Tag Archive for sony

From Sony A to Canon EF or R

Way back in April 2018 I announced that I’d begin switching from my Minolta/Sony system to Canon. This blog post is a follow up to that, and to give Miles of Color some more details in my response to his question on Twitter. Well, making the switch was scary to do, but it’s mostly done. What’s the scary part? I had a great range of capabilities with the following gear (of course I’ve had other cameras and lenses, but this was the core kit):

  • Main body: Sony A99
  • Backup body: Sony A200
  • Film: Minolta A7
  • Wide angle zoom: Konica-Minolta 17-35mm
  • Regular zoom: Tamron 28-75mm f2.8 SP
  • Telezoom: Sony 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 G
  • Low-light: Minolta 50mm f1.4
  • Macro / portrait: Minolta 100mm Macro f2
  • Funky fun: Lensbaby 50mm Composer Pro

Note, with this gear, everything was compatible with no need for adapters, which was one of the reasons I kept away from the E-mount cameras.

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 thing is, my Tamron 28-75mm was on the front of my cameras about 90% of the time. The remaining 10% of the time was mostly the 70-300mm, then wide, then the others. When I traded almost all my Minolta/Sony gear, I guessed I’d get at best USD$800, but hoped for more. I’d need at least $1,300 for the 6Dmkii alone, plus I could budget another $1,000 for a new main lens. In fact, all I could get was $800 on trade in, and it turns out my main lens, despite the fantastic quality, is actually quite obsolete (think, no internal focusing motor, needing the in-body motor), and… it was full of dust. It’s been very, very well used. I kept a few things, especially for the Minolta A7 film camera.

The moment when I traded in my Minolta / Sony gear

The moment when I traded in my Minolta / Sony gear. It was an emotional moment.

Why change?

Sony has never really demonstrated any commitment to their pro & amateur photography community. They took years to establish a professional support system. Prior to that, we had to line up with kids who needed to have their Play Stations fixed. When they did establish their pro support, it was/is expensive, and with no real benefits. It still took over a month for a repair turn-around. Very uncool if you wanted to work in that month. Despite Konica-Minolta never releasing a 35mm sensor camera, it took Sony years to release theirs (later known as “full frame”). At that time, APS-C was assumed by KM, Nikon, Canon, and others to be the sensor we’d want, but it never was.

My Minolta / Sony gear drying after a day at the seaside

My Minolta / Sony gear drying after a day at the seaside. Photo taken on iPad.

Additionally, Sony have basically abandoned the Minolta AF / Sony A mount in favour for the E-Mount. It took Sony nearly ten years to release pro level e-mount lenses. Also, their first A-E Mount adapters did not support electronic communication. That means, a two-thousand dollar Minolta lens could only be used in manual focus. It took another year or so for them to “figure out” how to create an electronic communication system. Even their flagship store here in Nagoya Japan doesn’t stock the flagship A99mkii anymore, or any A-mount camera for that matter.

Lifestyle of a Japanese girl at home during the hottest days of summer.

Lifestyle of a Japanese girl at home during the hottest days of summer. Photo taken on Sony A99.

Frustratingly, it appears that Sony never or has stopped all lens production from the former Minolta factories in favour of their subsidiaries Tamron and Carl Zeiss. Minolta lenses were considered second only to Leica, and occasionally bettered the Red-dot brand. The whole point of me sticking with Minolta was for the quality of their glass. Consequently, there’s no point in staying with Sony. Furthermore, Canon, since the digital era, has developed some fantastic lenses. I’m still not sure how they compare, but all experiences so far suggest they’re better than Sony.

Lifestyle photos of a Japanese girl at home during the hottest days of summer.

Lifestyle photos of a Japanese girl at home during the hottest days of summer. Photo taken on Sony A99.

Finally, a point that everyone is talking about on social media is that the colour science of Sony is not so good. They’re too strong on the green hues so skin colours look off. I’ve not seen the greenish hue on my A99, but have struggled a bit to pull out natural colours. In contrast, the colours, saturation, and vibrancy of the Canon M6 is way, way, way better than the flagship Sony A99 and a bit better than the Canon 6Dmkii. It was the M6 that convinced me that it was time to ditch Sony. The only real advantage my A99 had was that it was full frame, and the variety of lenses I had, though in terms of focusing speed, they were getting quite obsolete.

What did I change to?

Well, having seen the M6’s iPad and iPhone connectivity giving me so many advantages, the 6D Mark 2 was a natural choice for a main camera that is full frame.

The 2019 calendar Inside Japan

The 2019 calendar Inside Japan with the Canon 6DMkII with Tamron 24-70mm SP f2.8 G2 at the Foreign Artists’ Exhibition

My main lens for so, so many years was the Tamron 28-75mm f2.8, which was meant to be a stopgap until I could afford a Minolta 24-70mm f2.8. It turns out that that Tamron lens was simply awesome. At that time in the camera world it was second only to the Carl Zeiss and Minolta equivalents. So, I thought the thousand dollar Tamron 24-70mm SP f2.8 G2 would also be good enough and high-spec enough. It turns out to be softer in the corners and with green-magenta slivers of chromatic aberration issues in unexpected places, so might only be marginally better than the older 28-75mm that is nearly two decades older. However, the G2 is so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so much quicker in finding focus. Further, I opted for the Tamron especially as other affordable Canon options were f4, which reduced my ability to be creative with depth of field. That is the main reason why I didn’t opt for the Canon R just yet. The Canon R main lens is an enticing 24-105mm, but off-putting f4. I considered I’d eventually go mirrorless, but I’d wait a bit until the R system is both a little more affordable (read, ‘available on the second hand market’) and mature (with a better lens selection, and lenses already on the second hand market). Besides, the adapters for EF to R seem way awesome.

The Mexican Team wins the 2018 World Cosplay Summit with their crowd stunning acrobatic Street Fighter performance.

The Mexican Team wins the 2018 World Cosplay Summit with their crowd stunning acrobatic Street Fighter performance. Photo taken on Sony A99 with Sony 70-300mm G lens. This photo went viral on Twitter.

For the longer lens, I opted for a second hand 70-200mm L lens. Since at longer focal lengths f4 is good enough for interesting depth of field, it’s lighter, and cheaper. The image stabilised version was only ¥10,000 (about USD$100) more, I opted for that. The experience I’ve had with the image stabilisation in the Canon M6 convinced me that in-lens stabilisation is so much better than the Minolta/Sony in-body stabilisation.

A snowboarder at Iimori Hakuba. Photo taken on Canon 6DMkii with Canon EF 70-200mm F4 IS lens.

A snowboarder at Iimori Hakuba. Photo taken on Canon 6DMkii with Canon EF 70-200mm F4 IS lens.

For a wide angle lens? I’m conflicted. My Minolta 17-35mm was rarely used, and when it was, it distorted the hell out of any picture that wasn’t taken gravitationally level. The only good options are perhaps the Tamron 15-30mm f2.8 behemoth (it’s huge and heavy, very bad for a travel photographer), or perhaps the Canon 12-24mm at over USD$3000! Remember the 24-70mm was on the front of my camera about 90% of the time. I can’t justify either the back breaking weight or the massive cost. So, for the time being I’ll wait and hope for a Canon M-mount $300 equivalent to be released.

Other lenses? Not got them yet. Currently, I don’t feel a need for a new 100mm macro/portrait lens; if anything, I might get an 85mm as a portrait lens (v.low chance though). To replace the 50mm f1.4 I might consider a Tamron 35mm f1.8, as that focal length is more versatile than 50mm, whilst still giving me low light performance. The Lensbaby is a tough one. Should I get another Composer, the 35mm Burnside (gorgeous), or the 85mm Velvet (my eyes are watering as my mouth would for delectable food).

Two personal friends. Photo taken on Canon M6 with Lensbaby 50mm Composer Pro (with Sony A to Canon M mount K&F Concept adapter)

Two personal friends. Photo taken on Canon M6 with Lensbaby 50mm Composer Pro (with Sony A to Canon M mount K&F Concept adapter)

Should I consider Sigma lenses? Absolutely not! They had very serious quality control issues. A US lens rental company once announced that a third of their Sigma lenses were unusable fresh out of the box straight from the factory. Hence the “Art lens” rebranding Sigma did. Perhaps they’ve fixed these issues, but I’m not testing those waters.

Current sitch?

Here’s what I currently have:

  • Main body: Canon 6D Mark II
  • Second body: Canon M6 with Canon 15-45mm f3.5-5.6
  • Film: Minolta A7 with Minolta 50mm f1.4 and Lensbaby 50mm
  • Wide zoom: x
  • Regular zoom: Tamron 24-70mm SP f2.8 G2
  • Telephoto: Canon 70-200mm L f4 IS
  • Low light: x (K&F adapter for Minolta A to Canon M and Minolta 50mm f1.4)
  • Funky: Lensbaby 50mm Composer with K&F Sony A to Canon M-mount adapter
  • Macro: x
  • Other: Canon EF-M Mount adapter
Andrew photographing autumn scenes at Gifu Park (self portrait)

Andrew with Canon 6D Mark II photographing autumn scenes at Gifu Park (self portrait taken on Canon M6). Note the brown ‘legacy’ Sony wrist strap.

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.

More photos, videos, and stories to come. Subscribe, bookmark, whatever so you don’t miss a thing. Also check follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

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