Walk in the Woods



Pictures from a walk at the Courthouse Park in Greensboro, NC. For you gear heads out there, everything was taken with a Sony A7 and Contax G 45mm f/2.0 or 90mm f/2.8. I don’t remember the exact apertures. I feel the Contax G 45 & 90mm lenses work better on the A7 then the 5N. Aside from the occasional fringing wide open they are sharp with enough contrast and pop at any aperture. If only they could focus as fast as they do on a Contax G2…

Sony A7 E-mount Leaf Shutter Lenses


Leaf shutter lens assembly (Wired Magazine)


Seriously, why aren’t there any of these yet? The upcoming wide (<= 28mm) and portrait primes (>=85mm) are ideal candidates. While I have my doubts about the severity of the A7r “shutter shock”–I have an A7 which has no such issues thanks to the electronic first curtain shutter–leaf shutter lenses would solve those issues, allow for much higher flash sync speeds, and quiet the cameras considerably. It would be a fix not only for the A7 & A7r but for the whole line of E-mount cameras. Yes, they would be more expensive but Sony doesn’t really make any budget FE lenses now does it? Even the middle of the road 28-70mm is a hefty $500!

Sony FE Camera Predictions & Hopes

I’m writing this while my computer runs through some batch processing. I’ve been too busy to get out of the office to shoot much with my new A7 but I’m loving what I have been able to do.

Perhaps its because of the time that I can’t spend with that I find my mind wandering during those inevitable “please wait” moments to Sony’s FE camera system that I’ve (somewhat) married into. I add “somewhat” because the E-mount system is a bit of an open marriage. I have yet to buy a native FE lens but meanwhile love what little I have shot with my Contax G and Nikon Ai glass.

I personally think Sony’s next wide angle will be fairly moderate–28mm or maybe 24mm. I also think it will be fast, either f/2.0 or f/1.8. My reasoning is that it won’t be small. The A7R is an amazing camera but it is even less forgiving in the corners than the A7 and that fact will limit the FE lens design for at least the next 3-4 years. So, if you can’t go small, go big fast. I’m actually leaning towards a 28mm f/1.8 because that will placate many of the complaints that the FE 35mm is not fast enough while also slotting in between the SEL 24mm and 35mm on the APS-C side of things (perhaps also quietly putting the mediocre 30mm Macro out to pasture).

What I’d also like to see is a leaf shutter lens. The FE system, almost more so than the D800E is encroaching on medium format territory but the slower shutter sync of the A7 (and worse on the A7R) is limiting. Given that the E-mount is all electronic it shouldn’t be too hard to implement. Yes, it would involve updating firmware but since every camera already has a focal plane shutter such a lens should be totally backward compatible.

The upcoming fast portrait prime would be a great candidate because that lens will already be fairly hefty due to the focal length, it won’t compete wit the RX1, and it fits in with the fashion/headshot crowd who often work in natural locations.

A Case for the A7

It seems all the love these days is going to Sony’s A7r. I’d like to make a case for the lowly A7 not just because that’s what I bought, but because I think the camera has a unique set of advantages even over it’s more expensive sibling.

The first big advantage is something that’s hard to pin down: pixel flexibility. When I switched to Sony’s NEX system in 2011, I was amazed at the flexibility but also at the quality. When I upgraded my NEX-3 to an NEX-5n I was blown away at the difference of pixel level flexibility. In short the 5n has much more flexible pixels. It can handle light from a more oblique angle, wider apertures, and seems to bring out the character of each lens. Except for one vintage zoom which I hardly used and never got around to selling. I have curiosity I took that old zoom out and took it up to my 87 for a few test shots. Surprisingly it seem to do much better than on the 5N.

That I compared the Cosina/Voightlander 15 mm lens on the 5N and the A7 in crop mode. The A7 seems to do marginally better. Many reviewers have made a big deal about how the A7 still struggles with the 15 mm lens in full frame out, and it does, needing a pretty heavy corner fix to remove vignetting and color cast. But, in crop code compared to the 5N  it performs marginally, but noticeably, better. This leads me to believe that the A7 has more flexible pixels. Certainly more flexible than A7R despite the A7R’s dedicated micro lens array.

NEX-5N CV15@4.5 A7-DX CV15@4.5


The other thing to justify A7 also stems from the larger pixel sites. While many users have complained about camera shake with the A7R, I find the A7 works well when keeping to the “focal length equals minimum shutter speed in fractions of a second” (i.e. a minimum of 1/50 for a 50mm lens). Often with the electronic first curtain shutter enabled I can get away with a stop below that which means a reliable stop of improvement of what I used as a minimum for the 5N and I suspect the A7R which has the same pixel density.

Sony A7: Putting That Bokeh to Work

I just received my new Sony A7 and my thoughts on that are forthcoming, but before I went into that I wanted to show a few pictures that I took yesterday that made use of the bokeh a full frame sensor will give you.

The cold, almost freezing, rain at first killed all desire I had to go outside and take some pictures to try out my new camera. But then I stumbled across an article online about bokeh modifiers which brought back memories of my old SLR Magic Bokehmorphic lens. The two problems I had with that lens were it was wide-angle and APS – C sized so it hardly got any Boca to begin with, and two, when you did get some bokeh it was often cheesy and hardly justified in a photographic composition. What about creating a bokeh modifier that would help evoke the feeling of the rainy weather?




Low-Key Halloween

I just got back from NYC where I got to attend both PhotoPlus as well as the opening preview performance of my favorite play (Waiting for Godot) starring one of my favorite actors (Patrick Steward). I don’t have the time/energy to go into my thoughts on the Sony A7 right now suffice to say that I will be ordering the A7 (NOT the A7r) and that while I still have misgivings about the design it is remarkably nice to use.

Taking a break from gear and rumors I wanted to post a few shots I took at a local photography meet up. I got the chance to create a few low-key “Halloween” portraits.


© 2013 Joel Richards All Rights Reserved

© 2013 Joel Richards All Rights Reserved

© 2013 Joel Richards All Rights Reserved

© 2013 Joel Richards All Rights Reserved

© 2013 Joel Richards All Rights Reserved

© 2013 Joel Richards All Rights Reserved

This Is IT! Sketch of Sony A7r Full-Frame NEX Camera


Courtesy of SonyAlphaRumors, here is a verified sketch of the upcoming A7 & A7r cameras. These will feature full-frame sensors, weather sealing, and Sony’s E-mount. They will not have in-body image stabilization (like Olympus does) or the NEX-7 tri-navi control system. The A7 is rumored to have phase-detection sensors on the image sensor (like the NEX-6 and OMD-M1) whereas the 36MP A7r does not. However, the autofocus of the A7r is said to be “different” so perhaps we’ll see the return of Sony’s funky holographic-laser AF.

The official announcement is October 16, 2013.

Sony A7: Death of the Rangefinder Full Frame E-mount?


A7 Frankenkamera courtesy of SonyAlphaRumors.com

Someone wiser than me once said that any headline phrased as a question will always be answered as a “no”. Let’s hope he’s right about mine!

Sony Alpha Rumors (as well as other Asian and European sources) are all suggesting that the Sony A7 & A7r full-frame E-mount cameras will NOT look like the NEX-7/6 but instead look like the RX1 with interchangeable lenses and a non-detachable EVF “hump” styled like an OM-E1.

Personally I find this regrettable. A interchangeable lens camera that small would be great. To be limited to that form-factor would be problematic. But wait, isn’t the purpose of mirrorless cameras to be small/light? Yes, but there is a balance. Personally, and it comes down largely to personal taste, I found the NEX-7 body to be close to the perfect in size and aesthetics. The only reason I never purchased one is that by the time they were widely available I discovered it wouldn’t work well with several of my legacy lenses. The NEX-6 was tempting but lacked the tri-navi controls.

It is an almost certainty that within the year Sony will release a mirrorless A-mount camera (or possibly A/E hybrid camera) but that camera will likely be even more “DSLR” like in styling and size. Aesthetics aside I have two main concerns that make me hope there will be a NEX-7 styled full-frame body that will sit between the diminutive A7 and upcoming A-mount mirrorless.

  • Discreetness: I am mostly a hobby-ist at this point but when I was shooting professionally I was doing event photography and headshots. In both cases I wasn’t a creeper but a camera that doesn’t scream “LOOK AT ME!” (AKA doesn’t look like a DSLR) makes the clients/subjects more relaxed when you’re around. Even now I shoot a lot of candids and the same applies. Even a smaller DSLR shape is still less discreet than a bigger rangefinder shaped camera which is precisely why Sony created the A3000 (and likely went this design for the A7–several sources have said they DID create an NEX-7 based prototype). That may help them sell cameras to the unwashed masses but it ain’t helping me.
  • Battery life: The RX1 is great. The NEX cameras are great. The NEX battery life isn’t. The RX1′s is worse. If this is a pro/enthusiast system why go backwards? Again, an RX1 like option that compromises stamina for size is really great, but ONLY announcing that form-factor (with inherent battery issues) will cause some blow-back.
  • Thermal issues: Remember the overheating issues on the NEX-5N? While I haven’t heard many complaints about the RX1, the A7 is rumored to have faster AF, faster FPS, and a bigger buffer. All that means more electronics working much harder. Even with advances in technology it seems unlikely that Sony has a processor that is significantly faster AND cooler. Not to mention weather sealing and a tilt screen that may further compromise the thermal envelope.

Sony is being VERY secretive with these new cameras. For a product this hyped, that will be released in less than two weeks, there are still many questions and NO pictures. Perhaps the new design will be bigger and allow for a better battery and thermals (which would also make it that much less discreet). Time will tell. In either case if the rumored price points are true (A7: $1600, A7r $2300) then many of us, perhaps myself included, will be willing to live with some compromises.


RX10 Return of the Large-Sensor Fixed Zoom

It is a virtual certainty that Sony will be announcing new camera products soon. At least one model NEX sporting a full-frame sensor is expected and that’s what is getting the most attention. However I wonder if what we might also see a new RX camera. Something to fit in between the compact, pocketable, large-sensor RX100 and the class-toping RX1. I believe this new camera–logically the RX10–will have a fixed zoom lens and a “bridge camera” design. Why? Because we’ve seen it before.

Sony’s waning, but once popular, HX series of small-sensor fixed lens cameras (I hate to call them point and shoots because isn’t that the philosophy of the RX100 & RX1?) have both a compact, pocketable model (like the HX9v) as well as a super-zoom bridge model (like the HX1v).

More to the point, Sony already sold the R1 a camera ahead of its time which sported a near APS-C sized sensor and a relatively fast 24-110mm equivalent zoom (f/2.8-4.5). The R1 was not a perfect camera and I’m told slow operational and focusing speeds at a time when DSLR were beginning to be affordable dampened its success. It also had ergonomics you either loved or hated.

Both of these issues seemed largely solved. Sony has created NEX and A-mount cameras lauded for their ergonomics and speed. The improvements of on-sensor phase-detection autofocus and the fast buffer/write speeds of Sony’s cameras could make the RX10 a real force among enthusiasts looking for top-notch image quality without the hassle of changing lenses.