Sony Announces a Big Deal: The 42 Megapixel A7R II


42 was the answer to life and the universe and everything, and it looks like it might be the answer to a lot of photographers, videographers and even small-scale filmmakers. The A7R II is a bigger upgrade over the A7R than the A7 II over the A7 was.

First up is the new sensor: While 42 megapixels really is not that big an increase over 36, this is an all-new sensor that back-side illuminated. If it represents an improvement over the already excellent 36 megapixel sensor, it will be a worthy upgrade. Continue reading Sony Announces a Big Deal: The 42 Megapixel A7R II

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News Round-up: Photokina Early Announcements

Olympus E-PL7
The first wave of announcements for Photokina arrived over the past week, and usually are not the “Plan A” cameras that the manufacturers will be bringing to the show. So let us start with the more significant camera, the Olympus E-PL7, which is mostly significant in that it seems to signal Olympus’s downsizing of the PEN line. With dual control wheels and a set of specifications pretty much from the OM-D E-M10 (16 megapixel 3-axis stabilised sensor, 3″ WVGA touchscreen, 1080p video at 30 FPS, built-in Wifi), this looks like the PEN update for the next product cycle. Not really surprising too, as the E-M10 at its current price point more or less makes a high-end PEN redundant, and as profit margins are needed to clear Olympus’s debt it looks like the low-end E-PM line is also getting the boot. It’s not a bad camera, though having the LCD flip downwards for the selfie mode seems a bit unfriendly for tripod use.

Arrives later this month for US600 for the body, and US$700 with the 14-42 EZ kit zoom. Also coming is the 12mm f/2 in black without the “Special Edition” price US$800.
Continue reading News Round-up: Photokina Early Announcements

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Sony A7S High ISO Samples (UPDATED!)

P1020413Update (20/06/14): Adobe announced the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw, so I have updated the post with the ACR processed RAWs at the end. This also makes the post even larger, so it is best to view this on a fast connection.

As referenced in the last post, I spent a little time with the Sony A7S, and was pleasantly surprised when I was told I could take some sample images and put them up online. This is from an A7S with firmware version 1.0, and I was told this should be almost a production-level camera. This is not a definitive look, as a show floor is not the place to form final judgements, but it still allows for some decent first impressions, especially for low-light high ISO ones.

Some large images after the break, along with my comments. Continue reading Sony A7S High ISO Samples (UPDATED!)

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Sony Announces A7S – “S” for Sensitivity


This is starting to remind me of a reverse Nikon. Instead of ramping up the pixels with newer cameras a la Nikon with the D800, Sony has gone down to 12 megapixels with the A7S, which boasts an ISO rating of up to 102,400, with a boasted value for 409,600. Seriously, the numbers are getting silly now. Can we just use ISO 100k and ISO 400k respectively? I know I will.

The news with this, I think, is that this is Sony’s first stills camera featuring 4K video. However, to capture, it does require a HDMI recorder, and unlike the Panasonic GH4, it does not offer 10 bit video, only 8 bit. Still some will like the super shallow depth of field in their videos, and the promise of no moire with the sensor dumping all of its data out without line skipping or pixel binning. I wonder if it will lead to some epic rolling shutter effects, the likes not seen since the Nikon D90.

No word on pricing or availability. Again. This is officially now very annoying.

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Three Guys’ Picks and Pans of 2013


Well, 2013 was a quiet year, mainly with the two giants not releasing much, and everyone struggling to stay relevant in times of weak sales brought about by competent cameras that reduce the need to upgrade and convenient cameras in the form of smartphone cameras that make it easy to share photographs. Still, it was not all bad, and we have a list of last year’s most notable products. Read on and find out what they were! Continue reading Three Guys’ Picks and Pans of 2013

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Samyang Announces 10mm f/2.8 APS-C Ultrawide Prime Lens

Samyang 10mm f/2.8

Well, it took SOMEONE long enough. Even though it lacks autofocus and is much larger and heavier than the Nikon 20mm f/2.8 I used back in the film days, at least there is an option for those on APS-C cameras to use. Since this is a lens designed first for SLRs, it will not quite have the compact size needed for mirrorless cameras however, as the very short focal length compared to a typical SLR’s flange distance means more extensive retrofocus design is required. If it lives up to the usual Samyang reputation, expect a good lens at a decent price – the current press release is from the UK, so it carries the higher-than-average price of £470 for the Nikon version, and £430 for the other mounts, including less popular mounts like the Canon EF-M and Samsung NX.

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Sony Announces Next Stage of Mirrorless Race: A7 and A7R Cameras

Sony A7

So it is finally here: The “full-frame” (a rubbish moniker really, what about medium format sensors? Can something be fuller than full?) a.k.a 35mm-sized sensor equipped A7 and A7R cameras. The former is a 24 megapixel camera with phase detect autofocus sensors, while the latter is a 36 megapixel camera without an antialiasing filter but needing to make do with plain ol’ contrast detect autofocus. Like any modern mirrorless camera, they are full-time live view cameras, and have pretty decent viewing options: A VGA LCD with the “triluminous” thing (whatever that means) and the XGA EVF that first appeared on the NEX 7.

Other nice features include WiFi with NFC, a 1/8000 top shutter speed, which I have recently discovered as being very useful in bright daylight, a continuous drive with a top speed of 5 FPS for the A7, and 4 for the A7R. Both of the latter numbers are likely achieved without AF tracking enabled. Both cameras also can record 1080p video at 60p, a nice touch, and there is an option for XLR connectors via an adapter. The NP-FW50 battery, at 1500mAh, might prove to be a bit small to power a camera like this. CIPA rating is just 340 photos. There is also a vertical grip, but wow, it really makes the camera look very odd, kind of like the early Kodak DSLRs and their oversized electronics and battery pack.

While everyone seems to be going bonkers over the concept of having a 35mm-sized sensor in a camera, no one seems to be care that the price is not going to be cheap. US$1700 for the A7, and US$2300 for the A7R. That is almost DSLR pricing for cheaper to make cameras that have less capability. Sony better ramp up the lens selection quick to offset one of the disadvantages of this expensive system.

CK: The price is actually not THAT bad – at least for the A7 it is somewhat similar to the Nikon D600 pricing when it was announced. But like YS said, ultimately it’s a lesser camera than a full DSLR, and I am not talking about the image quality. However great that the high-res EVFs as seen on the NEX6/7, it is still no match for a real optical finder in terms of response time and low-light performance. The advantage of course, is the relative size compared to a full-frame DSLR, so for those looking for a small(ish) full-frame camera, this could be it. Do note that mounting a full-frame lens on this is probably going to negate the size advantage though, and it reminded me of the early days of the NEX cameras having a big lens and a small body.

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Sony Announces FIVE(!) Full-frame E-mount “FE” Lenses to Go With the A7 and A7R

Sony FE lenses
Sony FE lenses

Hot on the heels of the highly-anticipated full-frame mirrorless cameras, the A7 and A7R, Sony has also released FIVE(!) new full-frame E mount lenses. Dubbed “FE”, these lenses were designed to match the newly released A7/A7R cameras. Among them, three are premium (read expensive) lenses with the Zeiss branding, namely the FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar *T, FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* and the FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Carl Zeiss Vario Tessar T*. The last two are an inexpensive FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS mid-zoom kit lens and a FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS telephoto zoom.

Along with the five new lenses, Sony has also updated one of their popular lenses into the 70-200mm f/2.8G SSM II. The lens features a faster AF speed and a new and improved ‘Nano AR’ coating said to be resistant to moisture and dust.

And now, what everybody is wanting to know: the price. The EF 24-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS will be a kit lens to the A7 and won’t be sold separately, though we are sure it’ll somehow make its way into the channels. The 35mm f/2.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* will cost US$799 and be available in December 2013. The 55mm f/1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* will cost US$999 and be available from January 2014. Finally, the 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS will cost US$1199 and be available from February 2014. No pricing information is available for the 70-200mm f/4 OSS at the time of writing.

Though not as astronomical as their Leica counterparts, these Zeiss lenses still look pretty expensive. I am not sure if they are good enough to justify their cost. But like their Leica counterparts, I am sure there will be enough people clamouring over then anyway.

YS: Best part is, they’re all made in Japan anyway. Also, look at the size and weight for most of the lenses. Almost all of them are equivalent to their SLR counterparts. So much for a lighter system, eh? Personally the biggest omissions are wide-angle primes: This is the area where mirrorless lenses will be smaller and lighter due to not needing a retrofocus design. Without them the new system is just another case of small camera with big lenses – a Sony favourite, it seems.

(Image credit: Sony press images)

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Sony Delivers Cheap Mirrorless Camera with the A3000 and Incremental Upgrade with the NEX-5T

Sony A3000 with 18-55mm lens

Sony has announced two new NEX cameras. Yes, despite the name, the A3000 is not using the Minolta Alpha mount, but the NEX E-mount. The most notable part however, is its price: It comes in at US$400 with the 18-55 kit lens. Coupled with the SLR-like styling that apparently is preferred in the USA, Sony really wants to make a big push there.

While the price is really good, and in a way fulfills the potentially lower price point that mirrorless cameras can bring, Sony did cut a lot of corners. There are very few buttons on this thing, relying on the rather awkward soft-key approach other NEX cameras use, lacks a proper command dial, and has a terrible LCD and EVF, which also lacks a sensor to enable automatic switching between the two. The LCD has a QVGA resolution, which is something you last saw in a 2007 DSLR. Remember those? They were so coarse it was impossible to check sharpness on them. The EVF is a similar low resolution and tiny affair.

The A3000 does have some good internals though. like the 20 megapixel APS-sized sensor, which can do 1080p videos at 25 or 30 FPS, depending on your region. Will it break the Canon and Nikon DSLR stranglehold in the USA? We will see when it arrives in early September for the stated US$400.

Continue reading Sony Delivers Cheap Mirrorless Camera with the A3000 and Incremental Upgrade with the NEX-5T

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Sony Tries to Make Good Lenses: Sony Zeiss E 16-70mm f/4 and E 18-105mm f/4 G Lens, Also Paints E 50mm f/1.8 in Black

One of the main problems with the NEX system is, simply put, horrible horrible lenses. Check any decently done Imatest bench of the E mount lenses. Or heck, just test them yourself, pitting them against your favourite lenses. They remind me of the infamous Nikon 43-86mm lens. It’s 2013, yet some of the quality of the lenses reminds me of 1973.

Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS

Sony clearly are listening, so they have have come up with a pair of lenses to address that. The first is the Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS. Mouthful of a name, but the Zeiss name, even if it is Sony-made, should ensure some quality. The only good NEX lens is another Zeiss, the 24mm f/1.8, so this should bode well. Of course, the downside is that the Zeiss name means it is going to be more expensive: Expect it to arrive in September for US$1000. More if you’re in Europe. Eep.

Sony E PZ 18-105mm f/4 G OSS

The next lens is the E PZ 18-105mm f/4 G OSS lens. As this is a G lens, there is also an implied sense of quality. As the name implies, this will be a power zoom lens, making it suitable for video work. Arrives in December for US$600.

Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS

Finally Sony is releasing the E 50mm f/1.8 OSS in black. This trend of “silver-first” lenses is a bit annoying, I have to say. Arrives in September for US$300.

Of course, it still doesn’t solve the other problem of honking huge lenses on tiny bodies.

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