Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sony Mirrorless: The Best Solution for Concert Photography - Sony A6300 goes to Work

Shooting concerts with a DSLR creates massive wasted time in post after you are back at the office editing your images.  Pro DSLR's have fast motor drives that can shoot up to 14 frames per second.  It's too easy to just hold your finger down and "motor" your way through assignments.

The problem is that you often "motor" your way into shooting 14 frames of under or overexposed images, until you realize the lighting changed... again.., and you just end up deleting them, or worse, trying to fix them in PS or LR.

Working your way through a concert like this one with ever changing lighting scenes, color transitions, and when there is a mixture of tungsten and LED on set all at the same time... this is where a mirrorless camera really performs well because you can see all these things and all your exposure information at all times simply by looking through the viewfinder.  You don't have to shoot blind anymore.

Tonight I got to shoot a pretty cool event.  It was a live concert featuring country artist Ashley Monroe.  She performed to a small group of people seated on the stage in Knoxville's massive Tennessee Theater, but the real audience was 525 miles away in Chicago.  The State of Tennessee is trying to draw interest from the Land of Lincoln to come to Tennessee... Anywhere will do, so they have set up similar concerts with other Country stars in Memphis and Nashville and the shows are projected onto a large screen in Chicago's downtown park.

I chose two bodies and four lenses for the assignment:

2- Sony A6300 (for their small size, weight, and low light capability)
1- Sigma ART 19mm f/2.8 lens (27mm on the A6300)
1- Sony 24mm f/1.8 Zeiss (35mm on A6300)
1- Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC C lens (45mm on A6300)
1- Zeiss 85mm f/1.8 Batis lens (135mm on A6300)

Sony A6300 w/Sigma ART 19mm f/2.8
The combination of the A6300 and Sigma 19mm gives you a super lightweight dynamic duo that weighs less than a pound.  The ART glass is super sharp and holds up to Zeiss and Sony offerings easily.  I really love the Tennessee Theater.  It is like the crown jewel of downtown Knoxville.  No matter what you are going there for, she always looks fantastic, thanks to a massive renovation that took many years and lots of cash.

Sony A6300 w/Sigma 30mm f/1.4 C lens
The great thing about the new Sigma 30mm f/1.4 C lens is that it's got a Sony E-mount on the back. It's small, pretty lightweight, and has sharpness, great contrast, and is only $339!!!!  I think it's the best buy in all of the lenses that are possible for the A6XX cameras.  It cleans up busy and complicated situations by blowing everything out of focus except what you want to be sharp.  In this case, Ashley Monroe was all I wanted.  There are no less than three cameramen shooting this interview at the same time but all the TV screens don't really fight too much with the overall photograph cause that 30 mil is so sweet!

Sony A6300 w/Sigma ART 19mm f/2.8

Sony A6300 w/Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8
The 85mm f/1.8 Zeiss Batis is the perfect combination of size, speed, focal length, and weight.  It's bigger than most film era 85's from Canikon but it's not your Daddy's 85.  This sucker is so sharp, I had an art director from the ad agency gawking at my 13" Mac screen when I zoomed into her face to check sharpness.  The 85 becomes a 135 on the crop APS-C sensor A6300 and so you can truly compress things nicely, blow people and things out of focus in front of and behind your subject, and have a high degree of confidence in the AF accuracy too.  All of the tighter images I made of Ashley tonight were show with "Eye AF," or eye tracking AF.  Sounds cool?  Works even better!

Sony A6300 w/Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8
#sonyalpha   #sonyaoi

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Samyang Announces 2 New AF lenses for Sony's FF E-Mount: 50mm & 14mm

As many of you know, I am a big fan of Samyang optics.  The Korean company has been making excellent quality lenses with modern techniques for some time now, complete with nano-coated optics and killer optical designs.  Samyang also sells the same lenses under various different names, such as Rokinon, Vivitar Series 1, Bell & Howell, and others.  Until now, all of their products have been for manual focus only and have been a favorite among video shooters for their silky smooth focusing abilities.

The Korean country's entry into E mount AF is awesome and will only help Sony's brand grow as their lenses are very inexpensive and offer unusually good performance for the money.  What will remain to be seen is if the AF is any good.  That they are saying all AF functions is a good thing.  It would seem now that it's not only Sigma that might have discovered the "secret sauce," inside the Sony AF system.  Hopefully these two additions to Samyang's lineup will only be the beginning of what they will offer in E-mount.  I would love to have the 12mm and 16mm f/2 lenses they make in AF!!!  I love the 16 as I find it much sharper and faster than the Sony 16mm f/2.8 lens, although not nearly as compact.

Because Sony's the new FE50mm f/1.8 lens joins the venerable 55mm f/1.8Z lens, my thought is that the 14mm f/2.8 will sell like hot-cakes, and the new 50mm from Samyang will be less so.  There is a serious drought of glass in the super-wide category from Sony right now, with the only fast lens being the new FE35mm f/1.4 Zeiss.  As awesome as it is, and it is awesome, the ability to have a FF 14mm f/2.8 should really be a great option as the only other lens even close will be the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8.  And you should be able to buy three or four of the 14mm Samyang lenses for the cost of one Batis.

Things are really looking up for Sony users!  I couldn't be happier :)   #sonyalpha


If this graphic/photo from Samyang offers any clue, it appears the 50mm lens will come out first as the 14mm version seems to be made in Illustrator, although I'm not sure even the 50mm lens is a real photograph.

May 3rd, 2016, Seoul, Korea – The global optics brand, Samyang Optics ( today announced the long-awaited launch of two autofocus lenses: 14mm F2.8 and 50mm F1.4 lenses for Sony E mount Mirrorless cameras with full frame sensor size. The new 14mm and 50mm are the widest and brightest lenses in their classand offer superb quality images to photographers. This launching expands the boundaries of Samyang Optics photo lens line-up from manual focus only, to now include autofocus lenses.

Optimised Optical Design as Full Frame Mirrorless Camera Lens
Both 14mm F2.8 ED AS IF UMC and 50mm F1.4 AS IF UMC are specifically designed to work in harmony with full frame mirrorless cameras in Sony E mount. The flow of light is devised based on the uniqueness of the distance from glass to sensor in mirrorless cameras to create optimal performance. Along with portability of mirrorless lenses, the 14mm F2.8 and 50mm F1.4 are compatible with full frame sensors to deliver the wideness and sharpnessof image to photographers.

The 67mm filter diameter brings the maximum amount of light into the lens to create the best work of light in photography. The 14mm F2.8 is the widest angle available in the market and the F1.4 of 50mm and F2.8 of 14mm apertures are by far the brightest of full frame mirrorless lenses, offering a beautiful bokeh effect and the best quality images under various exposure conditions.

Based on Samyang Optics’ exceptional optical technology, aspherical lenses have been included in both lenses to minimise aberration and unnecessary light dispersion, delivering high resolution from the centre to the corners of the image.

AF Performance and Ergonomic Design Based on Class-Leading Technology
These new products will be the first autofocus lenses in over 40 years of Samyang’s class-leading core optics technologies.Samyang has captured the essence of world leading image technology with their manual focus lenses and reinterpreted it into autofocus lenses. Photographers now can enjoy the prime manual lens image quality and autofocus lens. These new 14mm F2.8 and 50mm F1.4 are compatible with both phase detect and contrast detect sensors to operate fast and accurate focus detection.

The 67mm filter diameter is also the result of years of R&D for best handling, by adding stability to the photo-taking experience. Also the minimal and sleek design and metal-housing solidify the build quality with the internal focus system.

These two new autofocus lenses from Samyang Optics will be exhibited at the Photo & Imaging 2016Show in Seoul, South Korea. The lenses will be globally available from July 2016. Further details, pricing and availability will follow.

More information will be released soon onSamyang Optics official website (, Facebook page ( andInstagram ( /samyanglensglobal).

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Sony A6300 On Assignment: Haslam College of Business

Sony A6300 Sigma 30mm f/1.4
I LOVE this lens wide open and mostly leave it there.  It's sharp, AF is fast and accurate, and it is really tiny and lightweight.

                                                                                                                                                     Sony A6300 Sigma 30mm f/1.4
Sony A6300 w/ Sony FE35mm f/1.4 Zeiss
The big FE 35 is more like a big 50mm on the A6300 so I use it a ton.  This was shot with the camera in my lap and set to eye tracking focus.  Sony makes it SO easy to shoot wide open, even with super fast glass at 1.4. 

Sony A6300 w/ Sony 10-18mm f/4 (rich tone b&w)
The rich tone b&w setting is one of Sony's best kept secrets--it shoots 3 frames (at 11 fps) and then combines them into one image with highlights, shadow detail, and everything in between.  I love this mode and shoot a lot set like this :)

Sony A6300 w/ Sony 10-18mm f/4 (tilt/shift effect with mini-middle)
I used to use all of Canon's TS-E lenses but it is a lot less expensive to just set the creative function to mini on the Sonys.

Sony A6300 w/ Sony 10-18mm f/4 (rich tone b&w)

Sony A6300 w/ Sony 10-18mm f/4 (POP mode)

Sony A6300 Sigma 30mm f/1.4
People often comment that shooting a crop sensor camera just takes too much away in terms of eye candy from the images but I get great results with my lenses.  I can't wait for the Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 ART lens that is coming out soon.  This will give me an 80-160mm f/1.8!!!  YEAH!!!

Sony A6300 Sigma 30mm f/1.4, Dynalite Baja B4 strobe
I used a variable ND filter for this portrait as I mixed ambient and strobe light from a Dynalite Baja B4.  The filter allowed me to shoot at f/1.4, use eye AF, and still use a strobe.  It's a nice setup!

Sony A6300 Sigma 30mm f/1.4Dynalite Baja B4 strobe
I used a variable ND filter for this portrait as I mixed ambient and strobe light from a Dynalite Baja B4.  The filter allowed me to shoot at f/1.4, use eye AF, and still use a strobe.  It's a nice setup!

Sony A6300 Sigma 30mm f/1.4

Sony A6300 w/ Sony 10-18mm f/4
Once again, having that flip out LCD on the back of the camera allows me to do shots like this without getting my pants dirty or looking like a contortionist.  It's silly everyone doesn't make their back LCD's move and articulate.

Sony A6300 with Metabones IV & Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS

Sony A6300 Sigma 30mm f/1.4

Sony A6300 Sigma 30mm f/1.4

Sony A6300 with Metabones IV & Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS

                                 Sony A6300 with Metabones IV & Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS

Sony A6300 with Metabones IV & Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS

Sony A6300 with Metabones IV & Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS
 A couple notes about using Canon lenses on Sony bodies...  This works, and yes the AF is getting better all the time but....   It's tough to mix up the color of lenses. Everything Sony makes and everything Zeiss makes for Sony, and everything Zeiss makes themselves that fit Sony--all the color is the same.  It's neutral.  When you use Canon glass in the middle of a shoot where you are also using more neutral glass, you have to really pay attention in post and correct out all the yellow & red.  There is a ton of it.  You don't realize often how much you are used to Sony's neutral colors until you open up an old folder shot with Canon.  WOW, you have to do a lot of work to get them to look right!
Sony A6300 w/ Sony 10-18mm f/4
This frame was a tough shot.  The two students are under a low ceiling with sodium vapor lights but the background is likely 6 stops brighter and daylight.  I had to work this file some in LR but it was shot as a jpeg.  The Sony files coming out of the A6300 are similar to the A7RII in that they have a lot of latitude, so corrections, even severe ones like this one are possible.
#sonyalpha #sonyaoi #dynalite #bajab4 #sigmaart

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sony RX10: Still Relevant and the Best Value on the Planet

Back in 2014, a buddy of mine called me and asked if I would be the second shooter on a wedding he had booked.  I've always been a one man band and had never done this before but Mike was a good friend, and so I gave him two conditions.

1.  That I would have to ride my motorcycle down to where the wedding was as it is a particularly beautiful area of Tennessee.

2.  That I would just use one camera, and just one lens.

Mike must have been desperate for he said yes, immediately.

What I didn't tell Mike was that I would use the new Sony RX10 all day, so in effect, I had a whole bag full of lenses from 24-200mm, all Zeiss, and all at f/2.8.

I used the day as a sort of working vacation.  I carried only the RX10, a couple batteries in my pocket, and a lightstand, speed-ring, and Dynalite soft box, and that was it.  I just wanted to concentrate, not on gear, but making good photographs.  Traveling light was unfamiliar to me as I always attack every assignment full force with multiple cases, bags, bodies, lenses, and lights.

I had a gas.  And these are my favorites of the images that resulted from Mike's wedding:

Because the RX10 has a leaf shutter AND a built-in ND filter, this was shot at 1/500th at f/2.8 with my flash :)

It does a great job on macro too!
If you enjoyed this post and plan to buy an RX10, please consider helping me out by buying it from either Adorama or Amazon.  Thanks so much!!!  pm-r :)     #sonyalpha

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sony RX10III 1st Shoot: The Swiss Army Knife of Cameras Just Added 3 Blades, a Spoon, and a Toothpick

When the original RX10 was released by Sony, many pro's simply poo-poo'd the little box with the 24-200mm f/2.8 Zeiss zoom; they discounted the RX10 because of it's 1" sensor which is a little bit smaller than the APS-C sensor in most crop cameras.  But I was intrigued by the silent leaf shutter which allowed me to sync flash at 1/1000th of a second.  This was something I had really missed about shooting film on Hasselblads back in film days.  The RX10 became part of my bag as a backup when I packed for big jobs and it's ability to shoot video with the press of a button made it a go-to for me for instructional videos.  The fact that it worked perfectly with all of Sony's high end audio accessories also made it easy to take along.

When the second version came out, I snatched one immediately to replace my original RX10 so that I could take advantage of it's 4K ability and higher frame rates for video.  I found that RX10II to be slightly more refined, maybe a little quieter, and much better in low light than the first version.

When the announcement came about the RX10III, I was dubious.  A 600mm f/4?  Really?  In a hybrid camera?  I figured there was some funny business going on with a digital zoom or some fuzzy logic shortcut that would hold back the camera from having excellent sharpness and contrast.  I honestly didn't like the fact that it was a stop slower and that by the time you reach 135mm on the zoom you were already at f/4.  I had decided that my RX10II was enough and that I wouldn't buy one as I already own prime lenses as long as the RX10III could reach--in other words, "real teles," with no compromise.

Then last Saturday brought a box from Sony with an RX10III inside.  So I took it along with the new FE70-300mm f/4-5.6 zoom lens to a tennis match to test out.

First, a word about tennis.  If you shoot tight as I do, you can't fake it.  You either have the ball in the frame or you don't.  I love to shoot sports tight.  I started at 600mm up in the stands but close to eye-level to the player on the other side of the net.

Now these images are sharp.  They are really sharp.  The RX10III at 600mm is legit.  I was shocked.  I couldn't tell much sitting in bright sunlight and just using the EVF to preview the files, but once I got home and fired up the little black garbage can, I was amazed.  Not only was the lens sharp at 600mm, but the 14 frame per second motor drive was also legit.  There was a university photographer up in the stands using a 1DX on continuous high and the little $1500 RX10III was more than holding its own with that beast.

The follow focus works great, and rarely came off my subject of choice in the viewfinder.  I was using wide area AF and Continuous AF combined.  I never felt the need to try anything else as it was mobbing up the court with action.  After 25 years of shooting sports for a living, I cannot tell you how great it is to be truly free of that center AF marker in the viewfinder.  If you shoot sports with Canon or Nikon, you often have to loosen up a bit to make sure your Center AF marker is on the action, which tends to center your images and violate the rule of thirds.  With almost all the Sony's at this point, you are free to compose on the fly and be as tight as you like as the camera will track your subject for you, and much better than you could do it.  

So, after shooting for a while from the stands where I was far away from the action, I got bored watching the RX10III just nail everything.  Yawn.  Time to try a new challenge, so I moved onto the court surface and sat down in my crazy creek chair at the net.

Now, I was moving from maybe 100' away from the players to around 25-30', and even less for a play at the net.  Now I figured I would see the RX10III drop frames, not keep up with the action, and I would easily sense it's weakness.  Uhhhh... not so much:
Note the oblong shaped ball and the fuzzy racquet strings here--this is evidence that the 1/1000th shutter speed is just too slow for tennis action.  There were many frames that everything was sharp but occasionally I would get a good image but the player was just moving too fast for the shutter to stop.

The match I was shooting here was delayed by the players resting in between games so I just started shooting at 600mm of the player two courts away instead.  Crazy to think you could just zoom in to 600mm f/4 and not even move to cover another match!
So, then I thought, "let's really make life hard for the RX10III.  Let's try backlit."  Now I don't care what kind of money you have sunk into your camera system, shooting backlit really can give even the best AF systems fits.  And shooting backlit really puts a strain on your chip as well as it tries to hold highlights as you open up the exposure to properly expose a face... with the sun behind the person... and wearing a visor so you can't see the eyes as well.  And this happened:
These next two frames are from a sequence.  You don't often get the ball in two frames this close together, even at 14 fps!

Now this shows the background being kind of busy, I admit.  And if I was shooting with a 400mm f/2.8 on a full-frame body, the background would be much more blown out of focus and easier to look at.  The player would separate better from the background--which is why sports photographers have so much invested in glass.  But here is the thing...  what can you get for $1500?  The RX10III presents a really inexpensive way to get 1DXII/D5 images for a fraction of the price of those bodies equipped with the lenses required. (note the ball and racquet strings in this frame are not stopped)
Many frames will not show the more exaggerated lack of higher shutter speeds like this one which looks and is sharp.
So at this point my day was ruined, shooting a little pip-squeak camera and getting such excellent results.  I thought now is the time to really challenge this camera--time to shoot some video!  You simply hit the big red button on the back of the camera and you start.  I didn't see much happening in the viewfinder at first until about a minute into the first clip.  it was then that I realized the AF was working, it was tracking, and there was no jumpiness to it at all.  it was just tracking like crazy, even when the action got really fast.  

There are many more frame rates to choose from with Sony than most DSLR's, even the expensive ones.  And, because the RX10III is a 4K capable camera at 30P (frames per second), this means that if you stay in Full HD (1080P), you get MUCH higher frame rates.  So I selected 120P (frames per second).  As a rule of thumb, you can easily go above your frame rate by two stops with your shutter speed so I selected 1/500th of a second for this video footage.  So, this means that as I was shooting, the camera was shooting 120 frames every second and each frame was at 1/500th, which mostly stopped the action really well.  This allows you to go into the footage in post and reduce the speed, which has the cool "slomo" effect that you likely have on your iPhone, but this is a 1" chip doing it. Here are the results:

So it turns out the video quality of the RX10III is outstanding.  none of these clips were toned or graded in any way.  They all were right out of the camera.  I am still stunned by the quality of the clips and stills, and keep in mind all of this material was shot in the first 2 hours of me having the camera in my hands!!!

Many months ago as I reviewed the RX10 for the first time, I called it the Swiss Army Knife of cameras.  The RX10II and III have seen "real" improvements that make photographers and video shooters' lives so much easier.  The tech coming out of Sony engineering is tremendous.  Will I be trading in all my A7's and A6300's to buy one RX10III for all my work?  No, but the RX10III represents another tool that I can add to my arsenal that adds value to video as well as stills.

Is the RX10III a perfect camera?  No.

Drawbacks:  First, as cool as it is, it is still a 1" chip.  Now it's a really good chip but it will not produce the eye candy effects that my 55mm f/1.8 does on an A7RII when shooting a tight portrait. Second, there is still no way to do back button AF-On to allow back button AF, which is really disappointing, since virtually every sports and news shooter has been working this way since 1987 when the EOS 630 came out back in 1989.  Third, you can't zoom while you are shooting photos--you have to stop shooting, zoom in or out, and then re-acquire your subject which is a drag.   Fourth, the RX10III is much heavier than the previous models, which makes perfect sense when you consider the optic inside.  Fifth, the max Manual and Aperture Priority shutter speed at 1/1000th is a drag.  I wish it were higher but you can shoot in Shutter Priority Auto Exposure and achieve 1/2000th.  Sixth, as you zoom the camera out, it's starts slowing down pretty early while still in the wide angle range:
24mm  f/2.5
25-26mm f/2.5
27-34mm f/2.8
35-55mm f/3.2
56-100mm f/3.5
104mm- 600mm f/4

Advantages: The advantages of the RX10III are legion, so much so they will each get a separate paragraph:

Cost for what you get is outstanding.  The RX10III is like buying a new home for $20 a square foot. You are not going to find as many features, quality, options, lens, video capabilities in any other piece of equipment.  Period.

Telephoto Lens is amazing quality, especially when you consider the glass is made by Zeiss!  To have a 600mm f/4 equivalent lens is unparalleled from anyone.  The lens is so worth the cost of the camera.

Video.  I use the RX10II all the time on a Ronin-M stabilizer which works great.  The RX10III gives me a faster lens at 24mm which is where I shoot 90% of my video.  Add the 4K quality and the higher frame rates on the HFR side of things and you can make your iPhone slomo look bad fast with the RX10III.

Convenience is huge.  I have been shooting with Canon and Nikon's 600mm f/4 lenses by entire career.  They are amazing but they are difficult to lug around, especially if your parking pass is a bad one.  There is a huge advantage to having a lens that looks like a point and shoot but that has really chops.  I think people will figure out fast that they can smuggle and RX10III into concerts quite easily and get nose-hair images of all their favorite bands.

Even Nikon's most recent flagship, the D5, lacks the 14 fps rate of the RX10III.  THAT'S CRAZY for a camera that costs as much as a D5!

The benefit of having a lens permanently attached to the body is already apparent to outdoor shooters to cover surfing, sailing, Dakar, auto racing, etc...  We make a big deal about having "sealed lenses," when this whole camera is sealed up!  There is a big advantage to the RX10III if you shoot in dirty nasty places and have to make great images no matter what.  Keeping your chip clean is easy!

The leaf shutter inside the RX10III is nearly dead quiet.  You could easily shoot a 14 frame per second burst of a PGA golfer teeing off and while standing upwind from a distance of 15'.  Try that with your DSLR!

When I started my career in photojournalism back in 1985, I carried, every day mind you, all of this in my camera bag:  20mm, 24mm, 35mm, 55 micro, 85mm, 180mm, 300mm and two bodies with motor drives, and a flash, plus film...  It's no wonder we all have bad backs!  the RX10III is heavier than the RX10 or RX10II, but it's no where near the weight and bulk of a DSLR or even a mirrorless system.  The RX10III weighs just 38 oz., and that's with a battery installed and a card inside!!!

If you enjoyed this blog post, please consider buying your Sony RX10III from either Adorama or Amazon.  I appreciate your patronizing these two excellent vendors!    #sonyalpha  #sonyaoi