Tuesday, October 25, 2016

That "vision" thing... again... some more...

Something crawled across my Facebook feed and I had to stop and take a look.  Normally I don't click through to see what FB "recommends" for my, no doubt, pleasurable consumption, but...

There was something about the way the photographer lit the subject and the way the artist appeared to have thought through the ideas and details behind the presentation.  The subject is the man's young daughter.  The theme is super hero super power.  The presentation is down right classy (to me, at least).

One of the local creative people I sometimes work with suggested we do a Catwoman shoot.  Casting about for ideas on how to best present the material, I found inspiration on 500px.com.  There seems to be a common image making approach shared between the super hero and catwoman series.

The subject lighting is classic rim light.  Sometimes there are two hard lights.  Sometimes one is hard and the other soft.  In most cases the front of the subject has details that catch the sidelights.  Little to no front fill appears to be used.  Processing is pretty straight forward composite foreground/background work.  The results are spectacular.

I find this kind of work rather fun and certainly inspirational.  I wonder where this might lead in my own imaging efforts?

Paris Passages ~ Mona Longueville

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Perhaps there's a little production issue with my version of the Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS?

The dogs and cars I've been photographing are less than sharp where I think they should be and I was beginning to think Sony had done a terrible job making their 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS E-mount optic, but I wasn't sure the problem was with the resolution.

When I'd taken a recent look at the lens in comparing it with other optics I noticed the edges of the comparison setup were sharper than the center.  This got me to thinking.  Before I could do much about it we went to the US for six weeks to take care of family business and to attend our son's wedding.

Once home I used the "force" (Google) to research back-focus issues with this particular lens.  Over on DPReview I found someone talking about their experience with seemingly the very same issue.  What struck me were the responses where people said the phenomenon was impossible.  The thinking was that since the Sony A6000 has on sensor phase detect that the problem had to be with the user.  Said another way, PDAF supposedly _ensured_ accurate AF and there was no way it could fail.  Evidence led me to believe the problem was not mine, but lay with the lens, PDAF or no.

When I photographed cars and dogs I took to using the center AF point and kept that point right over the thing I wanted in focus.  Yet that part of the scene was seldom (never?) in focus, whereas the area a few feet (about a meter, maybe two meters) behind the intended focus point was always tack sharp.

At that point I decided to investigate the issue further.  I set up a simple test.
  • Sony A6000 with phase detect (PDAF) as well as contrast detect (CDAF) AF enabled
  • Sony NEX-5T with PDAF enabled, and then retested with CDAF only (in case the problem really was with PDAF)
  • Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS SEL at various focal lengths and apertures
  • Test target 1: Trees in front of a brick building at around 30 meters (give or take)
  • Test target 2: Edge of a building with foreground and background sloping away from me
Here is test target 1.  As you can see, the tree has a bit of depth to it -

Sony 55-210 f/4.5-6.3 OSS backfocus issue

Here is test target 2.  This test concentrated on corner of the transition from lighter plaster to rock area on the right -

Sony 55-210 f/4.5-6.3 OSS backfocus issue
Here is the test comparison.  I share the f/8 results here as the f/6.3 and f/11 results are identical.  Open the link and locate the full resolution version of the image to verify differences between the various panels - 

Sony 55-210 f/4.5-6.3 OSS backfocus issue

In each image I ensured that the AF box(es) that lit were directly over the center of the scene.  With this in mind, what I see is that the camera did not matter and neither did the AF mode (PDAF or CDAF), the lens clearly focuses behind the point that the AF system tells me is being selected.  As confirmation of the condition and that I'm not loosing my mind, when I focus manually the intended focus point is achieved and the lens is actually acceptably sharp.  Lastly, the phenomenon is experienced starting around 135mm.  Focal lengths less than 135mm seem to focus accurately and correctly.

My copy of the lens is not behaving the way I think it should (understatement, I know).  So, I've written Sony France to ask if it might be repairable for something less than the cost of a used copy (which I of course would carefully test prior to purchase) off leboncoin.  I was in a little snarky mood when I wrote them so we'll see what they come back with, if anything.  

I'd purchased this lens as a used item at the Bievre camera swap and it's well beyond it's warranty period.  Sony really doesn't owe me anything.  Though I would much prefer a lens that can AF correctly, right?  I might have to go buy another and jeter this one into the recycling bin.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

... and this may be why...

For years I've felt, as many others do, that high end cameras are little more than branding exercised by the companies that sell these kinds of products.  In short: Cameras as Bling.  Toys to impress strangers.  As if I needed any incentive to beat an already dead horse, along comes something interesting.

Frankly I had't thought things had progressed this far, and I don't really know the exact setup used in the following comparison, but... if these results are as they're advertised to be, I have to ask: Why spend MegaBux on a camera when a cell phone will do?  Yes, the devil is still in the details.  But it's hard to argue that cameras really matter anymore.

Just today I received my copies of the Lenswork Magazine "Seeing in Sixes" book project.  I'm very very fortunate to have a small project of mine included.  In talking with Maureen (at Lenswork) I learned that some of the work in the book was made using a cell phone.  I looked long and hard to find the artist's work she talked about and, frankly, I can't see it.  All of the work is of such high technical quality that whichever projects were created using a phone simply doesn't show in the finished results.  What matters not equipment.  What matters is truly something else entirely.

Here is the link to the PetaPixel article comparing an Apple iPhone7 to a Leica M9-P.  You read that correctly.  Maybe it's not the cost of your tools, but how you use them, right?  Is it any wonder that traditional stand alone imaging device manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic) are struggling to compete in a declining market?  Google and Apple are their competition.  So how do conservative companies keep up with game changers?  At this point I see that answer as "not very well."

Read 'um and weep.

Portland ~ with friends
My friend, Vince.  
He's an engineer and fellow photo nut.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

... and then where...?

It's no secret that mobile phones have replaced Point and Shoot cameras.  It's no secret that the market for still cameras is rapidly diminishing.  And it's no secret that consumers will buy whatever appeals to them.

To me it seems Google and Apple are in a race to see who can become king and queen of the consumer imaging market.  This year I've seen Apple iPhone6 imaging ads all over Europe.  When we were in Lisbon I saw a town square filled with tall backlit screens filled with huge enlargements of work made with the mobile device.  Just this week Google announced a new mobile device that DXOMark rates as better than Apple's.  The pace of new product introduction between these two companies reminds me of the days when Canon and Nikon were trying to outcompete one another.

What do the traditional imaging companies try to sell us now that their battle has largely been settled?  Pretty much the same things we've seen for the past decade, or so it appears to me.  The pace of new product introduction has slowed dramatically in recent times.  Other than that, a Canon 5D Mk-whatever is pretty much the same as prior generations.  Even the small companies seem to have slowed their pace of new product introductions.  Sony's APS-C mirrorless product line is very slow to update.  Olympus and Fuji continue to bring incremental improvements to their product offerings.

No one seems able nor willing to keep up with Google and Apple.  There is nothing earth-shattering nor market-attention-grabbing coming from the old companies.  "Sizzle sells" and nobody has the "sizzle" like the two giant electronics network integration social platform foundation companies.

I like what Tony Northrup has to say about the death of the traditional imaging market.  His video seems to accurately describe the present state of things.