Thursday, 14 November 2013

Okarito Weekend Part 4 - Landscapes

In this last part of my Okarito weekend postings I want to look at landscapes and discuss using the Sony A100 in a bit more detail.

The A100 was Sony's first DSLR after acquiring Konica/Minolta in 2005, and was released one year later in 2006. That makes it a pretty old camera by today's super-techno standards, so it's got to be a pretty horrible image-maker, right?

Well, no, as it turns out. It's a 10MP, anti-shake, anti-dust, 2.5" lcd, 40 segment metering, 3fps, solid performer - albeit with a few design quirks.

Okarito Lagoon Sunrise. Sony A100 with Zeiss 24-70mm on f5.6 @ 500th
The body itself is rather plasticky - but it's a solid and durable plastic, so that's really not a complaint. The lens mount is metal, and the buttons and dials have a very positive and secure feel to them still - even though this is now an 8 year old camera. The camera has good heft when in the hand, although it does feel a little on the light side when paired with the Zeiss 24-70mm f2.8 lens. The camera weighs 638 g with battery, while the Zeiss is a whopping 955 g, so the combination is a little front-heavy. But you forget all that when you look at the images taken with this combination on the computer. The files from the A100 are rich, smooth (at the low ISO's) and plenty detailed enough.

3 Mile Lagoon, Okarito. Sony A100 with Minolta 100-200 on f5.6 @ 800th
On Saturday evening Stewart and I decided to head off to the Okarito Trig Station Lookout to catch sunset. It had been a beautiful day, but with no guarantees of a decent sunset as we made our way up the hill with tripods and camera gear in hand. We were told that it was an easy 30 minute walk up to the top, but I found the climb fairly hard-going and had to stop several times before reaching the lookout. I can remember thinking at about the half-way stage of the climb that 'this better be worth it'... but I needn't have worried. It was definitely worth it! We were treated to some magic evening light and almost couldn't believe our luck.

Okarito from Trig Station Lookout. Sony A100 with Minolta 100-200 on f5.6 @ 320th
To our left was a fantastic view of Okarito which framed up nicely with my Minolta 100-200mm lens. This is the view that most people who take the track up to the lookout are expecting to see and while it was certainly worth photographing, the really stunning view this evening came from our right, out towards 3 Mile Lagoon. Again, the 100-200mm gave me a great view of the light as it swept over the landscape and I can't believe the sharp, contrasty, beautiful images I'm capturing with this lens! It's a cracking lens and was unbelievable value (I got it as part of a film camera kit for about $40.00NZ).

3 Mile Lagoon. Sony A100 with Zeiss 24-70mm on f5.6 @ 320th
It was an amazing evening of shooting, and the A100 performed faultlessly.  I make sure to shoot at the lower ISO's with it (from 100 to 400), and I watch my shutter speeds (and the Steady Shot graph in the viewfinder) to make sure my shots will be crisp hand-held. And so far, so good. In fact, I'm rightly impressed.

What don't I like about the A100? The function dial on the top left of the camera is a bit clunky to use. I'd rather these were menu-driven like the A200 that came after it. And I'd prefer two control wheels so that I could assign exposure compensation to a wheel rather than a button. But other than that, I'm very happy with the A100 and how it performs. It's just a great image-making tool.

No, it doesn't have live-view (don't care), an articulated lcd screen (don't care), it doesn't shoot video (definitely don't care), and isn't GPS or touch screen enabled (still don't care). What it does do is take beautiful photos. And it does it well.

I don't care that it's 8 year old technology. And in fact, I'll soon be using a Konica/Minolta 7D -  a 6MP 10 year old camera! And I'm really looking forward to it!

Oh yeah - one final thought on the A100. It goes forever! I had one battery, fully charged, for a whole weekend of shooting and it still had juice in it when I got home on Sunday afternoon. A single charge is good for well over a thousand images during a weekends shooting. Sony is well known for making cameras with exceptional battery life and I'm happy to report that the A100 is no exception.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Okarito Weekend Part 3 - White Heron

Last post I wrote how my main objective of my photography weekend to Okarito was to capture images of the iconic Boat Shed. But there is something else that is also iconic and has become synonymous with the Okarito Lagoon - the Kotuku (White Heron).

The lagoon is a breeding ground for the White Heron, so it has become a very popular tourist attraction. I was hoping that I could take my Sigma 75-500mm lens for a spin and capture some useable images of these magnificent birds, since this is something else that I don't really have in my image library.

Kotuku stretching. Sony A100 with Sigma 75-500
Saturday was a no-go, and I didn't really get to see any Heron up close. Stewart and I kayaked out into the lagoon but the cloud cover came over and made it less that ideal. They also don't really let you get too close when you're on their 'turf', and I came away disappointed.

But on Sunday morning, as we were shooting the Boat Shed, I noticed a Heron fly overhead and settle on the edge of the lagoon to feed. I took my opportunity, put the Sigma 75-500mm lens on a monopod, and went over to see if I could take some half-decent bird photos.

Heron Feeding. Sony A100 with Sigma 75-500mm on f8 @ 2000th
I'm not much of a bird photographer - by my own admission. I don't have the patience, the skill, or the gear to really pull it off. But most of all, I don't really have the passion for it. I enjoy taking a great bird photo if I happen to get 'lucky' and I'm at the right place at the right time, but I don't go looking for it.

Yet having said all that, when I found myself at Okarito with a White Heron in my sights and a 75-500mm attached to the camera, I'd be lying if I said the adrenaline didn't start pumping and the hopes were high for a great shot!

Heron Feeding 2. Sony A100 with Sigma 75-500mm on f11 @ 2000th
Did I get a great shot? No - I don't think I did. But I did have fun. And I learnt a thing or two about using the 75-500mm Sigma. First, the monopod was a very good idea. I left 'Steady Shot' on the A100 'On', since there was obviously still some movement happening even though it was on a monopod. I bumped the ISO up as much as I dared (ISO800), and also made sure the aperture was enough to give me an overall sharp image. I started at f8, then moved to f11 as the light got even brighter. Checking the final images (I shot about 300), the ones shot at f11 are noticeably sharper than those taken at f8. Guess I know where the lenses 'sweet spot' is now :-)

Heron Feeding 3. Sony A100 with Sigma 75-500mm on f11 @ 2500th
The four shots here are my 'keepers' from over 300 taken on the morning. Probably not a very high 'hit' rate, and I'm not really in love with any of them (except perhaps the first image, although at f8 it's not as tack sharp as I would like). I suppose that means I know what I'll be doing again next year?

Bird photography - or should I say 'great' bird photography, is hard. Really hard. But I knew that. Before going back to okarito next year I think I'll brush up on my bird photography skills down at a local lagoon. We occasionally get Heron there too, so who knows. Perhaps there's hope for me yet?

Monday, 11 November 2013

Okarito Weekend Part 2 - The Boat Shed

One of the main reasons I was desperate to get back down to Okarito was to capture the iconic Boat Shed - perhaps the most photogenic building on the West Coast.

Okarito Boat Shed. Sony A100 with Minolta 16mm on f8 @ 250th
I had tried, and failed, to capture this building only once before (a few years earlier ) but had unfortunately come back with blurred images when I foolishly decided to hand-hold in low light. I was determined not to make the same mistake again, so had bought along my heaviest tripod and a monopod, just in case. Ironically I needed neither, as sunrise at 6.30 in november gave us enough light to hand-hold comfortably (go figure).

Okarito Boat Shed Sunrise. Sony A100 with Minolta 16mm on f8 @ 160th
The Boat Shed (now an information shed) sits on the lagoon and can be shot from various angles depending on the tide and time of year. We were fortunate in that this year there hasn't been a big variance in tidal movement, so the building was approachable at all times of the day. We were also fortunate with some beautiful sunrise/early morning light on both mornings we were there.

Since it is such an iconic building, and has been shot by so many photographers, I wanted to try something 'different' for a few of my images.  I borrowed Stew's 16mm fisheye to shoot with on the first morning and even though the 'crop' factor on the A100 meant that it was really a 24mm lens, shooting straight on to the building also produced a slight 'fisheye' effect.

Boatshed Sunrise, Okarito. Sony A100 with Minolta 24-105mm on f8 @ 160th
Moving around the edge of the lagoon as the sun rose gave a completely different perspective on the boat shed, lit by the sunrise against the dark surroundings. By this time I had switched to the Minolta 24-105mm so I could use the zoom range on the lens, since I was standing on the edge of the lagoon and couldn't 'zoom' with my feet. Same morning, same light, but completely different feel to the image.

Boatshed Sunrise 2. Sony A100 with Zeiss 24-70mm on f8 @ 400th
We came back on the Sunday morning for sunrise again, so this time instead of going to the left of the building, I went to the right. I had also managed to grab Stew's Zeiss 24-70mm f2.8 'monster' lens - and boy is it a beauty! But boy is it heavy! After half an hour of shooting with the Zeiss attached to the A100 I knew I'd taken a few photos. But of course, the image quality speaks for itself and I'd quite happily carry that lens around if it meant coming back with superb images.

Having said that, I did experience a few 'glitches' with the Zeiss where it would 'lock up' on the A100 and not allow me to take any photos until I wiggled the lens mount? But I'm fairly sure this was just a couple of dirty contacts and nothing that wouldn't come right with a good clean.

I obviously took a lot more photos of the Okarito Boat Shed than I've shown here - but these are indicative - and I'm very happy with the images I managed to come away with of this beautiful building. I will be back next year, and can only hope for more of the same beautiful weather next time.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Okarito Weekend

My family belong to the Cobden Anglican Church, and every year some of the men from the church go away to Okarito for a weekend retreat. I haven't been for a few years and don't have many good photos from that part of the coast, so I was very keen to go this year.

Okarito is a very small settlement about 2 hours from Hokitika, heading down the south of the coast towards the glaciers. Not many people live there, but it's a tourist destination for its beautiful surroundings and its fishing, tramping, kayaking and white heron sanctuary (more on the herons in a later post).

I'm not really big on any of the above, but of course the big draw-card for me is a weekend of photography. A whole weekend just devoted to photography! Absolute luxury.

'Coffee anybody'?   Sony A100 with Sigma 17-35mm on f11 @ 1000th
The village itself has a quirky yet timeless feel to it where you could be forgiven for thinking you've stepped back in time 50 or 60 years. I was prepared for a rainy weekend (I took a really good, thick book with me) since we have had a really wet, miserable October - but I was silently hoping for beautiful weather - and lots of photography! I'm very please to report that I wasn't disappointed and the book remained largely untouched.

'500's Showdown'   Sony A100 with Minolta 24-105mm on f5.6 @ 1/5th sec
When the sun went down and we were finished for the day, the cards came out. Game of choice - 500's. I picked it up over the course of the weekend, and even had a game or two myself towards the end, but I'm still not really a 'cards' lover. I don't want to labour the point, but what I really came for was the photography (and fellowship - of course), which meant early rises and late evenings. And since the weather was on our side, the 6.00am starts and 9.00pm finishes were definitely worth it!

'Abandoned Old Bedford'  Sony A100 with Sigma 17-35mm on f8 @ 160th
I took a Sony A100 'loan' camera (thanks Stew), with a Minolta 35-70mm, 100-200mm and Sigma 75-500mm (as well as tripod, monopod, batteries, cards, charger etc). I was out to get some great landscape shots, but I also knew that there might be some White Heron photography in their somewhere as well. I was also traveling up and back with Stewart Nimmo (thanks again Stew), our local pro photographer - who also happens to be a Sony shooter. So I was excited to try out a few of his lenses over the weekend as well.

'Rob'  Sony A100 with Sigma 75-500mm on f11 @ 1000th
I went out in the mornings with a wide-ish angle lens on the camera - either a Sigma 17-35mm or a Minolta 24-105mm, to capture the sunrise and landscape. But on the Sunday morning I also wondered around with the 75-500mm on a monopod and got some great portraits. At f11 sharpness was good, while working at the telephoto end still gave me reasonably shallow depth of field. This photo of Rob was one of my favorite from the morning.

'Okarito Mens Weekend'  Sony A100 with Sigma 17-35mm on f11 @ 125th
We all had a fantastic time over the weekend: fishing, kayaking, whitebaiting, walking, reading, playing cards and, of course, taking photos. Trout was caught, whitebait was eaten for breakfast, lots of chocolate and coffee was consumed - and amazing photos were taken! I will blog in stages about the images I've taken over the course of the weekend, and I will definitely be back again next year for hopefully a lot more of the same...

P.S. - in the above photo from left to right are: Rob, Julian, Ross, Craig, Travis, Tim, Henk, Evan, Stew and Me.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Sigma 50-500mm test shots

It's been typical spring weather here on the coast over the last few weeks - rain, rain and more rain!

But I managed to get one clear (although somewhat windy) day recently so I took the opportunity to go outside and grab a few test shots with the Sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 EX APO.

I set the lens up on my sturdiest tripod - a Slik Pro700DX with Manfrotto three-way 141RC head, turned 'Steady Shot' off (recommended whenever the camera is tripod mounted), and attached a Sony A100 body to the lens. This set up definitely felt solid enough, even with the bit of wind that was blowing outside at the time.

Sigma 50-500mm at 50mm @ f8, Sony A100
Our back yard overlooks a paddock, and then across a road into another field. Horses are usually roaming around in this second field, so I used them as a 'subject' to test the 50-500mm range on. The first shot above is taken at 50mm (75mm fov on the A100), and as you can see, the horses are pretty small in the centre of the frame. In fact, it's pretty difficult to make them out.

Sigma 50-500mm at 200mm @ f8
The Sigma has markings for 50, 100, 200, 300, 400 and 500mm - so I shot at all of these settings. The jump from 50 to 100mm isn't all that significant - so lets just go to 200mm as seen above. At 200mm the horses are definitely able to be seen - forming at least part of the overall composition. Contrast is good, and sharpness at f8 is acceptable to good.

Sigma 50-500mm at 300mm @ f8
Zooming in to 300mm places a little more emphasis on the horse as the main subject - while sharpness and contrast remain the same. The tripod was certainly solid enough, although I could see that the more I zoomed out with the lens, the less 'stable' the image appeared in the viewfinder. Above 300mm I'd hate to be hand-holding this lens that's for sure!

It was more of the same at 400mm, so let's just skip to the chase and have a look at the 500mm shot, shall we?

Sigma 50-500mm at 500mm @ f8
At a whopping 500mm (750mm fov on the A100), the horses are now the subject of the photo. And just look at how close we managed to get from where we started at 50mm! It's still 'reasonably' sharp, although I probably wouldn't print larger than 8x10 - and would apply a decent amount of sharpening to the file. I will also say that I noticed a decrease in contrast from 400 to 500mm - but this is easily adjusted in Photoshop to bring it back in line with the other focal lengths.

This was just a very quick focal length test, to get the feeling for the actual 'reach' of this lens. For a more in-the-field test I plan on taking the lens and a monopod down to a local lagoon and chase some birds around. Then I'll really get to see what this lens is capable of in a real-world shooting scenario.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Two quick shots with Minolta lenses

Just a quick post because I haven't really been out shooting yet, but managed a couple of quick shots over the weekend.

Spring has been very wet and wild here on the West Coast, with lots of storms and unpredictable weather. That also means a chance for fantastic sunsets in the evening if the storm clears in time. And fortunately, it has been. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to get out and capture it.

Spring Sunset. Sony a100 with Minolta 100-200mm f4.5
Best I could do was put the Minolta 100-200mm telephoto on the camera, hold it over the fence in my back yard, and shoot the sunset from there. Yes, this is the view from my back yard. Not bad eh!?

The light was getting quite low, so I bumped the ISO up to 400, set the aperture to f5.6, and concentrated on taking the shot at the optimum 'Steady Shot' setting in the viewfinder. The final result is plenty sharp enough.

On Saturday the weather was better than expected, with lots of sun. Our dog just loves to 'sunbathe' in any patch of warmth, and I couldn't resist snapping her up on our bed.

Sun Dog. Sony a100 with Minolta 35-70mm f4
Jessie is our 'baby', and the whole family adores her. She's been a fairly expensive addition to the family - requiring knee surgery when she was one year old (she turned two this weekend) - but we wouldn't be without her.

To be honest, I don't take many shots of her at all. I suppose I shy away from the 'cuteness' factor with my photos, but I will probably regret that later on? Anyway, I took her photo this weekend because I was keen to try out the Minolta 35-70mm f4 zoom. It's a lens I had with my a200 a couple of years back, and it's such a stellar performer. Maybe the 35-70mm isn't a hugely versatile focal range (about a 50 to 105mm in 35mm terms), but the addition of a fairly handy 'macro' function at the 70mm end, together with great sharpness, makes this lens an absolute keeper as far as I'm concerned. No, it's not f1.8 - but f4 across the whole zoom range is still fairly respectable. And it did this portrait of Jessie justice.

I've gone back to processing my RAW images in Aperture - I just like it more than Lightroom, even if Adobe have the 'better' processing engine (apparently). I also processed the photo of Jessie in DXO's filmpack software straight in Aperture. I chose Fuji Astia 100 and bumped up the film grain ever so slightly.

So just a couple of quick shots, with a couple of quick lenses. Hopefully I'll get out more now that daylight savings is here and the days will get longer and warmer. Bring on a long and productive summer!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

BE IN QUICK! SONY & DXO Software Giveaway

Thanks to Sony, if you hurry you can get DXO's film simulation Software Programme DXO Filmpack 3 absolutely FREE until October 31st! That's right people - ABSOLUTELY FREE!

This is not a joke or a scam - although it may be a way of getting you hooked on the DXO products :-)

I downloaded the programme and got the activation code last night - and it works perfectly. It even installs the plug-ins for any version of Aperture, Lightroom or Photoshop that you might have installed.

Josh. Sony a700, Minolta 100-200mm @ f4.5

DXO Ilford 400 Film Simulation
The software is super easy to use - and has dozens of the most popular colour slide, negative and black and white film stocks. You can also add filters to the black and white images for literally hundreds of different looks! And it's FREE!

This is NOT a scam. Go HERE to download your copy and simply enter a valid email address to get the activation code. Thanks  Sony and DXO!

This is not just for Sony cameras - it works on any jpeg or tiff image. But do it NOW - if you are reading this after October 31st 2013, then you are unfortunately too late.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 APO EX 'Bigma'

One of the less obvious reasons to buy into a particular system when you are choosing which DSLR to go for, is to consider what your friends may already have. If all your friends all shoot Nikon, and you buy the only Canon, then that limits you in terms of shared learning that you can participate in. But, much more importantly, it limits you in terms of the extra gear that you might have access to. If a friend buys that new 40mm pancake lens that you've heard so much about - or better still that strangely exotic 15mm fisheye, and you both use the same camera system, then some borrowing and lending of lenses can take place (so long as you trust they will take care of your gear). But if you are the only guy with the Nikon, then you're kinda stuck.

Many people use this as an argument for buying a Canon camera, since 'most' of the entry-level DSLR purchases are in the Canon system. Oddly enough, my decision to move to the Sony range (apart from being taken with the incredible technology they are coming out with in their camera bodies) is due to my being able to 'borrow' a whole swag of Sony/Minolta/Zeiss lenses from a friend.

Case in point: I haven't even bought the camera body yet, and the other day as I was talking to him (Hi Stew), he said that he had something for me. And oh boy, did he ever...

Sigma 50-500mm f4/6.3 APO EX lens. Nicknamed the 'BIGMA' for obvious reasons.
From the back of his car he produced this 'bad boy' - the Sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 APO EX lens - a massive (both in weight and size) 10x zoom lens. Stew told me he hardly ever used it, and it was mine if I was interested.

I'm not much of a super-telephoto shooter myself. I don't shoot a lot of sports or action, and I am definitely no bird or wildlife photographer. But, I do shoot sports occasionally - and really enjoy it. And whenever I do I always have to beg, steal or borrow a lens to do the job.

Well now, with the Sigma 50-500mm in my arsenal, I don't have to borrow anymore. Attached to an APS-C sensor camera like the Sony A200, this 50-500mm monster becomes a 75-750mm MEGA-monster! 750 freakin millimeters!

Of course that comes with its own unique set of problems. First - it's a relatively slow lens at the top end at f6.3. I'd prefer if it were f5.6, but we are talking 750mm, with an 86mm front element. It's big and heavy enough as it is, without doubling the front of the element to let in twice the amount of light! So I'll live with f6.3 and probably only shoot with it on sunny days.

Second - because it is still big and relatively heavy, with a telescopic zoom that stretches from here to eternity, it's a fairly unstable lens - hence the tripod collar. At the very least, I will only use this lens attached to a monopod, although it could probably benefit from my most solid, stable (and heavy) tripod. Sigma have bought out a newer (more expensive) version of this lens with OS for Canon and Nikon, and you'd have to say that a lens of this size and magnification could really use it.

But of course, with the Sony cameras, Image Stabilisation (Steady Shot) is built right into the camera (thank you Sony), so I don't need the OS version (which they don't make for Sony anyway). Even so, I will still limit this lens to monopod/tripod only use.

Internet reviews suggest that this lens is actually a surprisingly good performer - even wide open - and pretty sharp all over stopped down to f8. The lens Stew gave me is in pretty good nick, although I haven't had a chance to test it out yet. What I did notice, however, was that the tripod collar didn't allow for rotation into a portrait orientation - it seemed 'glued' into place. A quick check on the web revealed that this 'sticking' is a common problem. And sure enough, with a little CRC and careful (but firm) elbow grease, I managed to get the collar moving again. On some models the collar can come off completely - while on other models it can't. Alas, mine is in the later category. But I managed to wedge some q-tips soaked in Isopropyl Alcohol in the gap where the mount unscrews to release the locking pressure, and move them around the lens barrel to pick up the 'gunk'. Moves pretty freely now.

I'm looking forward to taking this lens out for a spin. In about a month we have some motorcycle street racing here in Greymouth. I can see some serious telephoto zoom action happening about then...

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Sony Alpha Lens Lineup

One thing I hear over and over again by photographers and internet reviewers when people ask them about the Sony Alpha system is the 'poor lens selection' - their words, not mine (see last post).

To the uninitiated newbie to photography, this sounds exactly like the put-down that it's intended to be. They may as well say "Don't buy a Sony Alpha camera, all the lenses suck!" And indeed, some of them almost go that far.

But is this really true? Or is the uninitiated aspiring photographer being sold a lie?

I believe that it is a lie. And in fact, I'd go so far as to say that not only is it not true, I also believe that it could be turned a full 180 degrees. I'd go so far as to say that Sony has the best lens lineup of any manufacturer out there today! Can anyone say 'Minolta'?

So much glass... but it's just the tip of the iceburg
It just so happens that I have lens brochures from Sony, Canon and Nikon - as well as from Minolta, so a 'real' lens system comparison can be made. The Sony 'A' mount is the same as the Minolta mount, so all Minolta AF legacy glass from the 1970s onwards will fit perfectly on the Sony bodies. Yet people seem to ignore this. Why? Did Minolta not make any decent lenses? Are you kidding me! Minolta made crazy, insanely good, fantastically sharp glass. And guess what. They are ALL Image Stabilised, thanks to the Sony 'Steady Shot' system being inside of the camera, not the lens.

One of my favorite lenses to put on the a200 is a Minolta 35-70mm f4, the 'kit' lens that came with the Minolta 7000 film camera. Man is that thing sharp! I also have a Minolta 100-200mm f4.5, and it's a beautifully made, smooth, fast and sharp piece of glass too! Then there's the famous Minolta beer can (70-210mm f4) of the same era. Solid, well made and, you guessed it, sharp. And best of all, these lenses can be had for a song.

So lets take a look at the lenses available for the Sony Alpha system. And yes, I am going to include Minolta legacy lenses. And no, I don't think it's cheating. None of these lenses are scarce or hard to come by (except for maybe the really big guns like the 600mm), and all work perfectly on all Sony bodies.

For fixed prime lenses we have a 16mm fisheye, 20mm, 24mm, 24mm Zeiss, 28mm (f2 & f2.8), 35mm (f1.4G & f1.8), 50mm (f1.4 & f1.7 & f1.8), 85mm f1.4 Zeiss, 85mm (f1.4G & f2.8), 100mm f2, 100mm f2.8 Soft Focus, 135mm f1.8 Zeiss, 135mm f2.8STF, 200mm f2.8G, 300mm f2.8G, 400mm f4.5G, 500mm f4G, 500mm f8 Reflex and 600mm f4G! As well as the macro 30mm f2.8, 50mm f2.8, 50mm f3.5, 100mm f2.8 and 200mm f4 macro. Extensive enough for you?

Everyone loves zooms nowadays though - right? So presumably the zoom lens range for Sony is left wanting? OK then, let's check it out.

We've got an 11-18mm f4.5/5.6, 16-35mm Zeiss f2.8, 16-50mm f2.8, 16-80mm Zeiss f3.5/4.5, 16-105mm f3.5/5.6, 17-35mm f2.8/4, 17-35mm f3.5G, 18-55mm f3.5/5.6, 18-135mm f3.5/5.6, 18-200mm f3.5/6.3, 18-250mm f3.5/6.3, 20-35mm f2.5/4.5, 24-50mm f4, 24-70mm f2.8 Zeiss, 24-85mm f3.5/4.5, 24-105mm f3.5/4.5, 28-70mm f2.8G, 28-75mm f2.8, 28-80mm f3.5/5.6, 28-85mm f3.5/4.5, 28-100mm f3.5/5.6, 28-135mm f4/4.5, 35-70mm f4, 35-80mm f4/5.6, 35-105mm f3.5/4.5, 55-200mm f4/5.6, 55-300mm f4.5/5.6, 70-200mm f2,8G, 70-210mm f4, 70-210mm f4.5/4.6, 70-300mm f4.5/5.6, 75-300mm f4.5/5.6, 70-400mm f4.5/5.6G, 80-200mm f2.8, 100-200mm f4.5, 100-300mm f4.5/5.6, and100-400mm f4.5/6.7. Are you sure that's not a decent enough lens line up for the 'average' photographer to choose from?

And notice the inclusion of the name 'Zeiss' in there. Pro's who use Sony (yes, actual Pro's who do actually shoot with actual Sony cameras) claim that these Zeiss lenses are the best they've ever used. And if it's Zeiss, then I believe them. And that's on the SONY system baby.

Is anything really missing from the extensive list above? Maybe (although I can't think of anything right now). But nothing that you couldn't find by going to a Sigma lens instead.

So next time some block-head camera know-it-all tells you not to buy a Sony because they don't have the lens selection that the 'other' (re: Canon and Nikon) brands have, just smile and nod. Oh and yeah, point them in this direction....

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Internet/Youtube Morons

Whenever I'm looking into new camera systems, makes and models, I do what any red-blooded computer savvy shopper does, I go on the internet.

But anyone who has 'researched' cameras this way also knows that there is a lot of 'dross' out there - especially on Youtube. This ranges from the 'unboxing' (who the heck cares) videos, through to the poorly shot, poorly lit, poorly recorded, poorly worded (umm, snort, sniff, er, arr, umm, snort, well, umm....) in-depth camera 'reviews' from teenagers (mostly) who got their first 'bitchin' camera last week and just had to tell the whole world about how amazingly 'rad' this thing is. Like, 'woteva'.

Then there are the 'opinion' reviewers - the guys who have never even handled/used the gear, but know immediately from reading the spec sheet just how crap/brilliant/boring this new camera will be, and why you should/shouldn't get it. Yes, opinions are like noses - everybody's got one. But some noses are bigger than others. And some people should just keep their big noses out of it!

I'm not going to name names, but there is one guy in particular who is very prolific in this 'opinion' type Youtube video 'review' of cameras. I know more than enough to take him with a grain of salt, but one I watched recently on his '6 reasons not to buy the Sony a77' really got my blood boiling.

Sony a77. Trust me... Buy one :-)
Now I'm not being a Sony 'fan-boy' just because I'm moving to Sony and will shoot their gear shortly... I'm really not.

Sony, Canon, Nikon, Pentax - they all make great cameras. Use whatever you want - and I don't mean exclusively. I have a Canon 50D with 10-22mm that I will keep and use, even when I make the switch over to Sony. Who cares?

What really annoyed me about what this guy on Youtube said - offering up to less experienced viewers as 'fact' - was the complete and utter rubbish that almost all (if not all) of his claims actually happen to be. Let me break them down for you...

Reason number 1 for not buying a Sony a77 is that the 24MP sensor won't be as good in low light than the 16MP sensor in the Nikon D7000.  For starters - can anyone tell me how one of these things is not like the other? The 'Sony' made sensor in the D7000 is 16MP, while the one in the A77 is 24MP. We're not comparing apples with apples already. And, according to the camera review website dpreview, the low light performance of the a77 is pretty darn good. They say, and I quote "In Raw mode, we can see what the A77's 24MP sensor is really capable of. Detail capture is very high indeed, even at ISO 800, although at this setting some noise 'speckles' are visible in areas of plain tone. Overall though, the A77 turns in an excellent performance in this test, delivering appreciably more detail than we've ever seen from an APS-C format DSLR before."

Is the sensor in the a77 the best low light sensor in the world? No. Of course it's not. But is that a reason not to buy it? NO - Of course it's NOT. It still amazes me how hung up on 'low' noise, 'high' ISO so many photographers are. Believe me - sensor performance will not be an issue with the Sony a77.

Reason number 2 for not buying a Sony a77 (and almost by inference any Sony camera) - poor lens selection. Now this one really gets my blood pressure rising. So much so that I'm actually going to do a more detailed analysis in a follow-up post to this one. I've heard this so many times from Canon and Nikon users, but it's just nonsense. Nuff said for the time being. But I will follow this up soon. Trust me - lens selection will NOT be an issue if you buy a Sony camera.

Reason 3 for not buying a Sony a77 - no Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System) flash control. I guess that rules out buying a Canon camera too then? But actually - once again, the moron on Youtube doesn't have a clue what he's on about. Yes, the Nikon CLS wireless flash control is really nice. I've used it myself, and agree that it is (was) much better than the Canon system. BUT - it was actually Minolta who created wireless flash years ago with their film cameras. And yes, this wireless flash system has carried over to the Sony digital system - like the a77! For some reason (don't ask me why), Minolta never really ever made a big deal about their wireless flash system that they had for years before anyone else. In fact, the advertising and marketing team at Minolta really did drop the ball on many of Minolta's achievements. Sony is a little better in this regard - but it should still be they, and not Nikon, who we think of when we think of a 'creative' lighting system. Nikon - and finally now Canon, have only ever played 'catch-up'.

Reason 4 - poor re-sale value. Really!? Take a quick look at my blog and you'll see that I'm a photographer who regularly buys and sells systems - a lot. I don't think that I'll have poor re-sale value if I buy an A77 as opposed to a Nikon or Canon. And nor do I think that this should even factor into any purchasing decision you make on camera gear. Besides which, as we all know, camera bodies come and go... it's the glass that makes the difference (and holds its value).

Reason 5 for not buying a Sony a77 (and again all Sony's by inference) - no Pros shoot with Sony. Right about now I'm shaking my head in disbelief. Because 'A' - this is blatantly not true, and 'B' who cares even if it was!? Ever heard of Gary Fong? Sony shooter. Check out celebrity portrait photographer Brian Smith - a Sony shooter. Oh, and yeah - just another photographer you 'may' have heard of - Trey Ratcliff. Sony NEX shooter. And I could name plenty more 'professional' photographers I know here in New Zealand who are Sony shooters. Now is that a reason to buy a Sony a77? No, of course it isn't. But is it also a reason not to buy a Sony!? Oh please!!!!

And finally - reason number 6 for not buying a Sony a77... the new phase detection auto focus system will be great for video - but might not be good for photography. Pardon? Again, I must stress that this is a review from a guy who hasn't even handled one of these cameras. Yet he's prepared to tell you that the new autofocus system might not be 'good enough' for stills photography. What? Is 12fps not fast enough for you fella? To be fair, I haven't used the camera either. But I have watched a video showing someone actually using the camera to follow fast moving sports action - and their analysis... it's plenty fast enough.

There's a lot of good information to be found on the internet for someone looking at buying new camera gear. But there's also some complete dross as well. Sony are making (and have already made) some amazing cameras - and lenses - and don't deserve to be written-off the way many Canon/Nikon centric shooters do. I've used them all, and I'm looking forward to my move to Sony. I actually seriously see it as a step 'up'. So be careful what you read/watch on the internet (and yes, that includes this as well). Opinions are like noses, and some people have seriously big noses.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Sony A200 re-visted

Went over to Christchurch for PK last weekend (see last post) and had a great time away. Took lots of photos at the event, and will post some of my favorites soon.

On a slightly different note, I had a look around a few camera stores when I was over there - just window shopping, drooling over the latest models etc. What was the camera that I was the most excited/taken by? The Sony a77. Got to play with a Sony a99 too - which was also very nice, but way beyond my price range (mind you, so is the a77).

Of course on the trip home this got me thinking about my gear, and my direction in terms of upgrades or cameras I might afford in the future. Was I excited about possibly one day owning a Canon7D, a Nikon 7100, or a Sony a77 (hey, that's a lot of sevens)? I had held - and briefly used - a Canon 7D, and I must say I was somewhat underwhelmed. The Nikon 7100 looks like a nice camera - might be a possibility, although i saw a few Nikon's in the stores in Christchurch and didn't even bother to pick one up. What I made a bee-line for, and what got my pulse racing just a little bit, was the big Sony cameras.

A couple of years ago I owned a Sony a200, which I blogged about at the time. I really enjoyed using the camera, and raved about the images I got with it and the Minolta 35-70mm f4 that I purchased for it.

Ultimately, I chose to stay with my Canon system, since I had the 5D full frame at that stage and was shooting weddings etc. But a part of me was definitely sad to see the a200 go and I have often wondered whether I shouldn't have decided to change to Sony instead.

Well, last weekend in Christchurch was all the inspiration I needed to make the change, and I've decided to do just that... 'go to Sony'. I have minimal investment in gear at the moment anyway - owning a Canon20D, kit lens and 50mm f1.8, so a switch at this time wouldn't be too daunting. In fact, I might even make on the deal, since Sony a200 bodies are fairly numerous and going reasonably cheaply second hand - and classic Minolta AF lenses have always been amazing value on the used market.

My suspicions were confirmed this weekend when I bid for, and ended up winning, a Minolta Maxxum 7000 film camera with two Minolta AF lenses for $85.00NZ! The first lens is the one I was after, the Minolta 35-70mm f4 macro - the same lens that I used with my last a200. It's such a compact, reasonably fast (constant f4) and insanely sharp piece of glass that, even though it's a bit on the 'long' side as an everyday walkabout lens (52-105mm equivalent), I still wanted to own and use the lens - and it's just so darn cheap! Throw away the Maxxum 7000 film body, just keep the lenses, and I'm still only paying about $45 for each lens! That's amazing.

The second lens that comes with the film camera is another oddball classic Minolta AF lens - the 100-200mm f4.5. This 'mini beercan' also has rave reviews for sharpness, and a constant f4.5 aperture. The range equates to a 150-300mm lens on an a200 - not a bad telephoto zoom range, in such a small and compact lens design. They just don't make lenses like this anymore, and sometimes you've gotta ask yourself - why not?

There are a few a200's that I am watching online at the moment - all come with at least the standard Sony 18-70mm kit lens - quite a good lens by all accounts. So if I can snag one of these (after selling my Canon gear), my journey into the Sony camera system will be complete.

Then the dream of owning one of those sexy a77's Sony cameras can begin to become a reality...

Friday, 23 August 2013

PK Weekend

Bil Subritzky - Promise Keepers, 2011
It's Promise Keepers weekend, and I'm off to Christchurch today to photograph the event for the PK team.

I was one of the 'official' (unpaid, volunteer) photographers in 2011, and enjoyed the experience. Last year my son Joshua came to PK with me for the first time, so I made myself unavailable to shoot the weekend. And the same was happening this year too, except Josh has come down with a nasty virus, so sadly he won't be coming this year.

I'm disappointed he's not coming, and so is he. But it does mean it now 'frees' me up to be the 'official' photographer for the event again this year.

I'm taking two cameras bodies - the 20D and 50D, and will use a 70-200mm f2.8 on a monopod with the 50D, and a 10-20mm wide on the 20D that I will sling over my shoulder. Both will be set at ISO 1600 to give me the fastest shutter speed possible - and I imagine I'll shoot wide-open for most of the weekend.

Above is my favorite photo from the 2011 event. I'll post my favorites from this year when I get back.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Intentional Camera Movement

I thought I should post a few images after a dirge of technical posts.

I think I've found my photography 'mojo' recently after playing with the popular 'intentional camera movement' technique. Lots of photographers are using it to spark more creativity in their work, and it's certainly done the trick for me.

Kapiti Island, Raumati Beach, Wellington
It actually started early last year, when I was on holiday in Wellington. We stayed at Raumati, and would spend the evening walking on the beach. I took a lot of 'sharp' images of the island, and once I had them in the bag, just started to 'play' with panning the camera during long exposures.

I was happy with the results, and they were some of my favourite shots from the holiday.

Coal Creek Forest Interior
Didn't think much more of the long exposure shots until I was out taking photos with my daughter in the West Coast bush and I wanted to show her how to have fun and be creative with her camera. So we experimented again with long exposure shots, this time panning vertically to echo the trees. Again, came back with some shots I really loved.

Cobden Tiphead
So then I realised there might actually be something to all of this long exposure stuff, and I started going out to intentionally make things happen. I'm fortunate to live close to coastal beaches, with lots of opportunities to experiment with the coastline, rocks, waves etc. The late evening light and a reasonably small aperture (f16) gives me plenty of long blurring shutter speeds.

Breaking Waves
I'm enjoying shooting everything from abstract wave action, to more obvious landscapes. I find the natural movement of the waves helps to increase the blurring effect, but it's not absolutely necessary to shoot around water - I just like it :-)

Cobden Beach
There's so much scope to take this Intentional Camera Movement technique in so many directions, but be prepared to take LOTS of photos. I find I shoot about 100 of one subject, and maybe get two that I like!? There's no set formula for how long to leave the shutter open, which way to move the camera or even 'how' to move the camera. Shimmy, shake, rock and roll (or even pan if you have to) - it's all good.

I plan to do some more forest interiors next. Got a few ideas for some very abstract fern images. Can't wait.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Another 'oldie but a goodie' - Nikon D70

Recently I sold all of my photography gear after finishing my Wedding business, in the belief that the new wave of mirrorless cameras was where it was at. These small cameras are everywhere, and if the new camera elite are to be believed, then the days of the 'traditional' SLR are numbered.

This may well be true - from a technology standpoint. Newer (we are led to believe) is always better, and all the camera manufacturers now seem to be obsessed with creating mirrorless systems - even within the traditional SLR form factor.

But try as I might, I just haven't gelled with these new mirrorless systems. For me they are too small, too fiddly and too 'compact camera-ish' in their handling. I hate having to hold the camera out at arms length and use the lcd screen to compose and take an image. So the more they make these lcd screens act like touch screens on smart phones, the more I balk.

Instead, what I've found myself doing, is going back - way back - to some of the first digital SLR's, and I ended up purchasing a Canon 20D. And what a great camera. Solid, fast, simple menu navigation, lots of customisation - all you could need in a camera. It holds, feels, works and performs like a 'real' camera should - and produces fantastic digital files to boot. I've always maintained that pixels are never where it's at. For me, at least, 8MP is definitely enough. Yes, I'm old (46 this year), and yes, I'm obviously a traditionalist - having learnt the craft of photography way back in the old days of film (which yes, I do still shoot occasionally). Maybe you can't teach on old dog new tricks, and a leopard doesn't change it's spots etc, etc. But I also passionately believe that we are sold a lie every year, by camera manufacturers who are desperate to sell new products to an unsuspecting public who seem just as desperate to buy them. Deep down, subconsciously (or perhaps even consciously) we know we don't need 24MP. But we may as well 'upgrade' to them - right? I mean, it would be silly not to have them, just in case. Just for that one-off billboard sale.

Nikon D70
Damn. I'm sounding like a grumpy old man again. And I don't mean to - honest. And where am I going with all of this anyway? I thought this post was about the D70? Good question. And it is. So this is what happened...

My daughter, Emily, is in her high school production, and it was the final performance last Friday night. We had booked to go as a family to see her final performance, and as we were getting ready to go I thought "heck, I'd better take a camera."

Trouble is, I only have a standard 18-55mm lens and 50mm f1.8 for the 20D at the moment, which in a large school hall probably wouldn't give me the range I needed to get close enough, even if I managed to sit close to the front row.

So I told myself it would have to be a 'photography free' event, and just go and enjoy the performance. But there was a part of me that wasn't happy with this. I'm not the 'always have to capture everything on camera' type of Dad, and am quite happy leaving the camera at home. But this was Emily's first ever production, and I thought that in twenty years from now she'd be glad that her old man took some photos for her to remember the experience with. But would I get away with it on the 20D?

And then I remembered that my wife actually has a camera too - a Nikon D70 I bought for her a couple of years ago - hidden in the wardrobe somewhere. And didn't that have a fairly decent telephoto with it? I pulled it out of the camera bag, and sure enough, along with the standard 18-55mm lens was a Nikkor 75-240mm telephoto. Multiply 240mm by x1.5 and you get 360mm, which was going to be more than enough to get close, as long as I could get a reasonably good seat.

Emily performing in 'Dreams on Broadway' (she's in the middle)
We decided to go early and we managed to get aisle seats just three rows back from the front. I set the D70's ISO to as high as it will go (ISO 1600), and hoped that this would give me a fast enough shutter speed with the relatively 'slow' maximum aperture of 4.5/5.6 on the Nikkor 75-240mm.

Ruby Kemp as Broadway wannabe 'Tracy Charles'
I needn't have worried, Sitting just three rows back (probably about 5 meters from the stage), the 75-240mm gave more than enough reach. In fact, most of the time I found myself pulling back to the middle ranges because 240mm was too close. And with the stage lights, ISO1600 was giving me a very hand-holdable 180th to 250th sec shutter speed (and sometimes down to a 90th depending on the lights). The D70 is such a well balanced camera, and the 75-240mm such a light lens, that I had no trouble hand holding at those speeds. Not all the final images were tack sharp - but most of them were.

Heather Evans doing the 'Time Warp'
So I had the reach, and I had the speed. But the D70 is an 'old' camera... around 10 years old. And I was shooting it at its absolute maximum ISO of 1600. The images will look like mud, right?

Do they look like mud to you? I needn't have worried about the noise, and in fact, when I got them back and downloaded the images into Lightroom I was pretty amazed at the results. Yes, there is noise there at ISO1600 - of course there is. But it cleans up in Lightroom remarkably easily, and even with some sharpening applied, the final result is superb. And I do mean superb. I wouldn't hesitate shooting the D70 at ISO1600 - and I guarantee the same would be true of the Canon 20D (which actually goes up higher to 3200).

Yes, I know the 'latest' and the greatest can shoot at ISO 6 million and give clean results. Whoopie. I didn't need ISO 6 million, did I? 1600 was good enough, and the results were great. It's yet another case of the 'do we really need it' syndrome in technology.

The cast of Greymouth High School's 'Dreams on Broadway'
Am I trying to justify my decision 'not' to spend lots of money on camera gear? Maybe. Would I start using a Canon 5D MkIII tomorrow if you 'gave' me one - you bet (as long as a nice lens came with it)! Would I start using an olympus EP-3 if you gave me one tomorrow? No, I wouldn't. I'd stick to my Canon 20D - and my wife's D70. In fact, now I have a bit of a quandary. With my friends 50D on permanent loan, my own 20D, and my wife's D70 I've probably got more cameras than I need.

But please, if you're out there and you're listening... seriously think about how much camera you actually need for your photography. If you're a sports shooter and a pro, by all means get the latest and greatest D4 or 1D Mk4, although you may not need these either? Don't just buy it because it's the next big thing. Your 'old' camera doesn't stop working just because the newest version is released every year. Don't feel 'inferior' because you have an 'old' camera and uncle Bob has the latest and greatest. It's unnecessary and just plain wrong.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Clean your own Sensor

I've always stayed away from cleaning a digital sensor. It seemed to have a high potential for disaster, so I have left it to the experts.

But all that changed recently after a friend of mine 'loaned' me her 50D, after she was the lucky recipient of a brand spanking new 5D MkIII. It has had a bit of a hard life (the 50D), and was in desperate need of a sensor clean.

Arctic butterfly in sexy lime green :-)
Another friend of mine owns an Arctic Butterfly sensor cleaning brush. So I put 2 and 2 together and thought "What the heck, why not try and clean the sensor myself?"

In reality, it's a pretty simple process. SLR's have a 'mirror lock up' function - sometimes even called 'sensor clean' in the menu, that will flip the mirror up and out of the way, leaving the sensor exposed. Only it isn't really exposing the sensor, since there are other filters and micro lenses etc on top of the filter - and this is where the dust settles.

The 50D does have a sensor cleaning system that vibrates to shake the dust off every time you turn the camera on and off, but this isn't 100% effective (obviously), and with enough abuse, the sensor will have to be cleaned manually.

There are quite a few 'do it yourself' solutions out there, but for me, the Arctic Butterfly (while not cheap), seems the best option because it doesn't rely on any chemical swabs going anywhere near the sensor.

All you do is initiate the sensor cleaning mode on your camera (follow the manuals instructions), which will expose the dirty sensor, and then turn the Arctic Butterfly 'on' a few times to spin the bristles and discharge any dirt or static before wiping it across the sensor. This is important. Don't spin the brush inside the camera!

The sensor on the 50D before the sensor clean.
A quick snapshot of a blank wall with the camera set on a small aperture (f16 for lots of depth of field) revealed all the nastiness. Lots of ugly dust bunnies.

And after the cleaning....
Wow! Is it really that easy? Yep. If you look really close, it's not absolutely perfect - but it's pretty darn good. Clean enough for me at least.

So there you have it. Don't be afraid to clean your own sensor if it needs it. And if an Arctic Butterfly is a little too costly for you, then why not get together with a few other photographers and buy one together. You should only have to use it once a year or so (if you're careful with lens changes), so you could share it around? Just a thought...

Sunday, 26 May 2013

And back to Canon... (again)

It's been seven months since I posted on this site, which seems like a long time between posts. And I suppose it is. But I haven't been silent in the blogisphere. For the last few months I've concentrated my time and effort on writing about my Fuji X10, over at The Fuji X(10) Files. And to be honest, I thought that was going to be that for my NZ Digital blog. The DSLR is dead, long live the mirrorless compact! Vive la Revolution!

It seems that everywhere you look, and in everything you read nowadays, mirrorless cameras are the be-all and end-all of photography. Over at TWIP (This Week In Photography) it's really all they talk about now on their podcast. Contributors to the show wax lyrical about their own new mirrorless compact camera systems, and are even suggesting that the 'new' photographer forget about the 'traditional' SLR style camera as a venerable dinosaur, destined for the scrap heap - and invest instead in these 'new' micro/aps-c sized mirrorless camera systems. Sure, clients might initially think you're a bit 'amateur' if you turn up to a shoot with an Olympus Pen or Sony NEX - but just show them your work and eventually they'll 'get over it'.

Zack Arias and David Hobby worship at the alter of the Fuji X100S because, like, dude, like, it's like the best, like, camera EVER! Exactly how much did Fuji pay them?

Anyway, moving right along. No, I haven't used the Fuji X100S - but I have used the Fuji X100. And it didn't change my life, rock my world or make it on to my 'world's best camera' list. Sorry Fuji. I haven't used the Fuji X20, but I do own the Fuji X10. And I'm selling it. For lots of reasons - some of which I'll get to shortly. I haven't used a Sony NEX (5,6,7), but I have owned an Olympus Pen EP3. And I sold it. For lots of reasons - some of which I'll get to shortly.

Ok, so we've established what I haven't got. What is it that I have got?  A Nikon D600, D7000, D4? Nope. A Canon 7D, 60D, 5D Mk2? Nope. How about a Canon 20D.

Canon 20D. An oldie, but a goodie?
Seriously. Don't laugh. Well OK, laugh if you want. I don't care. I'm selling my Fuji X10 and with the money getting a Canon 20D with EF-S 18-55mm. yes, it's old. Almost 10 years old in fact (it was first introduced in 2004), but should that really count against it?

The D20 is an 8.2MP APS-C sized CMOS sensor camera that, at the time of its release (and right through with the D30), defined how good an 8MP camera could be. It was the standard by which all other 8MP (and many other larger sensors) cameras were judged. 'Amazingly clean images' was how one review at the time put it. And amazing responsiveness - with a top speed of 1/8000th, a sync speed of 1/250th and a burst rate of 5 frames per second - with instant (or near enough) start up and review times for images. All encased in a rugged magnesium alloy chasis. What's not to like?

And I'm being serious here. What more do you really need to take great images? Do you really need live view? Or video? Or super-ubber low-light performance? It's only got a 1.8" lcd on the back, but do you really need bigger? It's nice, but do you need it?

I've been 'mucking around' with these mirrorless camera megastars for the last year, but try as I might (and believe me, I have tried), I just don't like using them. The images from the EP-3 just didn't grab me. They were noisy (for the most part), and difficult to get a good print from. I shot using the optional EVF so i could use a 'conventional' shooting style (camera up to the eye), but even then, the camera just felt 'fiddly'. And I don't have big hands at all.

It's worse with the FujiX10. It's even smaller, and fiddlier than the EP-3. And although it's machined from aluminum, it still manages to come across as a bit of a plasticky 'toy' camera. Retro and 'cool' looking it may be. But I found it impractical and tricky to use in reality. The files are sharp and detailed enough - when the camera gets the autofocus right - but it really only works when composing using the rear lcd screen, a shooting position I thoroughly detest.

OK, maybe I'm old and set in my ways (small disclosure, I'm 45), but this new wave of mirrorless midgets really do nothing for me. I realised this only last week, when I had to change the battery in my daughters Canon 10D (and that's really old technology). I picked the 10D up and it stopped me in my tracks. I literally did a double take, as I had the 10D in my hands. it just felt so right. As does the 20D.

Perhaps that's the nub of it right there? After 25 years of shooting with an SLR, my muscle memory is just hard-wired for this type of shooting experience? If that leads me to a brilliant camera like the 20D, then that's fine by me. I really don't want to spend another 25 years changing my shooting habits to conform with the crowd. I guess I'll go down my own road, go out, and take my own images!?