Tag Archive for sony

Going Mirrorless – From Sony A99 to Canon M6

Yep, that’s right. I’m transitioning to Canon, and mirrorless. What does that mean? I’m moving from the Minolta/Sony system that I’d been with since the 1990’s, to Canon; and I’m starting with the Canon EOS M6, the Canon 15-45mm, and an adapter for Minolta/Sony Alpha mount to EOS M-mount. Here’s the start of that story.

The Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera

The Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera

Why?

I started with Minolta (the MD-mount system) in the 1990’s. My first real camera was actually a Seagull, but the camera and mount system was a licensed remake of the Minolta MD system. Then, when I found myself in Korea in 2000 and 2001, I found that I had missed some great street photos because I was simply too slow setting the camera, prompting me to switch to auto-focus, and I stuck with Minolta.

Portraits of a young Japanese lady modelling with an antique film camera.

Portraits of a young Japanese lady modelling with an antique film camera.

In 2005 or 2006, I decided it was time to switch to digital, and by that time Konica and Minolta had merged, and so I got the Konica-Minolta Alpha Sweet (aka Dynax/Maxxum 5D in other parts of the world). Then in 2006 KM went into partnership with Sony. Sony had collaborated successfully with Carl Zeiss for video lenses, Ericsson for phones, and such. Perhaps they expected to develop a Konica-Minolta Sony camera. It was murky what actually ensued, but it looks like KM dumped their camera division on Sony and ran. Minolta, in inventing the worlds first autofocus system, had infringed the copyrights and patents of Texas Instruments, and spent most of the 1990’s in courts. It seems they wanted to offload that liability and save the company at the cost of their camera making pride. From the 1930’s to 1990’s, Minolta lenses were considered second only to Leica (and some instances better). Minolta had a fantastic reputation. Up until the late 1980’s, the top brands were clearly Nikon, Minolta, Leica, and Hasselblad; not Canon. The advent of the digital era and Minolta’s legal problems changed all that.

Sony A77 left, Minolta A7 right. My cameras with ribbons that take evil spirits away given during the Konomiya Naked Man Festival.

Sony A77 left, Minolta A7 right. My cameras with ribbons that take evil spirits away given during the Konomiya Naked Man Festival.

The Minolta/Sony to Canon M-mount adapter

First of all, all the glass (lenses) I’ve invested in over the years are not wasted. I can still use them with the K&F Concept adapter. At the moment, the Canon M-mount system is far from mature, and so there is a distinct lack of quality glass at the moment. Sony has taken nearly ten years to finally release some zoom lenses with f2.8 capability, and I hope Canon won’t take so long to get to this stage of maturity. In the mean time, what can I do for both quality glass and wide open apertures? I have some wonderful glass from Minolta, the original and first batch of auto-focus lenses in the world of any brand, including the 50mm f1.4 and 100mm f2 macro; both still are stunning even by today’s standards. I also have a Sony 70-300mm zoom lens, and a Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 lens. Most exciting of all, I have a Lens Baby Composer 50mm. These will work, but only in the manual mode. The K&F Concept adapter is not electronic, it’s mechanical. So you will only have manual focus (so only for lenses with a manual focus ring) and it has an aperture ring so you can manually adjust the aperture in the lens. However, in the Canon M6, you need to set the camera to allow for the shutter to work in the “No lens attached” mode. Instructions are provided here: http://support-hk.canon-asia.com/contents/HK/EN/8202418700.html. Once, you’ve got this set, then you can shoot without a problem.

The Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera with K&F Concept adapter, and Minolta 50mm f1.4 lens.

The Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera with K&F Concept adapter, and Minolta 50mm f1.4 lens.

Of course, you can also get a Canon native adapter to fit L-mount to M-mount lenses. These will have electronic communication, so you can have auto-focus and electronically controlled aperture. Eventually, I will get some high quality L lenses, mostly for the auto-focus and wide open apertures, and so I can use them on the 5D or 6D that I plan to get one day.

A photo taken with the Canon EOS M6, K&F Concept adapter, and Minolta 50mm f1.4

A photo taken with the Canon EOS M6, K&F Concept adapter, and Minolta 50mm f1.4

This photo above shows that a shallow depth of field is possible on the M-mount, despite there being no native lenses capable of f1.4. Note, the crop factor of the APS-C sized sensor makes this 50mm lens and equivalent of about 70mm focal length, adding intensity to the depth of field.

The following photo is of the Sony 70-300mm G lens, with the adapter on the Canon M6. As you can see, the size differential is so big that the camera does not even touch the table! The size difference is simply hilarious.

The Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera looks tiny compared to the Sony 70-300mm G lens mounted via an adapter.

The Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera looks tiny compared to the Sony 70-300mm G lens mounted via an adapter.

Currently, there are no native telephoto lenses for the m-mount that go beyond 200mm in length. Additionally, there are currently no high quality lenses for this mount, except for perhaps the Canon 22mm f2. It is expected that two things will happen later this year or next; Canon will release a full-frame m-mount mirror less camera, and high quality glass (hopefully zoom lenses with at least f2.8 capability). The following photo was taken with the Canon M6, K&F Concept adapter, and Sony 70-300mm G lens. The main issue with this set up is that the adapter is mechanical only, which means manual focus, and manual aperture control. I found myself constantly fiddling with the focus ring. Also film cameras had a split-plane system for focus confirmation, digital cameras have a green-square confirmation, in the “no lens attached” mode the Canon M6 shows nothing; so all focusing is a combination of guessing and hoping.

A photo taken with the Canon EOS M6 with K&F Concept adapter, and Sony 70-300mm G lens

A photo taken with the Canon EOS M6 with K&F Concept adapter, and Sony 70-300mm G lens

The following photo is the first one from the Canon M6 with its own native lens, the Canon 15-45mm f3.5-6.3. Soon after the photo was taken, it was transferred to iPad via the camera’s own Bluetooth connection, where the photo was lightly processed and uploaded to Instagram; mere minutes after that train had passed.

At a Kintetsu train station in rural Japan. Photo taken with Canon EOS M6, with Canon 15-45mm lens.

At a Kintetsu train station in rural Japan. Photo taken with Canon EOS M6, with Canon 15-45mm lens.

The Canon EOS M6 is a brilliant little camera. If I had have known how great it was, I would have got it a long time ago. The images are not perfect, but are really, really good. The images are bright, clear, with great colour reproduction, and good-enough sharpness. It is very small and very light weight, so as a travel camera, it’s a no-brainer.

The big questions I have is, if Canon does bring out a full-frame m-mount camera, what does that mean for the Canon m-mount lenses that I have? Are they for APS-C format m-mount, or will they work fine on both full-frame and APS-C? Will the full-frame m-mount camera be in my price range, and worth the upgrade? Will there be a 24-70mm f2.8 lens for m-mount? Should I still consider getting the Canon 5D MkIII or MIV, or 6D, or just commit to m-mount exclusively?

In other news, BIG news. In private communication with Lens Baby, they suggested the Lens Baby 35mm Burnside may be available for m-mount for special order. However, I’d still like to wait and see what happens with the full-frame m-mount issue, and if I would still prefer to get an L-mount camera.

Sample photos taken with the Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera with m-mount Canon 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 lens.

Sample photos taken with the Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera with m-mount Canon 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 lens.

Sample photos taken with the Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera with m-mount Canon 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 lens.

Sample photos taken with the Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera with m-mount Canon 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 lens.

Sample photos taken with the Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera with m-mount Canon 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 lens.

Sample photos taken with the Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera with m-mount Canon 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 lens.

Sample photos taken with the Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera with m-mount Canon 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 lens.

Sample photos taken with the Canon EOS M6 mirrorless camera with m-mount Canon 15-45mm f3.5-6.3 lens.

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Japanese companies share prices fall

Recently, both Nissan (BBC, Japan Today) and Sony (BBC, Japan Today) saw their share prices fall as a result of weak demand for their products. Sony has not produced any or enough innovative or game-changing products in the last few years, and has become an industry follower, rather than a leader as it had been in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Furthermore, I’ve had problems with Sony products that have made me an unhappy camper, so I’m sure Sony is struggling with not so much innovation problems, but customer satisfaction issues. Nissan, on the other hand, is perhaps affected by the weaker US auto-economy, but Japan Today claims that tensions between China and Japan has led to a drop in Chinese desire for Nissan cars. Japan Today claims a 5.3% drop in sales has led to a 35% drop in profits. For images of Nissan see my agent’s website, and my portfolio. Sorry, I don’t have any suitable Sony images available, yet.

Update (14th Feb 2013): BBC report on the Japanese economy shrinking further.

Nissan at the biannual Nagoya Motor Show, 2011.

Nissan at the biannual Nagoya Motor Show, 2011.

Sony Bloggie MHS-CM5 Review (or rather a rant)

The Sony Bloggie MHS-CM5

There are a number of reviews for this cheap mini digital video camera on the internet, and a Google search can help you find them (CNet has this technical review). This, however, this is a much more qualitative review. I have not been paid by Sony, and I do not depend on any electronics manufacturer to supply me with products to review, and therefore indirectly promote. I have bought this device, and have used it for a while now. What I have noticed in a recent Google search is that some basic problems of my Bloggie seems to be inherent in the current models (see other CNet reviews). Below, is my qualitative review.

The Sony Bloggie is very small, compact and I like the burgundy colour (though Sony, a Japanese-language company, claim it’s violet). It fits a Sony Memory Stick or standard SD card, making it in part ways compatible with some of your other electronic devices. It comes with a single Sony shape battery, that does not last very long and there’s no external charger, nor will the battery fit any other manufacturers devices. The Bloggie does not take standard AAA or AA batteries so you are locked in. It can do a few recordings before it needs recharging. I have been in a situation where I though it was charged enough, only needing to recharge it off of my laptop battery right at time of need. The added problem was that it would not function whilst it was charging. Even though it is intended for blogs and an internet social life, hence the name, it cannot be used for live streaming like on Google+ Hangouts or UStream. The primary assumption by Sony Engineers must have been a standard point of view that you would record, then upload, and not do both simultaneously. The supplied software, PMB does not upload high quality video to YouTube, see this early video of mine as an example, Nagashima Town Festival. Instead, you need to use the YouTube uploader to provide HD quality video to your adoring fans, see Sumo Bitch Slap. Aviation buffs will be disappointed with the rolling shutter problem, as shown in this video of a Curtis Kittyhawk taxiing. You will also notice that it can be a bit slow to focus, and the auto focus system can focus on not the thing you want it too, and you have no control of that. It does have a face-recognition auto-focus system, so most of the time you’ll get what you want. In this video of the Nagoya Domatsuri (Nagoya Dance Festival), you will also see it’s dynamic range (control of dark and light areas) isn’t bad, nor it’s automatic exposure settings. You have no control over the exposure, that is, there is no manual settings, but the auto-functions does a good enough job, however, I do not professionally produce videos anyway.

Now, as promised, the rant, but I promise to keep it unemotional. The problems I have encountered are when you want to play back the videos. On the camera the video appears smooth, on the Sony PMB software on your computer, the video appears smooth, when uploaded onto YouTube (using either PMB or the YouTube uploader), the video appears smooth. However, when viewing on your computer with QuickTime, Windows Media Player, or any of the Linux players the mpg visuals will jump and pause, whilst the sound will just carry on; it will be a frustrating watch. If you record family videos, party videos, or anything that you will keep private and share with friends, you cannot just send the file. You need to convert it to another format that will replay the video smoothly on your friends computers. I have used Any Video Converter in the past, but I had spent an entire day trying to find the right settings to convert the Bloggie mpg-4 file. Eventually I gave up and then tried Acala Video Studio. These two video converters are available on Cnet Downloads for free. I eventually found that the Bloggies mpg-4 file could be successfully converted to wmv format that will play smoothly, and so you can share private videos with your friends. In the year I’ve had this camera firmware and software updates have become available, and I was unaware of them until I experienced the frustration of getting a smoothly playing video file. I have not tested the camera with the updates, but will get to updating this review when appropriate.

The other problem with the PMB software for playback and uploading, is that once it has automatically installed onto your computer direct from the camera (nice and convenient), it cannot do that again, even if you have a new computer. Not to worry, just open the MP Root folder and then upload to your online account directly or onto your hard-drive. Files the Bloggie produces are quite large when the best quality settings are chosen (and I recommend you do this), so I also advise you to have an external hard drive to keep your videos on.

The below video of the Toyohashi Fire Festival demonstrates that the Bloggie can deal with difficult lighting situations, but also shows the slow autofocus. The sound quality seems reasonable, but there is no external microphone jack to improve things anyway. Would I buy this again? I’d probably shop around a bit more and see if there is something better (and cheaper), whilst still not discounting this.

50mm Lens

I’ve now had the Minolta 50mm lens for about a year, and there’s been no looking back. It’s a special lens, and a dear piece of photographic equipment. You might be wondering why I should celebrate a lens. I think it’s true for all industries, that there is the one thing, the one piece of work equipment that is held dear to us. It somehow acquires legendary status. The 50mm lens for the photographer was, at one time, the main lens, ‘the standard lens’ as it was also called. 50mm is not just a nice round number, it was a nice all-rounder. It was great for photojournalism, for portraiture, landscape, street candid, whatever, it was there and it was good. All manufacturers endeavour to make the best lenses as possible. Generally, Lieca and Minolta (now Sony) have the best lenses. However, according to DPReview, the Pentax 50mm was the pick of the bunch, with the Sony / Minolta 50mm 1.4 snapping on it’s heels. Embarrassingly, the Canon 50mm was the dunce of the class (as is most Canon lenses, anyway 😉 ).

The design of the Sony 50mm 1.4 lens still shares much of the same design as the original 1985 Minolta 50mm 1.4 release (which is the lens that I have and am raving about), when Minolta first launched its Auto Focus series of lenses. Which, itself, was based on designs going back to the 1960’s Minolta MC and 1970’s MD mount lenses. In terms of image quality it’s still awesome; portability: it’s small, and not heavy at all; so it’s still hard to beat.

It’s hard to improve on such a great lens; the best you can do is to tweak a winning design.


50mm Lens – Images by Andrew Blyth