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Showing posts from January, 2012

SONY A77: expanding dynamic range with DRO or HDR (or not)

I work near my kitchen (for obvious reasons). As I look to my right from where I am sitting, I see dark shadows down around the cabinets under the counter, and I also see through the big windows to the bright outdoors full of trees, cars, other houses. This is a scene with a high dynamic range. The miraculous thing is, my eyes can see detail in the shadows and in the bright areas equally well and at the same time. Pretty amazing, really.

No camera can match that. Photographing this scene the "old-fashioned way" (say, in M mode), I would have to expose for the shadows (which will result in the windows appearing to be bright white areas with little detail beyond them) or expose for what I can see outdoors (which will mean the shadows inside will become black areas, again, with little detail). It's a dilemma. What good photographers have done for ages is learn how to make the best compromise, so that we get some detail in the highlights and some detail in the shadows, or so…

SONY A77 focusing options

The A77's big (100%), bright electronic viewfinder (EVF) didn't just make it easy to compose this shot, the EVF and the A77's brilliant focus magnification feature made it easy to nail the focus.

This is a tricky shot. I'm pretty close to Kiki here, less than 2'. (Minimum focus distance for the lens is 12".) Depth of field is less than an inch. Autofocus is too risky. The cat's whiskers and eyebrows are a bit like the bars of a cage at the zoo and will tend to attract the autofocus sensors away from the eyes. I confirmed this by trying to manual focus with the new focus peaking enabled: the whiskers and eyebrows were highlighted red and it was hard for me to get the focus changed. In other circumstances, when I'm a little farther away from the subject, focus peaking is a wonderful feature that makes manual focusing easy and effective.

But this was a job for focus magnification. On my camera, I've assigned this function to the AF/MF button near the …

SONY A77: Get a grip!

I've been using a vertical grip on my cameras for years. Some photographers hate them. They prefer to keep the camera body light and small. I understand this feeling, but I like the vertical grip anyway, for several reasons.

I'm a portrait photographer. I take a lot of photos in portrait orientation, that is, with the camera turned "sideways". Now, I could of course just turn the camera without moving my right hand, so my right hand ends up on "top." But the grip allows me to, um, take hold of (as in "grip") the camera on what is now the side, and to hold it more comfortably and securely while I shoot. I like to shoot with the elbows of both arms firmly against the sides of my chest. Can't do that if my right hand is "up". I'm an event photographer, shooting weddings and other events that often last for hours. The vertical grip holds an extra battery, so I can keep shooting twice as long without having to worry about running out o…

Non-review of the Sony A65, with special reference to the Sony A580

This is not a review of the Sony A65. There are reviews a-plenty on the Internet already. I just want to share a couple of my impressions of the camera, on a few key points and a few minor points. I used one for a couple days recently. For the most part I am comparing the Sony A65 to my older Sony A580, although I will occasionally mention a couple other cameras I’m familiar with and have been thinking about (the Sony A77 and the Nikon D7000).

Before we get started, might be useful to give a quick overview of the three big contrasts between these cameras. First, the Sony A580, released in late 2010, has an optical viewfinder, while the A65 has an electronic viewfinder (EVF). Second, the A580 has a top-quality 16MP sensor, while the A65 has a huge new 24MP sensor. Third and last, the A580 is a conventional digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, while the A65 is a novelty called by Sony a digital single-lens translucent (DSLT).

For the benefit of anybody thinking about the A65’s big br…