Jan 16 2014

Sony A7 & Contax G primes

Disclaimer: All you ‘re about to read does not rely on scientific tests. It’s all about conclusions, feelings, thoughts, second thoughts and decisions based primarily on experience out in the fields…

Sony A7 with Contax G lenses

Sony A7 with Contax G lenses

Recently I was pulled from the hair to enter the realm of mirrorless freshness. Long before A7 was released, I was dreaming of a full frame little camera, so little that it could just enclose the sensor. After reading Falk Lumo’s post back in 2010 I was convinced that it was all about marketing and the dream camera would surely find its way to the shelves in the coming years. I ‘d love to become a  stealth street photographer! I was seeking for a camera that has

  • quiet shutter
  • fastest & sure AF (preferably on eyes)
  • lightest possible with a 35mm lens (23mm on aps) so I can carry it 24/7
  • very little with a 35mm lens (23mm on aps) so I can hide it or carry it 24/7
  • can accept old Nikon glass that I own
  • no visible noise in high ISO so I can photograph during night
  • good bokeh so I can isolate my subjects

Most friends showed me Olympus EM-1 as the fastest and lightest. The main reason I got A7 was i) to test all my lenses and ii) to push street photography to the limits i.e.speedy subjects in dim light I was coming from the D4 world so there would be no forgives

the father and the kid

father and kid

Unfortunately I could not get the new Sony CZ FE35mm so I stuck with Nikon glass and some wonderful Contax Zeiss rangefinder lenses. I will only review the A7 with these lenses as I found myself using them in everyday basis. First things first, some things about the A7 are astonishing

  • Really small, can fit in hand easily but not feather light, gives a metal sensation shouting “I am a serious camera”
  • 1st electronic shutter curtain (or mechanical selectable!) meaning quiet operation
  • bright viewfinder, big, sharp,without lag. It has nothing to be jealous of the optical viewfinder of the D4.
  • focus peaking and focus magnification also during video recording, perfect combination for manual focusing mainly with the eye glued on the viewfinder. These advantages are not to be overlooked, a new era in video rises, no need of external monitor, just a tiny camera in your eye and you get a spectacular, isolated, detailed view
  • auto-ISO in manual mode !! Yeah, I don’t have it in D4, D800 during video
  • exposure compensation when auto-ISO in M-mode !!! Yeah, I don’t have it in D4, D800 during video
  • Clean 1080/50p signal via HDMI when simultaneously recording 1080/50p in card !! So the question is: Do really  D4 and D800 have an incapable processor that can only output via HDMI 720/25p when simultaneously recording ?
  • ClearImage zoom up to 2X during recording !!! Yes it is smooth, stepless AND of great quality, meaning you can use a prime and pretend you have a zoom.

Now let’s move on with the downsides

  • – little and light body with huge sensor, means body and thus handheld video are constantly in motion, IBIS or OSS lenses are an important miss
  • – AF is at least bad. Slow, and uncertain. I hope Sony FE lenses focus better and faster
  • – Really poor battery (1080mAh). I need 3-4 batteries to get along the whole day, not even shooting a lot, just playing with the menus.
    Actual recording time is 107 minutes in 1080/50p mode. Not to mention almost 4 hours of charging !! Only plus point is it’s a tiny battery, like a little sweet so I can carry many of them in my pockets.
  • – Rich menu although it doesn’t offer much 🙁 e.g. no straight AF point selection (2 buttons at least), no straight Focus Magnification (2 buttons at least).
    Offering direct upload to Facebook means nothing to me, while nail-sharp focus means everything.
  • – Very wide Focus Peaking meaning you think you have a focused subject but you end up with a blurry one.
  • – Over 2sec of startup time, meaning important moments are gone.

When searching for lenses for A7 I was confused since Sony offers were too limited.
The only AF solutions were
LA-EA4 &Sony A-lenses, big SLR lenses with alien adapter (with translucent mirror inside)
Metabones EF-NEX adapter (again Canon has huge lens which become huger with the adapter)
and Deo-Tech Contax-G to NEX “Eagle” adapter & Contax G lenses.

Contax G lenses make perfect companion to A7 as they were built for a rangefinder system preserving size and weight low but retaining image quality equal or superior to that of SLR lenses.
Colors are great, resolution is comparable to expensive Leica lens, vignetting is non-existent, distortion too.

But, in terms of handling, these lenses are 20 years old and cannot compare to modern AF solutions. The adapter actually couples the electrical pins from body to lens letting it to focus on the subject (after a while!).
At the end it fails to satisfy my needs:

  • – I have to check twice the f/stop BUT NOT SET IT TWICE! if I accidentally set f/4 in camera and set the lens at f/4 then the camera will think that it could close the aperture 2 stops at the time of click. The lens will not allow that, so the image will be overexposed for two stops.The solution is to set in camera the most open f/stop of EACH lens.
  • – pdAF not working with these lens ! Yeah, but this is the main reason I preferred A7 versus A7R. pdAF if accomplished correctly is the ultimate tool for street photography
  • – MF very confusing, especially when shooting in portrait orientation. I have to search for the little dial on the adapter with my finger. This is not always easy, it is very little dial and lacated on the upper left side of the adapter.
  • – MF is accomplished by wire, meaning it forces the AF system to turn the little screw on the lens. That means it cannot work without battery and it cannot work away from the body. Odd decision, I reckon.
feels great in hands

feels great in hands

Final thoughts about the adapter:
Does its job, it CAN make Contax G lenses AF again, it is elegant and slim but out in the fields its much easier (and faster) to use the lenses with another adapter that just MFs with traditional wide ring.


Now check out some photos taken with this combination of lens/adapter on the Sony A7. RAW in LR5.3 .All settings at default.
Under each photo you can see lens used. Mostly wide open at f/2.0 or f/2.8 (since you cannot see aperture setting in EXIF)



Some comments about some samples:
01.  Check the sharpness, great in the center, good in the corners
11. check the flare , remember these are simply constructed lenses, beware of light reflections. (it’s produced by the light strip in next photo)
16. Great bokeh, even with the 35mm. That’s the beauty of FF
17. Light leakage produces haziness. Beware of side light entering the lens
37. the 45mm is the sharpest and faster
41. beware of the light ghosts
42. iso 12800. Dare to capture motion during the night.
46. colored bokeh? No they’re stickers.
62. dare to shoot against the sky. This camera has exceptional DR when using low ISO.
63. the 90mm is a very clever approach to surveillance. It is the littlest and lightest tele lens I’ve ever used.
71. magenta strip before the focus level. This is LoCA
72. Non-circular bokeh due to only 6 blades of diaphragm
78. Although this shutter is fast enough to capture quick motion, the viewfinder goes dark just about the decisive moment. Is this malfunction?
79-80. Lens Whacking. I was holding the lens with my hand, interesting (and easy) project


That’s for now.

pretty little beauty

pretty little beauty


lens weight comparison

lens weight comparison


Thanks for reading


Dec 3 2013

Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 VC vs Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8

All you ‘re about to read does not rely on scientific tests.
It’s all about conclusions, feelings, thoughts, second thoughts and decisions based primarily on experience out in the fields…

I own and shoot with both the Nikon and Tamron 24-70 lenses. For still images I prefer the Nikon because the edges of the images seem a little better in terms of sharpness and vignetting. But for my main job (weddings) or travel, I NEED the Tamron at every single occasion for its VC. When day finishes, I have many more stable images in low light than I ever could imagine with the Nikon.

Some days ago I did an extensive test trying to use only primes (the AF-S 50mm f/1.8 mainly) so I could make a whole session in dim light conditions.
My subject was a badly lit couple that was not moving except when changing pose.
I tried to use the prime so I could achieve higher speed. Let’s say I tried to justify its purchase. The main reasons you’d want a fast prime is its lightness and its brightness.
So I shot handheld but standing still at 1/30 and 1/60 mainly at iso 3200.
When I returned home I was surprised to see many of beautifully created images were blurry, I could see the lights as a line instead of a spot in their eyes. And I could tell it was a blurry image only at 100% magnification!
Out in the fields, I had to check the full image after every shot, so I was sure it was not blurry. I was so frustrated…

The other day, I took with me only the Tamron, it gave me speed of 1/15 instead. Yet, everything was stable and sharp, no lines instead of spots, no deleting due to blur, no clumsy photoshop actions.
I was feeling so delightful and relieved that I must admit I kissed the lens. My conclusion was this lens could act as a “brighter” lens than the primes!

Yes, I know the bokeh can be nervous, some even complain about onion rings,
Yes, the AF takes some more milliseconds more to begin rotating,
Yes, the zoom ring is very fat and quite stiff to move and has a longer rotation distance
Yes, sometimes I can hardly remove the hood, it feels like it could break


it is very lighter, means you can easily hold it, pack it, carry it, shoot again and again during the whole day
it is very shorter, means it can fit into any bag, or you can walk between crowded places with the camera on shoulder
it has VC, means it can replace all fast primes in terms of speed needed to maintain stable shots
it is very sharp, means it is equal to the Nikon and very close to the primes. Stop down half an EV and you can’t tell it’s a zoom
it is cheaper, means you can buy one more lens or even a 2nd camera!


That’s for now

Thanks for reading


May 3 2012

ανεβάστε στο ίντερνετ τις RAW εικόνες της DSLR (χωρίς υπολογιστή)

Εκτός από την Nikon D4 που έχει θύρα ethernet και την D3200 που έχει extra πομπό WiFi
δεν γνωρίζω κάποια άλλη DSLR που να επιτρέπει σύνδεση με το ίντερνετ.

Παρακάτω περιγράφεται πώς μπορούμε να κατεβάσουμε τις εικόνες στο κινητό, για να τις μοιραστούμε απευθείας ή αργότερα στο ιντερνετ.

Τα μόνα που χρειάζονται είναι ένα card reader, ένα android κινητό, ένα καλώδιο USB On-the-Go (μαύρο στην εικ.1) κι ένα καλώδιο USB Y-splitter (από αυτά που έχουν μερικοί εξ.σκληροί δίσκοι για να παρέχουν περισσότερα αμπέρ στην είσοδό τους)

Τα περισσότερα smartphones και αρκετά tablets έχουν microUSB θύρα για επικοινωνία με περιφερειακά. Επομένως με ένα καλώδιο USB-OtG και εφόσον υπάρχουν οι κατάλληλοι drivers (το android στηρίζεται στο linux, έχει ενσωματωμένους drivers για USB storage devices καθώς και για άλλα περιφερειακά) μπορούμε να διαβάσουμε τα περιεχόμενα ενός flash drive ή μιας κάρτας SD/CF/mS.
Το πρόβλημα είναι ότι τα κινητά δεν παρέχουν ρεύμα στη MicroUSB θύρα τους. Με το Y-splitter ή και με άλλους τρόπους (δες εδώ) δίνουμε ρεύμα +5V ταυτόχρονα στο flash drive και στη θύρα microUSB του κινητού. Για να ελέγξουμε αν πάει ρεύμα παντού βεβαιωνόμαστε πως το κινητό φορτίζει και το λαμπάκι του flash drive/card reader ανάβει. Στις εικόνες ρεύμα δίνει μια μπαταρία, ενώ αν είστε στο γραφείο μπορείτε να χρησιμοποιήσετε τη USB θύρα του υπολογιστή σας.

Με τον file manager του κινητού εντοπίζουμε το flash drive (συνήθως στο /mnt/usb, ειδάλλως χρειάζεται mount, διάβασε στο link)
μετατρέπουμε το raw είτε μέσα στη μηχανή είτε μέσα στο κινητό σε jpeg
και το μοιραζόμαστε στο ιντερνετ μέσω 3G.



Αυτό ειν’ όλο.
Πόσες φορές δεν μας έχει τύχει να μας ζητήσουν επιτόπου μια φωτ/φία ή να πρέπει να ανεβάσουμε άμεσα ένα ρεπορτάζ.

Υπάρχει βεβαίως και η λύση της Eye-Fi κάρτας όμως είναι ακριβή και απίθανη λύση όλες μας οι κάρτες να είναι τέτοιες. Είναι πάντως δοκιμασμένες και αξιόπιστες.


May 2 2012

The Solar_WT-GfK is ready

or: How to control and share your photos from a Nikon D4

This setup describes how to connect to D4 from any browser
using a WiFi router and a battery instead of expensive WT-5 transmitter

The battery is this: http://www.e-shop.gr/show_per.phtml?id=PER.662226
The mini WiFi Router is this: http://www.pc1.gr/showitem.php?ID=210000690

Battery is charged from sun in 10hours or from PC in 3 hours
It lasts about 2 hours, which are more than enough to make use of it out in the wild.
The 3G router is tremendous, it starts-up in seconds, it gives IPs, it can share a USB Hard disk, it can share its internet connection via a sim card, it is reachable from a distance etc,etc..

Putting a web/FTP server into the camera itself was a very clever movement from Nikon.
It gives endless possibilities.
I can for example make a script in my Android phone so it connects to the FTP server every x seconds and downloads all the new Jpegs that finds there. Just like the Eye-Fi card. But cheaper
Or if the camera is far away from Wifi reach
I can connect to it through the internet provided I made a port forwarding of ports 80 and 21 in the 3G Router.



[EDIT] Jan.2013: TP-LINK just released the battery powered 3G/4G Wireless Router TL-MR3040,  even more flexibility