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Samyang 12mm f/2 NCS CS lens

samyang12-front-web

Sometimes you find a chunk of glass which just works. One of the problems with lenses is that you can never have too many. They overlap, they duplicate each other, and yet they can be so different that you need every single one. The new Samyang 12mm f/2 for mirrorless APS-C systems is one of these. It’s the budget alternative the Carl Zeiss Touit Distagon 12mm f/2.8 T*, and so far everyone I’ve found who has used both lenses – including me – rates it as better optically. This isn’t what you expect from a lens with twice the maximum aperture at half the price.

samyangfromtop-web

I have good reasons for not owning a Touit 12mm. I already have a Sony 10-18mm f/4 OSS E, and rather like the Fujinon XR OIS 10-24mm f/4 this lens offers nearly perfect performance as a working ultra-wide zoom and adds the benefit of stabilisation for video or tripod-free interior shots.

The Sony appears to have very fine detail sharpness wide open, little sign of fall off in illumination or sharpness, and good geometry.

wideopen-archdig-fullweb

Click this image for a full size, f/2 available light shot taken in a covered archaelogical dig

However, the Samyang when used on the same Sony NEX-6 16 megapixel camera forced a reappraisal. It offers sharpness on a different level and manages to do so even at f/2, with corners far more detailed and clean than any lens with a 99° angle of view should manage.

samyangwithbag-web

It is equivalent to an 18mm on full frame, and this is around my favourite angle for an architectural, street and general lens. Where the 24mm angle is a common feature of consumer zooms and easy enough to use, lenses in the 17-21mm equivalent range produce a distinctive result but need careful composition and an understanding of perspective and lens geometric projection. Lenses like this separate the experienced user from the unskilled masses.

f16-deeplandscape-12mm-webfull

Stopping down to f/16 secures great depth of field (the Canarian cacti are not huge, bush sized and very close not tree size!) with just a hint of sharpness loss. Click image for a full 16 megapixel file

Weighing only 245g, it’s not a big lens though it has a generous 67mm filter thread round a much smaller front element which does not protrude. The bayonet lens hood is removable and reversible for storage, with a soft pouch supplied to hold everything. You can use circular filters without cut-off provided they are reasonably slim-line, and filter systems from 75mm rectangular upwards. Our sample was in a matt silver finish, with conventional black as an alternative. The focusing down to 20cm is very smooth, with a travel of 135°, and the aperture is click stopped gently but positively in half steps all the way to f/22. The mount is metal, as is the barrel skin, though plastic components are used internally. It is an advanced design with 14 elements in 10 groups using both low dispersion and compound aspheric glass, nano-coated with Samyang’s water and dirt resistant hard NCS multiple layers.

abbey12mmf11-1018mmhoriz-web

Above: Auto White Balance and auto exposure with the Sony 10-18mm at 12mm, on NEX-6

abbey12mmSamyangf11-uncorrhoriz-web

 

Above: AWB and AE with the Samyang 12mm set to f/11 like the Sony (darker, and much colder colour)

abbey12mmSamyang-corrected-web

Above: Samyang raw shot after colour correction to taste

Though this lens had to be manually focused and lacks any electronic connections, it rapidly proved to be a reliable companion. Auto exposure tended to be slightly under, and auto white balance was nearly always too cold. On the NEX-6 manual exposure and a fixed daylight or custom set white balance proved better than relying on auto setting.

abbey12mmSamyangf11-fullweb

The results are the reward. For its aperture and angle, it defies the laws of trade-off. The geometry, even without creating a profile or applying the slight barrel correction sometimes needed, is so good that uncorrected raw conversions worked perfectly. The example above is a full frame, with no correction at all (you can click the image to open the full size file, though remember it has strong compression for storage and display here).

abbey12mm-1018OSSf11-web

Here is the same view taken with the Sony 10-18mm, at 12mm, and at f/11, exactly the same compression

For some subjects, a two-pixel blue chromatic aberration correction removed a barely visible tendency to purple fringes, more likely to affect high contrast patterns than high contrast edges. The lens has such high resolution that moiré patterns appear from many subjects.

Compared to the Sony 16mm f/2.8 fitted with a 12mm ultra-wide converter – the original Sony solution from 2010 – it’s like moving from small to medium format.

melrosebridge-f11-fullweb

Here’s an example which shows the geometry of the lens pretty well (click for full size)

bridgeentry-web

And here’s the same historic suspensioon bridge, again at f/11 to get the necessary depth of field. But the sharpness is not destroyed and a 100% clip shows the spiders have been busy (compression almost loses the strands of the webs which are easily seen in the original file):

notice-detail100percent

It does not have enough circle of coverage in reserve to make it valuable on full frame, but a near-24mm square can be cropped on the A7 series.

This lens would be a dream to use if it incorporated a chip to convey EXIF data including the aperture. AF really doesn’t matter, after a few days I learned to preset the focus manually and only check the most critical wide-open subjects using magnified manual focus view. At under £300, it’s so tempting just to have it for the sheer sharpness right into the extreme corners and the straight-line rendering. Much though I like my £700 10-18mm it has had less use since the Samyang arrived – and that says it all. My main reason for sticking with the 10-18mm is its ability to work well on the A7R for 15mm shots, and its full recording of EXIF data along with full control from the body. Much though I like my boxful of manual lenses, after a year and more using them, I am missing the vital data – as going back a year to look at original files shows. Unless I made a special note at the time, I often have no idea what lens was used let alone what aperture. For these shots, of course, I noted the details.

This article original appeared in a slightly shorter form in f2 Freelance Photographer, our six times a year super-quality professional and enthusiast magazine, Nov/Dec 2014 issue published in early October 2014. You can subscribe to f2 at www.iconpublications.com

You can find the Rokinon (Samyang rebrand) at B&H – http://www.bhphotovideo.com

or in the UK, the Samyang at WEX Photographic (both these links benefit Photoclubalpha if you buy there, without costing you anything)

– David Kilpatrick

A77 B&H price goes through the floor

Just got this link from B&H, ideal for our US readers – http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/817858-REG/Sony_SLT_A77V_SLT_A77_Digital_Camera_Body.html

It’s for the original A77, body only, at $549.

This is a ridiculously low price for a body with GPS which, bar a small improvement in high ISO performance stated to be 20% (I think it’s a bit more) is not far from the A77 MkII and if you have older flashguns or triggers like the Pixel King set I’ve bought recently remains ideal for flash work.

owl-sequence-web

That is a single shot at ISO 100 using an iLux Summit 600C flash head set on 10fps strobe, with the 16-80mm CZ lens at f/20 (it’s a powerful flash) and wireless triggering. Owl in our studio, working in complete darkness. The A77 didn’t suddenly stop being a great camera because the A77 MkII arrived! At $549 with (apparently) $77.38 of free accessories this ‘holiday special’ looks like a steal.

– David Kilpatrick

The Fotodiox Tough E-Mount

Machined from brass and chrome-plated, in the tradition of lens mounts from 50 years ago and not necessarily the best solution for precision or lifetime wear, Fotodiox’s TOUGH E-mount is a replacement body mount bayonet which you can fit to your existing A7R, A7, NEX-7, A6000 or any other metal-mount E-mount body in a few minutes. You need a clean well lit work table, a small engineer’s or large jeweller’s crosshead screwdriver, and a similar flathead screwdriver or old credit card.

The NEX/A bodies are fitted with a three-part lens mount. Here’s what a bonded, single piece, original Alpha lens mount looks like when removed from an old Minolta 7000 –

originalminoltaamount

This mount is stainless steel, which would be prohibitively expensive for a small shop engineering replacement on the E-mount. It’s in two parts, a front surface and the inside with a bonded bayonet spring pressure action, a thin shim with bent ‘arms’ forming three pressure points to hold the lens tight to the mount.

From Fotodiox comes this neat box taking 10 days to the UK from USA –

fotodioxpackage

Since I also ordered a focusing Leica M to E adaptor, my overall value was marked as $80 and I had an £8 admin charge and a little over £7 in VAT to pay.

Inside, the TOUGH E-Mount is boxed and bagged without instructions. For these, you visit the Fotodiox site and watch a video:

http://www.fotodioxpro.com/tough-emount-from-fotodiox-pro-replacement-lens-mount-for-sony-nex-emount-camera.html

Here’s the rear face of the Fotodiox mount, which does not have any second layer of spring metal to grip the lens:

toughemount

However, as we will see, this component (fixed to the mount for the A-mount design) is a separate loose item which sits in the camera body mount recess on the E-mount, and performs exactly the same function. You could probably remove it and bond it to the new mount.

So, why replace the E-mount on a £1200+ camera body like the A7R, which has a magnesium body casting into which the lens mount is anchored by four screws? The reason given by Fotodiox is that an intermediate plastic moulding is used behind a simple unprofiled mount face, so two parts make up the overall thickness. The tensioning ring sits behind the plastic ring, forming a three-part sandwich to make up the mount. The front mount is a relatively soft, crudely CNC lathed alloy.

oneyearemount

Here’s my camera after 10 months of use. This camera has shown signs of light leaks, and has not been sent back for a fix. The mount flange is a completely flat item, relatively thin, and the leaks may be partly down to slight distortion of the front plane face, as shown by uneven wear from lens mounting.

emountwear-closeup

Here’s a detail. You can see the lathe circles on the mount face, and you can see where the metal has abraded and either collected plastic from a plastic lens mount (most likely my MEIKE extension tubes) or paint from a cheap adaptor (my Novoflex and Fotodiox adaptors don’t use paint, they are anodised).

The mount is very simple indeed. It can be removed from all the cameras without disturbing the electronic contacts or the lens release mechanism.

removingmount

Fotodiox video shows the camera on its back and warns about dropped screws etc. I just prefer to unscrew each screw in turn with the camera held vertically on my table, so that if the screw drops it won’t go inside the camera. Care is taken not to allow the spring loaded lens changing pin to disassemble itself, but that’s really very easy.

toughtversusoriginal

One removed, you can compare the Sony ‘washer’ (which is really more or less is!) with the Fotodiox mount – a much thicker unit, stepped to fit the recess on the camera body. A point worth noting is that the original mount has no recesses at all to fit over the four threaded posts on the camera body. Its position is maintained by two pins (at 9 and 3 o’clock) which engage in two holes on the otherwise plain flat rear face of the mount. The Fotodiox mount not only engages with these pins, as it replaces the plastic secondary mount shown below, but also has holes into which the threaded posts fit. It is better proofed against rotation.

plasticnbayonet

You now see the plastic middle part of the sandwich. This is secured by a very thin double-sided tape in places. A flat blade screwdriver or a suitable cut piece of old credit card (or indeed a guitar pick!) pushed gently under the plastic at various point all round will free it. It lifts out easily. Unless you are amazingly clumsy you are not going to go anywhere near the sensor but if you have a clean 40.5mm filter or lens cap around, you can pop it in to cover the sensor safely. I used a 62mm filter to place over the whole mount when checking instructions and looking at the parts, as I don’t want to risk hairs and dust covering the upturned unit.

plasticremoved

Underneath the plastic component you’ll find the third part of the mount, the thin flexible stainless steel tensioning ring which acts to pull the lens tight against the front face of the mount. You may note that if your lenses ever begin to seem slack, it would be easy to re-tension this ring by a gentle bend to the three arms. The four screw holes are in metal posts mounted directly into the magnesium body. The plastic ring can be argued to have no effect on precision, as the original mount rests on these posts, leaving the plastic and the stainless tension ring more as a ‘lubricated’ assembly with a little ‘give’, affecting only the tightness of the lens to the body. The plastic has no sacrificial role, as it does in many lenses (Sigma, Tamron, Nikon, and Canon all use plastic to create weak points where the lens will break on hard impact rather than having it shear the body mount off the camera – not sure about Sony).

fittingnewmount

The final step is to place the new mount, aligned with its white dot and cut-outs and screw holes, in the only position it will fit. Please note that the TOUGH wording goes inside and is not shown on the camera front! Again, I don’t place the camera on its back, and prefer the control given by holding both the camera and the screwdriver (which if properly chosen will support the screw). No pressure is needed to locate the screws for a few turns. I rotated the camera so that the screw hole being worked on was always below the sensor. Finally, when tightening up each screw in turn to a firm fit, the camera was laid on its back and my 62mm filter was placed to cover the mount opening, held firmly. You can also just place a finger against the screwdriver on the ‘inside’ while tightening up, so that if for any reason it slips, you block it from entering camera.

mountfitted

Once fitted, there’s little more to say. It looks a touch classier than the cheaply machined soft metal Sony original, it is a snug and perfect fit, and lens mounting has a slightly more solid feel without resistance or any scraping sensation. Fotodiox may be taking the mickey by suggeting you give the old mount to the cat to play with, of course you should keep it carefully. While doing this I discovered that the original old Minolta SR bayonet shares the screwhole locations and almost perfectly matches the overall size of the E-mount. I could actually take a Minolta SR bayonet off the front of some old extension tubes and fit an E-mount in place. This would serve no purpose but it’s a fascinating hint at the pedigree of the new system – it has a three-flange bayonet so similar to the SR mount, introduced 52 years after Minolta’s SLR debut!

Everything worked perfectly as expected once fitted (see notes below). Cost – $39.95 plus shipping. I consider it a good upgrade.

Notes on infinity focus, fit, and light leak issues

While Sony native E mount lenses seem fine, some of my third party adaptors are not fitting well, and very short focal length lenses show that the infinity focus may be affected. If you use lenses 12mm to 20mm on adaptors, proceed with caution. I am not able to get the Kipon tilt shift adaptor to mount without a forceful twist, though a similar age Kipon shift-only adaptor is happy enough (just no longer able to hit infinity with my chosen 20mm lens).

Infinity collimation after tests and measurements – I’ve now checked infinity focus using stars. I’m just OK on all but one lens and adaptor combination, and all Sony E or FE lenses are fine, as they have loads of spare adjustment (no hard infinity stop – they will all focus way beyond infinity and can handle big differences in camera assembly accuracy). Same with LA-EA3 and LA-EA4 adaptors and Min/Sony A lenses, the worst case lenses hit infinity at exactly infinity, most focus just past.

Kipon Nikon Tilt-Shift – extremely tight fit, so tight it has to pulled off the camera physically. Here I’m thinking that some very gently polishing or ultra fine emery (the sort I use for polishing guitar frets) might ease the adaptor.

Novoflex Leica M adaptor – will not bayonet-lock with the new mount, can’t work out if the flanges are obstructing the full turn or the locking pin hole is slightly off position. Fotodiox helical M adaptor locks perfectly. All other adaptors fit and lock comfortably.

Checked my Kipon shift adaptor for Canon and it’s 21.34mm from rear to front flange, and the lens won’t focus on infinity. My plain cheap Canon FD adaptor is 21.16mm and the lens will hit infinity perfectly. On the original mount, the shift adaptor was just OK to infinity – not for stars, but for landscape. So maybe 0.1mm actual difference in front face register to sensor on the Fotodiox Tough mount, compared to the Sony original.

Light leak issue – a day later I had bright full sunshine and was able to position the camera with the mount getting direct sun, and give exposures of 30 seconds to 1 minute with the lens completely stopped down and blocked off, and the ISO set to 1600. The results proved that it’s not the camera mount assembly which has most effect –

40mmon2875mm

The pure black exposure above is from the 28-70mm kit zoom set to 40mm, at f/25, with the lens cap on.

40mmonLeicaadaptor

This result is from a Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 mounted using a Novoflex Leica M adaptor, at f/22, with the lens cap on. Simply swapping the Voigtlander adaptor for a Fotodiox helical focusing Leica M adaptor, which has a far wider flange and double the ‘bearing surface’ on the mount and it also a much firmer overall fit, produced the same solid black as the 28-70mm. The 10-18mm also produced a solid black though it was clear that the lens cap lets in a bit of light at the spring clip positions.

To double check, I fitted a disc of Rosco Black Cinéfoil (totally lightproof heavy metal foil you can cut with scissors) into another mount so it sat behind the back of a 50mm lens. This was a Ukrainian shift mount and Zenitar lens. This mount also has a large, black anodised rear surface. No light was admitted. I found that most of my third party adaptors let in light, usually the small angled line/crescent top right, and so did the Sony LA-EA3 and 4. The Novoflex has me surprised and baffled as it let light in over a wider pattern, and it seems to be the best engineered adaptor I have, but the well for the bayonet locking pin is shallow and perhaps too precise as the pin does now not engage (you can feel it just begin to hit the lock position).

(don’t read beyond this point if you don’t like seeing measurements…)

This adaptor works perfectly on other NEX/E bodies and worked perfectly before changing the mount. Relaxing and re-tightening the mount fitting screws, to be doubly sure of correct seating, did not solve the problem. The pin recess in the Novoflex adaptor is 2.30mm wide, and in all the other adaptors measured and also on Sony lenses, from 2.36mm to 2.5mm. The slight wiggle present on Sony lenses when fitted seems to be down to approx 0.07mm tolerance allowed for the locking pin to engage, as this is the part of the mount which limits or fixed the position of the mounted lens. Lenses and adaptors tested, when mounted with the locking pin depressed, can move around 0.5 to 1mm beyond the optimal mounting position.

It looks as if the locking pin mechanism is one area identified as a source of light leaks, and that if the pin is not allowed to engage fully (recess too shallow or not accepting the pin) more light will be admitted. All my manual adaptors varied in the depth and exact design of the locking pin well – 1.1mm deep on Kipon, 0.69mm deep on Fotodiox, 1.23mm on Novoflex, 1.1mm on Sony G 10-18mm, 1.18mm on Sony 16-50mm PZ. The 28-70mm which had perfect light sealing also has an unusual locking pin hole, almost perfectly circular not an elongated oval like all the other lenses. This was 1.2mm deep and with a 2.5mm radius. It is obviously perfectly placed and very precise despite this being a non-G, non-CZ, cheap Sony kit lens.

Anyway, 10 seconds with a Dremel and the Novoflex adaptor is now a perfect locking fit ready for another test if the sun comes out again this year.

Sony did say, back in 2010, they would make the E-mount specifications public for all to use. If anyone has information on what tolerances were specified, please let us know!

Update 30/10/14: using a high intensity single LED torch, the Novoflex adaptor problem was eventually narrowed down to light leaking through the mount between high-grade Leica mounts (Cosina Voigtlander, and Carl Zeiss) and the adaptor. Tightening the flange pressure did not cure the fault. No leak is present when using a low-cost Chinese M adaptor on a screw thread lens, which is a firmer fit. The Nokton and Tele-Tessar lenses also show no leak with the Fotodiox adaptor. It’s just an issue with these mounts – probably from the same source, as Cosina assembles CZ Leica mount lenses – and the Novoflex.

Absolutely no light leak can be identified on the A7R body with the new mount fitted. All leaks turn out to have been down to third party adaptors. The LA-EA3 and LA-EA4 give no light leaks, same for all E/FE mount Sony lenses. The Kipon Tilt-Shift (Nikon, $200+) has so many light leaks I can’t map them – every stage of the unit from the lens mount to the body mount, and all the moving parts, admit light; unit dangerously tight on Tought-E mount. Kipon Shift adaptor (Canon FD) admits light freely, especially when shifted. Canon FD plain adaptor, low cost – leaks at body mount. Cheap Minolta MD adaptor – no leaks. Cheap Nikon adaptor – OK at the body mount, lens release catch admits light freely (repaired using black putty compound but ineffective, still leaks light). Cheap tilt MD to Nex adaptor – one strong light leak in mount between some lenses (chrome flanges) and the adaptor, but otherwise light-tight to the body and in its tilt mechanism. Low-cost L39 to NEX adaptor – no problems at all. Ukraine/Kiev/Zenitar 50mm tilt combo – perfect, no leaks in any position. Samyang 122mm f/2 – small local leak at mount (top right crescent issue). 28-70mm FE – absolutely light-tight, no issues. 10-18mm Sony G – ditto, no light leak at all. 16-50mm Sony PZ – no light leak. Tamron 18-200mm – top right crescent issue. Fotodiox Leica M helical, with any lens, no problems. Focus brand Canon EF to FE mount AF adaptor – no leaks. Original 1st gen Kipon 42mm tilt device – no leaks at all.

– David Kilpatrick

Sony’s BIG system future at photokina

colognenewviewofdom-web

I’m using my RX10 to report. This camera is my big Sony dilemma. It’s actually all I really need for 95% of my daily work.

Well, here we are reporting from photokina 2014, the major trade fair in Cologne. I’m only here for the day and a brief stop in tomorrow morning en route to the airport, and my first appointment was with Sony. To be frank, it doesn’t matter that much as everything has already been publicised on many web pages. My only request, to be allowed to take some test frames on my A7R using any of the new FE lenses, was turned down because the lenses were ‘pre-production’. I was not pleased to be standing within earshot when, ten minutes later, the very same 16-35mm f/4 was being made available to another UK journalist not only to use but to take outside the hall into the Messehallen surroundings for ten minutes (chaperoned).

entrycrowd-web

Of course you need a Canon sign over queues. It is after all the brand of herd!

I don’t need an outside scene to assess a 16-35mm – give me a room with vertical pillars (plenty) and some small very intense bare bright light sources (ditto) and I can pretty much do an optical test on such a lens in a couple of dozen frames. The good news is that Sony UK may be better placed to let photoclubalpha (and all the other media I write for) have loan lenses. In the last year, I’ve bought £10k worth and sold £5k worth of Sony and related third party gear to be able to keep up to speed with the rate of new products and their sheer cost.

If equipment had cost this much relative to earnings when I set out in photography, I would never have become a photographer – it would not have been possible. It would have been making a choice – a deposit on a house, a secondhand car, or a camera and three lenses?

And lenses are certainly being rolled out. The new roadmap concentrates entirely on the E-mount systems (FE and E, full frame and APS-C). The Alpha 99 may still be there as a flagship for the A-mount but there’s really nothing here, no news, for A-mount system users.

sony1635lenses-web

Hands-on reports from photokina often mean nothing more… hands-on! No pictures allowed with the glass. It looks like a lens, it works like a lens, but it’s really only half a lens.

sony28135f4cinelens-web

Unless, of course, it is two times a lens. The ciné targeted 28-135mm f/4 power zoom for FE may have the ghost of a Minolta 28-135mm hiding inside its suit of armour. It’s huge.

sontylenstrio-web

In a sealed but rather grubby fingermarked cabinet sat the new lenses – a Carl Zeiss Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA, a Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS, and a Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS. I wiped the drool marks off the glass with my secret weapon (a packet of tissues) and took some individual pictures.

sonyCZ-35mmf1p4-FE sony24240ossFE sonygmacro90mmOSS

OK, the glass didn’t clean up all that well and there were many reflections to avoid.

sony90mmmacro-switches

But here is what you need to see – a 90mm macro with an external OSS on-off switch so you do not have to menu dive to perform this function when tripod mounting, as well as a triple range focus limiter. But this len is a real monster. We have to assume it uses internal focusing with a design like this.

sonyCZ-35-newaperturering

And here is another surprise. Like Fujinon XF lenses, the forthcoming CZ 35mm f/1.4 has an RX-style third f-stop clicked aperture ring, with an A setting at the extreme beyond f/16. My guess is that there is also an RX-style click disengager round the back, making this a superior lens for ciné but almost certainly needing a firmware update for camera bodies as it is the first A or E mount (electronic aperture) lens to feature an on-lens aperture control.

sony28mmf2FE

Then we have a neat 28mm f/2 AF for FE, joining the Carl Zeiss Loxia manual focus, electronic function 35mm and 50mm lenses shown elsewhere on the stand (one day I may feature these if we find them exciting enough).

This lens has two optional adaptors – very much like the adaptors for the 16mm E series pancake, a 0.75X wide angle (converts it to a 21mm f/2) and a fisheye (converts it to a 16mm f/2).

sonywide28-web

sonyfisheye28-web

I would say many of the size advantages of the A7 full frame camera series are completely negated by all of these new lenses and by the adaptors. What we actually need and want is a handful of properly compact sensor-matched lenses, smaller perhaps than the existing 35mm f/2.8 FE, and not a range of lenses which increases the overall size of a mirrorless kit to the point that you might as well have a DSLR. It’s not quite that bad, they are still a bit smaller overall, but here’s the 28mm converted to fisheye:

sony28withadaptor-web

I’ll leave you with the test set-up for the A6000 and lenses –

sonystand-exhibit

I’m off for a meeting with Sigma. Just got ten minutes to find them!

– David KIlpatrick

Sony roll out Pro support in Europe

Professional photographers in Europe can benefit from valuable help and extra peace of mind with the launch of Sony Imaging PRO Support. There’s no membership fee for the service, which is offered to professional photographers who own qualifying Sony α camera bodies and lenses.

Following its successful launch in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Sony Imaging PRO Support makes its official European debut in Germany from April next year, followed by rollout in other countries.

A dedicated telephone help desk gives professional photographers expert support with using their camera equipment.

There’s a free collection and return service for units requiring repairs, plus a free back-up loan unit which helps to keep professional photographers up and running.

In addition, enrolled Sony Imaging PRO Support customers can benefit from a free twice-yearly image sensor cleaning service and firmware check-up to keep their cameras in top condition.

To be eligible for the service, professional photographers must own multiple Sony high-end α cameras such as α99, α7 series and Sony G or Carl Zeiss lenses. The details about the application and service will be announced closer to launch date.

Capture One Express bundled for Sony raw handling

Capture One Express (for Sony) RAW converter and image editing software will be bundled with Alpha and Cyber-shot cameras in future.

The ‘Capture One’ RAW converter and image editing software from Phase One has been newly adapted for Sony. ‘Capture One Express (for Sony)’ will be provided at no extra charge to users who purchase an α interchangeable-lens camera or Cyber-shot RX digital still camera. This image processing tool incorporates an advanced RAW image processing engine to enable delicate images to be finessed to deliver a high-quality finish.

Refer to the following website for details: www.phaseone.com/en/Imaging-Software/Capture-One-for-Sony.aspx

This website will go live at 10:00 Central European Time on 16/09/14

Firmware updates for RX10, RX100mkIII

From Sonyalpharumours (with the links all very neatly arranged, probably from Sony’s own sources) details of firmware updates for the RX10 and the RX100 MkIII. Surprise at our end about the RX100 update, since the camera has only been on the market a short while, and the internal batteries used to maintain the date (etc) usually have a seven to ten year life!

So, how on earth did they discover that a ‘low remaining life’ of this battery could cause problems? Time travel? Ah, that’s the answer – someone will have accidentally set the date to 2021, making the camera think its internal battery needed replacing because Sony will have put into the system a lockout which occurs at the end of the expected life for this component.

All those of you with Epson professional printers over five years old, who have managed to download a service manual, will know how this works. The printer is programmed to commit suicide and tell you that a certain service component needs replacing; the engineer’s manual tells the engineer to inform the owner that the printer has reached the end of its useful life. Another printer sale!

RX10 firmware download at Sony US, Sony Germany, Sony UK, Sony France, Sony Italy, Sony Spain, Sony Holland, Sony Belgium, Sony Austria, Sony Switzerland, Sony Norway, Sony Sweden, Sony Portugal. It adds following improvement:

Enables shooting 60p/30p/24p/120p movies in the XAVC S format that supports high bit rates  (1920×1080) 50p/25,(1280×720) 100p, (1920×1080) 60p/30p/24p, (1280×720) 120p
Note: When shooting a movie in the XAVC S format, ensure that an SDXC card of Class 10 or faster is used.

If you don’t use Windows, most of these links do not work – Sony Australia has a Mac OSX link.

RX100m3 firmware download at Sony US, Sony Germany, Sony UK, Sony France, Sony Italy, Sony Spain, Sony Holland, Sony Belgium, Sony Austria, Sony Switzerland, Sony Norway, Sony Sweden, Sony Portugal. It adds following improvement:

This update improves stability in rare cases where the unit does not turn due to low remaining life of the internal back-up battery (used to maintain the date and time)

Special offer – £5 off UK subscription to f2

The publishers of Photoclubapha now also produce ƒ2 Freelance Photographer – again. This is the magazine we launched in 1999 and sold in 2006 after launching Photoclubalpha as a website. Now it’s back with us and better than ever (there are very few photo magazines like this around – the latest issue weighs 44og and has book quality paper).

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You can access a special page (not visible on our website) for a subscription with a £5 discount, UK only. We’re sorry that can not discount overseas subs, but with the sheer weight of this publication the postage accounts for most of the cost – for example, six issues posted to the USA can cost us as much as £41.10 out of the £41.70 subscription (from which Paypal takes over £2!) and we only make it work by using a mailing house to bypass the regular printed paper service.

So this is really a benefit for UK visitors only – though we’ve left the Europe and Worldwide options in place.

http://www.iconpublications.com/subscribe-here-to-photo-magazines/photoclubalpha-5-discounted-f2-sub-uk/

 

B&H double Zeiss Touit lens deal for NEX

I guess that Zeiss must be working right now on full frame Touit lenses, because this is unprecedented value for those able to buy in dollars without steep shipping charges, duties or taxes – however, the links they emailed out today led to a wrong page on their USED section, and after a lot of digging to get the right URL, the offer is needless to say on back order – and B&H are taking a Jewish holiday from June 3rd to 5th so you’d better jump in quickly before close of biz on June 2nd.

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BOTH the Carl Zeoss Touit 12mm f/2.8 and 32mm f/1.8 lenses for the E-mount for only $919 from B&H with free US expedited shipping (they do not cover full frame and I’ve tested them and found a fairly tight image circle). They are stunningly good for NEX-7, NEX-6, A6000, A3000,  A5000.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/0/Ntt/Zeiss+Touit+Lens

Here are the actual image circles of the three Touit lenses (12mm, 32mm and 50mm f/2.8 macro which is not in this deal) on A7R, without applying any distortion or vignetting correction. All the lenses have an Adobe profile and in the case of the 12mm this enlarges the image circle substantially. Normally, this means the lens is a true 12mm equivalent with the profile applied and the actual focal lenth could be closer to 10.5mm.

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First, the Touit 12mm without lens profile

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Now, the Touit same shot but converted from raw applying the built-in lens profile (conclusion – the profile applies to an APS-C frame and does little good to the outer field on full frame – you are better off using the lens without the profile, including on APS-C, if you want maximum wide-angle coverage)

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Then the 32mm f/1.8 on the A7R (like the shot above, at full aperture – image circles generally do not get larger when you stop down, if the edge is as well-defined as these Zeiss lenses)

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Finally, the 50mm f/2.8 macro to complete the reference. All pictures taken from behind the counter of the Carl Zeiss stand at The Photography Show – hence the great lighting and subject-matter…

– DK

Sony confirm silent mode in A7S

Today, Sony confirmed a rumour – no doubt started as a result of pre-production tester leaks – that the A7S would have a completely silent all-electronic shutter mode. This is not the same as the Electronic First Curtain shutter found on the A7, A99, A77, A6000 and so on but conspicuously absent on the A7R. Nor is it the same as the near-silent leaf shutter terminated exposure mode of the RX100 models, RX10, or RX1 models. It’s completely free of all mechanical action and totally silent.

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A7S seen with LA-EA4 and 24mm f/2 Carl Zeiss. I’ve got the adaptor, and this lens – they do work well on the A7R, but I don’t use them as my tiny Voigtlander Color Skopar SL II 20mm f/3.5, mounted on a Nikon fit Kipon tilt-shift adaptor, delivers the goods without the bulk or the battery drain. The 24mm also works well on the LA-EA3 adaptor without SLT mirror, but focusing is excruciatingly slow.

The silent shutter has been implemented as a firmware upgrade to the early production samples and future stocks, along with several other important firmware enhancements – all of which will have Sony owners wondering why improvements to their six-month old or one-year old purchases are not equally forthcoming. These are however improvements to a £2,100 camera body which will not hit the shops until the end of July 2014.

The firmware fixes and upgrades are:
α7S now offers a ‘Silent Shooting’ mode
ISO range for Movie Shooting extended to ISO100 – 102400, expandable to ISO100 – 409600
Dynamic Range extended to 15.3 stops as sensor RAW output

The silent mode is an option, and we would guess it carries some penalty in terms of available shutter speeds or noise performance. They say “For situations where absolute silence is required on a shoot, such as nature shoots or behind the scenes at a movie production, the α7S will offer the user the ability to activate ‘Silent Shooting’, thus making the photographer as unobtrusive as possible.”

A further upgrade is the expansion of the ISO range when shooting movies (previously limited to the native range). The α7S now offers the ability to shoot between ISO 100 -102,400 (native range) and is expandable to ISO 100-409,600 whilst still shooting capability remains at a staggering ISO 100-102,400 (again, the native range) expandable to ISO 50-409,600. The sensor’s dynamic range has also been further extended to 15.3 stops sensor RAW output. Technical note: as the bit depth remains unchanged and is presumed to be 14-bit ARW, this enhancement implies a modified raw gamma curve.

Other system improvements

You may wonder why we’ve pretty much given up reporting on new Sony products. Despite running three photographic magazines, we can’t easily get hold of review samples as all three magazines are professional or enthusiast market only. I’ve now run out of money and can’t afford to buy any of the new cameras or lenses, as the rate at which they have been released and the price levels make this difficult, and the dramatic collapse in secondhand values has clobbered my recent workround of buying-testing-selling. Things like the 28-70mm FE OSS lens for the A7 are worth almost nothing (under £200 used even from a UK dealer now) and most gear is losing 35-40% of its launch month value within two or three months. Also, the performance of much of this kit tends to be flawed or just not that impressive. It’s really hard to justify spending thousands on Sony gear which then turns out to be very ordinary, when companies like Olympus, Fujfilm, Nikon and Canon only need an email or a phone call to send test kit out just as soon as it’s available.

To work further against Sony’s interests, so much of the older Minolta and other optical gear I have been trying – even something as basic as my 70-210mm f/4 ‘beercan’ on the A7R with LA-EA4 – produces such beautiful results. What money I have spent recently has been on adaptors and on vintage lenses including Voigtlander, Canon and Nikon. I’ve not lost a penny on buying and selling these to find the best choices.

Sony also has a habit of organising London press events starting at 10am which, because of the nature of London, pretty much demands an overnight hotel stay unless you happen to be based within the M25 ring. I’m 400 miles away with no intention of ever being closer. I’m willing to spend the two or three hundred pounds needed to be at a mid-day event in London, despite the fact that it generally only produces ten minutes with a product subject to a ‘no images may be used’ embargo, and all the major websites already had it a month before and the full details were all over the web before I boarded the early morning train. So that’s why I have not really felt an urgent need to work hard and put my company’s (my!) money into giving Sony free advertising.

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Well, there’s a new Alpha 77 – the A77II. It has much improved AF, the new hotshoe, some WiFi stuff and the GPS has been removed. Neat though the WiFi and NFC may be, my main use of this is for remote control not tweeting photos, and for remote control rigs there are much better camera choices than a heavy A77 body with no possibility to control the zoom from an iPad/Android phone or whatever. The RX100 and RX10 hit the mark for this. The slightly gritty 24 megapixel sensor is still a slightly gritty 24 megapixels, and removing the GPS is just downright perverse. I have a Nikon D5300 sitting here which does everything I need in a gritty 24 megapixel APS-C format, with GPS, for a great deal less.

Sony-RX100III_Front_EVF_Flash-1200-web

And there’s a great new RX100 MkIII which has a new Carl Zeiss 24-70mm equivalent f/1.8-2.8 zoom, a pop-up EVF, unbelievably good video (not far removed from the A7S 4K abilities and high bitrate encoding of HD1080p) and a more flexibly hinged screen. I do think this will be worth it for new buyers, but I didn’t bother with the MkII. The MkI only cost me £350 slightly used, it lives in pockets and shoves into compartments of bags, it has a lenscap adapted to ensure this treatment does not damage its fragile lens-front cover, and it goes to 100mm equivalent which is more use to me than extra lens speed at 70mm. The old MkI may only by f/4.9 at 100mm equivalent, but it is respectable f/4 at 70mm and the same f/1.8 at 28mm. It’s knockabout travel camera, a car glove-compartment camera, capable of delivering shots which any photo agency or library will accept.

The RX100 III will start shipping in Europe at the beginning of July 2014 and will be priced at approximately £700. I’ll get one when I break, wear out, or lose the original but I might just opt for a Nikon 1 system kit instead. At least they have a GPS you can add, unlike Sony – it will soon be two years since the Multi Function Accessory Shoe was unveiled, and the GPS module for it is still not even on the horizon.