Feb 252011

I spent a few hours at the Calusa Nature Center today(pictures coming soon!).

I brought with me the following:

  • Sony Alpha A700 DSLR
  • Sony 70-400/G ssm lens
  • Tamron 17-50 lens

I was doing my usual brace-compose through viewfinder-focus-shooting when I met a very nice couple: Danny and Niva. Guess what? They too were Sony shooters. :) They had recently purchased the Sony Alpha A580 DSLR and had the kit 17-55mm lens on. However, because the wildlife at the Calusa Nature Center were all behind chain link and wire mesh fences, you really  want something longer than 50mm to blur the fence into oblivion, so you can get a clean shot of the wildlife.

After talking a bit, explaining that the 70-400 was a pretty good lens, and that I was able to rent it from BorrowedLenses.com, I decided to do a test: I took the 70-400 off of my A700, mounted it on their A580, and took some test shots.

This was done partly because I really hate it when folks don’t get shots they’d like to have. It was also done so that I could gauge the A580 as a camera, and by extension, the upcoming A77X as a camera.

So, my thoughts:

  • The camera is very very light. Compared to the A700, the A580 feels very light and plastic. Kinda like holding a Canon Rebel T2i. Not horrible, but you don’t get that solid feel like you do from the A700/A850/A900.
  • The grip was a decent size! I did not suffer from the dangling pinky syndrome. With a vertical grip, it would a fairly comfortable camera to use for extended periods of time.
  • Using the back LCD as an EVF was rather nice. Mounting the 70-400/ssm on the A580, I held the camera up above my head to get a different composition and was able to compose with the nice 3″ high resolution LCD. After spending the last couple of hours bending over and squinting into the eyepiece for every shot on the A700, this was a welcome relief. Danny and Niva were also able to see what I was shooting and focusing on right then and there!
  • The 10fps firing rate on the camera is no joke! Even with mirror, it had a very clean sound. I’m guessing it is sharing the same shutter as the A55, as they sound very much alike.

I did not use the OVF on the A580. I also did not use the A580’s eyepiece EVF. The point was to test the use of the back LCD EVF as well as the handling.

I have to say, I like it. If the A77X can combine the best of the new generation of Sony technology with A700/A850/A900 handling/ergonomics, I will be a VERY happy camper.

Things on my A77X wishlist:

  • High resolution, low latency, back LCD EVF.
  • Optical view finder eyepiece would be nice, but chances are, it’s  an EVF. Please let it be a high resolution OLED with low latency?
  • 10fps with buffer and dump to card speeds enough to allow for a deep queue.
  • UDMA CF card support for 80MB+ cards!
  • A700/A850/A900 grip/handling characteristics
  • NORMAL USB port! Make tethering and card reading easier!
  • High capacity batteries!
  • More of the double cross sensors
  • Electronic shutter sync for higher flash sync speeds?
  • PC Sync ports
  • Properly working FLASH sync/triggering without flash popup!
  • HD video recording without the weird 10-20minute limit.

Dream Wish List:

  • Programmable Bracketing Shooting:
  • Ie, Aperture bracketing shooting (maintain same exposure, but with different apertures) (For bokeh merging)
  • SLT with Mirror Lock Up mode!!!!
  • I’m still concerned about things like SDXC/SDHC UHS-I and perhaps lacking CF… but at the end of the day, it’s about producing photographs. And I really want the A77X to be a great tool to produce photographs with.

    After handling the A580, I’m a bit more hopeful for the A7X.

    Feb 172011

    It’s Starting To Feel Like Chinese New Years…

    So lately, I’ve been doing a little bit of food photography when I can. I’ve found it to be a good deal of fun and a great way to test out lighting setups at home.

    Chinese New Year Horns ©Wing T. Wong – Gallery

    It’s amazing how you can get some really good looking photographs straight out of the camera, or with some minor contrast bumps, to produce a fairly delicious looking photograph!

    The image above consisted of some pastry horns my mother made for me and my family. The bowl is a cute ceramic from a local kitchen supply shop. The red and gold background is actually a wall scroll banner I enlisted for a more present theme. The gold reflects nicely off of the ceramic. :)

    Smores and Chocolate Chip Cookies from Lisa Ly, aka “The Clumsy Ninja Baker” ©Wing T. Wong – Gallery

    Continuing in the Chinese New Year theme, I have another shot of some baked goods from Lisa Ly, a good friend and awesome baker. We recently had a reunion where she brought plenty of baked goods to share with everyone! Delicious! The photo above was setup the same way: wall scroll background, a simple ceramic to hold the food, this time a soy sauce dipping tray!

    The Setup
    Chinese New Year Horns ©Wing T. Wong – Gallery
    Basically, I had a 4′ long wall scroll which I lay flat on a table. The hanging end, I hung from one of my light stands, effectively creating a red seamless backdrop tiled with old-style Chinese characters.
    To the right and above, I had setup a 32″ shoot through umbrella with one speed light, an Minolta 5600HS(D) trigged wirelessly via a PocketWizard PlusII. I could have triggered it using the wireless flash system in-camera, but the popup flash adds another point of light that I didn’t want to deal with. Plus, it drains the batteries. :)
    To immediate right, I had a small 12″ disc gold reflector. To the left, right next to the camera, I had another 32″ umbrella to provide some fill. An LP160 in optical slave mode was setup to shoot horizontally towards the setup, through the umbrella.
    Camera on tripod, shutter set to 2 second delayed shot to minimize shake. Most shots were taken at ISO 200-320, 1/125th of a second shutter speed, and with the aperture at f/16-f/22, depending on the light. Speedlights were at about 1/2-1/4 power for the light on the right, at about 1 stop less from the light on the right. No ambient light factored into the shots. Shot with the 70-200/2.8 lens, most shots were shot in the 150mm-180mm range. On the A700, this puts the field of view at about 225mm-270mm if one were shooting full frame. Distance was about 3-4 feet between lens and subject.
    A Word About Batteries
    So, as the subject line suggests, this post has a little to do with batteries. I had recently bought 16 2400mAH LSD NIMH batteries. I had previously been using the 2700mAH NIMH(s), but because of the high internal resistance, the batteries would get quite hot after firing the flash a bit.  The new 2400mAH LSD batteries have very low internal resistance, so even after photographing the food lit only by speedlights, the batteries came out just a bit warm. This is after a 2 hour shoot. The batteries were not recharged prior to use. Just took them out of the wrapper and popped them into the flash. At the end, on the 5600HS(D), the indicator noted the battery was about 70% drained. I was pretty happy as I was getting a good blend of positives: LSD and low internal resistance + beefier capacity! I’ll definitely be getting some more.
    The brand is Imedion purchased through Thomas Distributing.
    I shoot with Sony camera equipment, but am not compensated by them. Same story with PocketWizards, Lumopro, Manfrotto, Imedion, Thomas Distributing, Westcott, etc. Advertisement revenues, if any, are through Amazon/Google. All photographic works as displayed are Copyrighted and the sole property of Wing T. Wong. If you wish to use the images, please contact me first for details.
    Feb 062011

    DIY + Kickstarter + My Project

    I was introduced to Kickstarter a couple of months ago and it dawned on me that it would be a good way to fund a project I have been keeping shelved for a while.

    Like many other DIY strobists, I’ve made my fair share of foamcore soft boxes, salad bowl/garden pot beauty dishes, simple reflectors, and the like.

    However, I’ve been wanting to build my own soft boxes that are more portable, and yet yielded good light. Working on that would require funds to buy the raw materials and tools, something I’ve not got in my budget for.

    Kickstarter seems like a good way to go about achieving several things:

    • Funding for raw materials, tools, and destructive testing.
    • Compile the findings, DIY plans and illustrated instructions into an e-book and physical book.
    • Get visibility so that people can get access to the book and make use of it to make their own lighting gear and get great light.

    Some of the goals of this project is to make the DIY light modifiers to be easy find parts for, put together, and make use of.

    Getting Approval From Kickstarter

    One of the things about Kickstarter, which I love, is that they moderate which proposals get to proceed to the detailing and funding step. I had written up a quick draft of what I intended to do, what I intended to offer, and what rewards were to be offered for folks who backed me.

    So, the good news: I got approved!

    The bad news: I’m now working out the details of what all is involved in what I intend to acquire and make use of in my R&D;, and fine tuning what I intend to give to backers for backing me.

    I’ve already gotten a very good piece of advice and have been working on it, making better use of the rewards to increase value to potential backers. After all, it is through their generosity and belief in the project, which results in it getting funding.

    Will post more on this, once I’ve submitted the details, and the project has been officially launched!