Reviews

Review: Sony RX1 Camera Hands-On

Sony has set the camera world on fire with the release of the RX1 Cybershot. he accolades are appropriate even if the cost is high ($2,799). It's the first time a full-frame sensor has been shoved into a body this compact and precise. It's truly a beautiful thing to hold and a joy to use. 

I'm not going to fill these pages with a massive specs review, others have done a fine job, but I will give you a few highlights and lowlights. 

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The Body: It's sturdy and well crafted for the hand although a tad smaller than I'm used to, and that's a good thing. 'm so used to holding my hulking Nikon D800 that I did have to get used to holding the RX1 like a hot piece of toast, with just the tips of my fingers.  

 

The Three Dials: There's a smart use of the dials here for quick access to the things that matter most like the mode dial with three customization options, an exposure compensation dial in case you quickly fire off a few versions of a shot for an HDR, and a dual function dial used for both ISO and shutter speed. I've been shooting in Manual mode for most of the past year and it's nice to have a dial with quick access to those functions. 

The View Finder: My biggest gripe is that the RX1 has no electronic viewfinder. My eyes have gotten progressively worse over the years and peering down the barrel of a viewfinder is essential. I need to check focus, compensate for bright light all without the bright sunlight shining in my eyes. Sure you can buy a good electronic view finder for about $400 but the price on this camera demands one built-in. 

Auto Focus: It has a 25 zone contrasted detect AF system and it's very nice. I like a fast auto focus for grabbing those quick shots of the kids and I was pleasantly suprised. It's not as fast as my Sony NEX-7 or the D800 but it wasn't slow enough that I didn't want to shoot with it. 

RAW: I always shoot in RAW format thanks to my buddy Trey Ratcliff who showed me the value in being able to pull as much light data you need from a RAW shot during post processing. Shooting in JPG format simply keeps you from doing more with the photo in Lightroom or Photoshop. That's a long way of saying the RX1 shoots exceptional RAW shots and the amount of data available was stunning. 

Here's a gallery of shots taken with the RX1. All of these were RAW photos with some minimal processing. In fact here's a little secret, I was traveling for most of these shots and I didn't have access to Lightroom on my iMac so I edited the RAW photos on my iPad using Photosmith, SnapSeed, and iPhoto. The future! And don't forget to scroll down for a little hands-on video.

 

Flickr for iPhone Gets an Upgrade

It be an understatement to say that the Flickr app released in late 2012 was an important move for the service. It probably helped save the farm. Now that great app just got another shot of adrenaline with some great upgrades. 

Yahoo's release of Flickr 2.1 for iOS has a slew of new features. Here are my favorites:

  • Picking photos from your iPhoto Photostream to save to Flickr. This is great because not every photo I want to share exists on my phone's camera roll. And often I'll save some heavily edited DSLR shots to my Photostream. This makes that whole process a tad easier.
  • uch faster uploading. I noticed a significant speed bump under the hood. When they first released the app I saw slow upload times. Thanks Yahoo.
  • Snap photos using the iPhone's volume up button. This is a no-brainer and I don't understand why more camera apps don't take advantage of this functionality now that Apple allows access to these buttons in the SDK. Afterall Apple lets you snap pictures this way while using the built in camera app.
  • This update saves an original photo to your camera roll in addition to your heavily post-processed version.
  • Higher resolution photos are now displayed in the lightbox view.

And there are a few more bells and whistles like quickly tagging your contacts in photo comments by typing @screename, and now you can get notified when contacts mention you. 

Now that Flickr is back with a vengeance I'm still struggling to figure out how it fits into my overall photo workflow. But the way I see it no other service offers the same level of high resolution photo sharing that Flickr does. 

Really Right Stuff: Buying the Right Tripod the First Time

Don’t make the same mistake I did: Buy a great tripod from the start and save your money. A few months ago the I read an article about how cheap people end up spending more money than folks who buy quality the first time. The same goes for your tripod. 

I bought a $100 tripod at B&H photo that immediately started breaking down and falling apart. While the knobs are working fine the panning bracket started wobbling with no way of fixing it.

Your tripod can make or break a shot. A cheap tripod can ruin the shot with a wobble or a loose tripod head. When it comes to big purchases, your grandparents had the right idea: Buy it once and have it forever. That's what you get when you spend the money for the best tripod rather than purchasing several cheaper tripods in your quest to get the best image. To get the best tripod, combine the best material, the tripod head and size for what you want to do with your camera..

Material

When you get the best tripod, you will need to consider the job intended. Will it travel the back country with you, sit in a studio or need to fit snugly in your suitcase? Generally, there are three types -- aluminum, carbon fiber and wood -- of material used to create a tripod. Aluminum is light, durable and inexpensive. It's the most common tripod material. Aluminum does not dampen vibrations like wood and carbon fiber and it reacts to extreme temperatures. Carbon fiber is also light weight, easily fixed and durable, but it's extremely expensive. Wood tripods are too heavy, although wood dims vibrations wonderfully.

Really Right Stuff TV-33 Tripod

I decided to get one of the best. Really Right Stuff makes fantastic legs that are relatively light carbon fiber, and super sturdy. I bought the TVC-33 series

Ball Head and Clamp

You've found a suitable tripod made from the best material. The next part of your quest for the best tripod revolves around the tripod head. Ideally, you'll be in a photography store and be able to handle the tripods before purchase. You want a tight head and clamp. Ball heads are among the best tripods heads.

Again I’m not messing around anymore so I decided to buy this great BH-55 Ball Head and L-series bracket from Really Right Stuff.

Size

Larger tripod legs can stretch out and put the camera a lower height. You may be able put a smaller tripod on a table to gain perspective. Out in the woods you won't find a table unless you bring it. The best size is the size you need to achieve your intended purpose.

Although our modern throw away culture encourages buying an item multiple times, when you get what you really need to succeed and buy the best the first time around, you won't have to buy the it again. In addition, the quality of the tripod translates into quality of the photograph. The best tripod helps create the best photograph. Creating the best photograph is the goal of every photographer. No more wobbling for me!

 

Using the Drobo mini for Travel Photography

I'm getting ready for a big photography trip to New Zealand in February. I needed a great way to back up and store the hundreds of RAW photos I plan to shoot. Enter the Drobo mini. 

Drobo mini

I've been a Drobo user for years and I was anxious to get my hands on their brand-new portable 'mini'. It sports 4 ports for small SSD drives, lightening connectors and USB 3.0 for super fast data transfers, and a polycarbonate durable case that makes it a pleasure to hold and put in a bag.

Here's a set up video I put together showing the unboxing and software installation. I also show you how freaking fast the photo transfer speeds are from the desktop to the mini using the Lightening port. 

Sony 50mm f/1.8 Prime Lens Review

I just received my new 50mm f/1.8 Mid-Range Prime Lens for my Sony NEX-7 and here's my early review. Wow! It is stunning that it's this good for under $300. It's even more impressive because it's just as outstanding as the more expensive 50mm Prime I'd been using before. And I've heard from fellow photographers that even it rivals the $4,000 Leica Summilux 50mm f/1.4.

Sony 50mm f/1.8 Prime Lens

The only reasons I kept my Canon D-Mark II camera for as long as I did was (a) I loved that camera (b) the 50mm Prime lens I had to go with it was just a gorgeous piece of glass. But I've moved onto to different cameras with more advanced lenses. The new Sony lens is a perfect substitute. And there's simply no reason to be using an older 50mm lens other than cost at this point. 

I got this lens to shoot portraits, plain and simple. I wanted a crisp shot with shallow depth of field and this lens gives you that creamy Bokeh that brings out the subject beautifully. The reason for this is because of the large aperture of the lens and what Sony calls its 'circular aperture design'. Who cares what they call it, it takes amazing pictures. 

It's also really light and compact. My older Canon 50mm Prime could be used as a paper weight it was heavy.

I'm going to add more to this post over the next few months as I spend more and more time with it. In the meantime please enjoy a few of these photos that were shot with the new Sony 50mm lens. 

My daughter

My son the photog.

Play time.

Photography Fun: PopBooth, A Fun Photo App for iOS

Transient

Sometimes I get too bogged down in aperture, shutter speed, and ISO that I forget photography is all about fun. At least for me it is! That's why I decided to start reviewing some fun photo apps and programs that I've been using just to pass the time.

I wanted something that my kids and I could play with while I had an iOS device in my hands. Anytime a child can see themselves on the screen they get really excited. That's how I discovered PopBooth for iOS while digging through the App Store.

PopBooth lets you use the front facing camera to snap multiple photos in a sequence like you would at one of those old kissing booths at a boardwalk carnival. Not that I would know anything about that of course. The interface is clean and easy to use. Once you tap the camera button you get a countdown clock before it starts snapping a series of four photographs. There's a white bracket safe area to let you know where to align your faces.

Transient

Once your photos are done you can add a series of filters like black-and-white, vintage, and some funky colors. You can also complete some in app purchases to buy more. For $1.99 you can send your PopBooth photo as a postcard to a loved one.

The sharing features are one of the downsides of this application. I found it a little confusing. It's not immediately obvious that your photos are saving to your camera roll as there is no button that lets you do this. Once I exited the app to check my camera roll I found my photographs were saved there. You have the option to share to Facebook, Twitter or email. If you decline to share to any of those and you hit the share button the photo automatically saves to your camera roll.

My other criticism is not being able to edit the comment accompanying your photo when it's shared to the social networks. Once I shared my photo to Facebook it comes complete with a stock comment that I wasn't able to edit.

Transient

Minor gripes aside I'm really enjoying this application. And so is my daughter! It's free so grab it today in the App Store here.