor) is neither here nor there in this day and age, since it could still be considered as noisy when put against the SEL 18-55 mm which is virtually silent whilst working the auto focus. But since I was using the canon 35-135 mm in full manual mode there wasn't any motor noise to be bothered by. My full verdict on this lens for manual use here.    
 

18-55 mm Sony E-mount O.S.S. kit lens...

March 23, 2013
18-55 mm Sony E-mount O.S.S. kit lens...
I'd finally managed to get hold of an actual NEX lens to use with the F3 body. Overall I was pretty impressed, here what I made of it. [18-55 mm Sony E-mount O.S.S. kit lens]
 

slightly different effects using Sony NEX-F3 built in pop flash

March 16, 2013
slightly different effects using Sony NEX-F3 built in pop flash
Ok so the NEX-F3 has a very handy built in pop up flash. But you might find that the intensity of it might be a little too much for certain styles of pictures if you want that more edgy use of light and shadow contrast on still subjects. One solution is to obviously use a flash difusser/bounce diffuser which helps reduce the intensity of the flash in subduing it or bouncing it and using the ambient light created by it.

However I couldn't be bothered making a fiddly makeshift paper effort for it to eventually inevitably fall apart. Fortunately though I had another sort of solution that didn't really use a flash diffuser. The gap between the pop flash and the front edge of the flash hold compartment lip is just the perfect size to fit a standard sim card. Placing it there causes the flash spring mechanism to hold it in place and also hold the flash back to point the flash at an upward angle, this helps to defuse the flash into the room and/or bounce the flash light off any nearby surfaces back onto your subject. Obviously you need to use a bit of common sense here as regards to surface distances, and space size in relation to the flashes capability. But do it right and you can pull out some impressive results. You might need to do a bit of trial and error to figure out the distance thresholds for the best results for specific shutter speeds and ISO settings. But after a while it'll probably become second nature once you get to know how to use the specific hardware combo of camera, lens and flash used. 


 
As you can see from the picture I covered my discarded sim card in a black vinyl sticker cover so it doesn't look as stupid whilst using it. Apologies for the poor picture quality on the NEX-F3 body shot, the camera on the phone I have isn't too great.


 

Sanyo's ENELOOP high capacity NiHM AA & AAA batteries, some of the best batteries that you can buy to use with your camera gear...

March 12, 2013
Sanyo's ENELOOP high capacity NiHM AA & AAA batteries, some of the best batteries that you can buy to use with your camera gear...
Rechargeable NiMH AA size batteries generally tend to be pretty bad at lasting the course, especially from experience of using some well known high-street brands such as ENERGIZER (formally Eveready) and Duracell. Unlike Li-ion batteries they generally tend to suffer from the milk bottle effect of not being able to fully charge like when they were new through irregular patterns of charging. They were pretty much useless after a 10 or 20 charge cycles over a few months. 

Fortunately though the likes of Sanyo have been on it for some time now. It's no secret amongst serious camera users needing high capacity AA's (at least I thought it wasn't) that they produce some of the best rechargeable NIMH double and triple A batteries on the market via their ENELOOP range. Why? 'Cos the their 2000mAh capcity AA's batteries are certified to have a charge cycle count of approximately 1500 (under optimum recommended conditions of usage) and they're capable of retaining their charge even after a year without use of up-to 85% of their original capacity. They also reckon that in the third year they'll still be able to operate at 75% of original capacity where as most other brands will be completely dead by the second year, but whether that's true or I can't confirm quite just yet.

They also produce a higher capacity 2500mAh with a certified 500 charge cycles count(again under optimum recommended conditions of usage).


I ended buying some 1000mAh ENELOOP Lite batteries for use with a flash (rated as having a 2000 charge cycle count), but no doubt that if you're looking to use them with a camera you might want to consider the 2000mAh version so can go for longer between charges.

UPDATE - verdict after testing

Eneloop lite 1000mAh ni-mh batteries

I've had them long enough to figure out that these 1000mAh capacity ni-mh batteries don't last very long with compacts camera's, that's even without using the flash. They went for around about 30 snaps as a two cell battery over the space of a couple of days when used with a Polaroid compact (even less when tested with a powershot SX150). A large chunk of the drain was probably caused by the constant auto focus system. Generally they were more useful for a 4 cell flash gun I had, which the eneloops were good for around about 45 to 55 cycles (gradually getting much longer to re-cycle once I got passed 30). So evidently much better as a four cell battery in a flash gun.

Summary

Not really that great for compacts. Much better than expected for the four cell battery flash gun I was testing it on. You might be better going with the heavy duty 1500 charge cycle eneloops or the newer gen 2000 charge cycle eneloops.
 
 

Don't buy a new camera bag, re-use your barely used messenger or flight bags that you've got piling up (buy lens pouches instead

March 6, 2013
Don't buy a new camera bag, re-use your barely used messenger or flight bags that you've got piling up (buy lens pouches instead
Why I reckon lens pouches are a good thing. [lens pouches]
 

YONGNU WJ-60 LED macro ring

March 4, 2013
YONGNU WJ-60 LED macro ring
Simplified an all in one macro light ring solution consisting of 60 LED's. Batteries not included. [review
 

Sony NEX-F3 1.01 firmware released...(...still doesn't fix battery drain)

February 27, 2013
Sony NEX-F3 1.01 firmware released...(...still doesn't fix battery drain)
photographer : Eksovichea Tito Hak
 
Finally the first firmware update for the F3 has been released in the form of 1.01. Generally there's not much in there in the way of anything that would address the more pressing issues of things like battery drain of around 4 to 5% even when the camera is switched off over a 6 to 7 hour period at a time. (maybe due to user inaccessible wireless activity?). The only thing the new update really adds is tuning for optic compensation for the specific characteristics of a lens I don't even have (as far as I'm aware). 

Generally even after performing the firmware update the same issues of battery drain were still persistent regardless of whether I used the the OEM battery or the extended capacity 3rd party battery, but from what I'm aware the NEX 3 (prior to the C3) also had the same issues which were addressed in a later update for that. So hopefully we'll be seeing one soon for the F3 too. [sony UK firmware update download]
 









 






 

 
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