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Past Article Calendar

February 2009

Getty adds A900 to approved camera list

Stock library Getty Images has added the Sony Alpha 900 to its rather restricted list of approved cameras – a very recent move, as it happened between the writing/research for my article appearing in the British Journal of Photography on February 18th, and publication. See: //

Here is how Getty’s page for potential contributors to the library lists acceptable DSLRs:

“Our panel of in-house experts has reviewed the latest digital equipment to help provide guidelines on what we consider to be acceptable images for submission to Getty Images. You can click on the links below to find out how some of these cameras performed.

“At present, the following cameras are recommended and approved for submissions to Getty Images. This list is updated regularly with results from our digital testing team.

Canon EOS:
5D Mk 1/2; 30D; 40D; 1D Mk 1/2/3; 1D Mk2n; 1DS Mk 1/2/3
D2X; D2Xs; D3; D3X; D90; D200; D300; D700
Leica: M8; M8.2
Olympus: E3
Pentax: K20D
Sony: A900

“All medium format backs (i.e. Phase One and Leaf) produce sufficiently high quality images to fall within Getty Images’ standard submission requirements.”

This is followed on the Getty page by links to their own reviews of cameras, but the Alpha 900 is not yet reviewed.

The situation remains unsatisfactory, as the Alpha 700 and Alpha 350 are both superior for stock photography work to the Nikon D200, D2X, D2Xs and D90; superior to the Canon 1D Mk1 and 2, 30D and 40D, 1Ds Mk 1, Leica M8/M8.2 and Olympus E-3.

The A700 and A350 are equal to the 12 megapixel models 5D Mk1, D300, D3 and D700 in the most typical situations for Getty’s preferred type of stock imagery (model released, shot in ideal conditions with lighting or good natural light). Certainly if the Olympus E-3 and Pentax K20D can make it into this list, the Alpha 700 and Alpha 350 should be there. Why do I say the Alpha 350? Simple enough – despite its practical limitations in studio conditions (small viewfinder, inability to use Live View with modelling lights, poor connectivity to studio flash) it can at ISO 100-200 yield a larger, more detailed image than the Alpha 700 with a particularly good ‘look’ in terms of colour and tonality.

Getty would actually find it of more use to test and recommend lenses. All three systems – Canon, Nikon and Sony – include some lenses which really are not up to the demands of professional stock shooting. It is not easy to guess which those lenses are, either – or to guess which older secondhand lenses may prove perfectly matched to today’s high resolution full frame.

There is one exception, and that is the Sony Alpha range. Buy Sony CZ or G-series full frame lenses and you are guaranteed the kind of performance Getty would want. That can not be said of Canon’s L branding (the L series includes models like the 24-105mm f/4 IS, essentially a consumer grade lens), and within the Nikon range it is not possible to identify from the model name which may be the best choices. Looking for ED and IF but avoiding VR is a useful way to start out.

Olympus and Pentax, like Sony, have a clear way of designating their high performance lenses – Getty when advising the E-3 should add to this ‘with Olympus Zuiko Top Pro series lenses’. I’ve used some of the Top Pro glass, some of the Pro glass and some of the standard range and buying Top Pro does not just mean getting very fast maximum apertures, it also means performance comparable to CZ/G.

And what’s that about digital backs? Does it include the still-available-used 6 megapixel versions from a few years ago, or the rather flaky early 16-22 megapixel models? I’ve seen some dreadful results from older digital backs, compared to even a £250 A200. I have also seen some great results but it’s a change which has happened mainly in the last three years.

But it’s all redundant anyway, when what counts is the image, not the camera. Having a list of approved cameras is just a way of preventing annoying requests for contributor information or contract-seeking by the rank mass of amateurs (sorry, that should have been ‘the massed ranks of amateurs’, no offence intended!). The camera list is a barrier to wannabees, not a serious attempt to filter content according to imagined technical quality.

And I guess the Sony Alpha 700 and 350, having no competition at their price-points for the specification or performance, will never make it that list just the same way the Nikon D80 (generally better than the D200) or Canon 400D (dull, but still better than a 30D and very much equal to a 40D) ever will.

– David Kilpatrick

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