Tag Archives: Sony

Sony – Setting the Record Straight

Curbar Edge, The Peak District. Sony A7R with Canon 16-35mm. ISO100, f/18.0, 1/10″. 0.6 ND grad filter + polarising filter.

Regular readers of this blog will recognise that I haven’t always been complimentary about Sony and their customer service. Please don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like Sony, it’s that I’ve always had problems with their products and service. Despite this, my Sony RX 10 and Sony A7R excellent cameras.

The Sony RX10 is one of my favourite cameras. It’s become my go to camera for trekking and photography. If I’m going to be travelling light, I now tend to take this camera as I don’t need to take additional lenses and lots of batteries. Since I had the camera repaired, the new lens is far superior to the original and the results are excellent.

The A7R is also an excellent camera and I have this paired with Canon L series lenses. The resolution and ability of these lenses to resolve fine detail is a very powerful combination for landscape photography. Despite this I have tended to shy away from using the camera. My concern has been one of reliability.

I started to experience problems when I took the camera out last April, in cold weather. Typically, after shooting a few frames I would switch the camera off, then when I turned it back on again I tended to get a blank screen. To reset this, I would have to remove the battery from the camera to allow the power to drain. Then when I inserted the battery it would function again.

Then another problem started to develop. This time I found the batteries in the camera draining very quickly. This had always been a problem, however it was becoming much worse. Typically, the battery would drain in a day, and needed replacing, even though the camera wasn’t being used.

A couple of weeks back I took the camera out again after a long break. That’s when I noticed yet another problem. This time the camera wasn’t really recognising the lens and the aperture was showing as 00. As the aperture on Canon lenses can only be set electronically, this was a big problem.

For some reason, I decided to fiddle around with the lens adapter when the aperture became visible again and usable. It’s then I realised that it was probably my lens adapter and not the camera that was at fault. I returned home that day and started to look for alternative adapters. There are a lot of these available but all of them seem to have faults. The only one that seemed to be reliable was the Metabones.

If you have looked at the Metabones adapter you will know that these are very costly. For a while I toyed with the idea of buying a Metabones but couldn’t justify the expense. Then I noticed a second-hand one for sale on Wex and decided to take a risk.

I received the Metabones adapter little over a week ago and it was like new. I’ve now tried it out a few times and can report that the autofocus is now working much better with the Canon lenses. It’s still very slow compared to using these on a Canon camera, but at least it’s now working. The other thing I’ve noticed is that I don’t need to remove the camera battery. So far, I haven’t seen this problem at all. I also left a near exhausted battery in the camera to see how quickly it would drain. Tonight, almost 10 days later, there was still enough power to turn on the camera.

It looks like my use of a cheaper adapter has compromised my view of the camera. I will keep a very close eye on this in the future but I’m very pleased with the new adapter and looking forward to using the camera again.

Sony RX10 Problems

Gordale Scar, The Yorkshire Dales. Three image stitch with the Sony RX10.
Gordale Scar, The Yorkshire Dales. Three image stitch with the Sony RX10.

I have owned my Sony RX10 for a little over three years, purchasing it as soon as they were launched. I had a couple of initial teething issues; the lettering around the front of the lens reflected onto my filters, the focus wasn’t quite right and the Stabilisation wasn’t very good. Other than that, it’s been a very useful camera and one that I enjoy using a lot.

In August last year I went to France to visit my daughter, taking the RX10 along. All appeared fine until I noticed on some of the images that they were a little soft along one edge. That’s when I checked the front of the lens and to my horror I could see traces of fungus inside. This was faint at the time and wasn’t sufficient to cause the softness, although that’s what triggered my noticing the problem.

On returning to the UK I made some enquiries with the “legendary” Sony Support (legendary for all the wrong reasons). I didn’t hold out much hope of help given my past experience and unfortunately, they didn’t disappoint. The response was “your equipment’s out of warranty so there is nothing we can do”. Despite my protest that a camera of this age which is well treated and stored with care should not have a problem, they just didn’t want to know other than saying they could me find a Sony repair centre.

Roll forward six months. I had tried to live with the fungus problem, not expecting it to get much worse; unfortunately, I was wrong and it had spread across the inside of the front element. I took the RX10 to Real Camera in Manchester who I have dealt with a number of times and asked if they could have their engineer take a look (if you are ever in the market for a used film camera or need repairs, Real Camera are highly recommended).

I have now received word back from the engineer and the problem is indeed fungus on the inside of the lens. Worse still, it’s not possible to clean the affected elements as the problem is inside a sealed unit where the elements are cemented in place. This means the replacement of that particular lens group. I have authorised the work as it’s still a cost-effective repair but it raises an important question, how did fungus get inside a sealed unit? I have only two possible answers in my head:

  1. The fungus was introduced during assembly which would bring into question the manufacturing.
  2. The unit wasn’t properly sealed, which also brings into question the manufacturing.

In showing no interest in my problem, Sony have, to my mind missed the opportunity to identify and correct an issue. Ultimately, I feel Sony are showing contempt for their future customers by not investigating a problem which (I hope) is unusual.

Whilst I love the results from my Sony gear, this attitude will cost them in the future. I already refuse to use Sony lenses with my A7R as I have never had one that’s sharp into the corner. All have been bitingly sharp in the centre but this makes the edges and corners worse.

I have only one thing to say; Sony, you need to wake up and put customer service first.

Bracketing Limitation Workaround

Fuji XT2 six image HDR
Fuji XT2. Six images at 1 stop intervals blended using HDR processing in Lightroom. The image sequence was shot using the technique discussed.

From time to time I like to shoot multiple sequences of images at different exposures. I then blend these either with HDR software or using luminosity masks in Photoshop. My Olympus EM5 makes this very easy. I call up the bracketing option in the menu, set it to the number of exposures I want and the interval. I also set the shooting mode to continuous which allows me to shoot a sequence by holding down the shooter button. When the sequence is complete there is a slight pause allowing me to release the button. This makes the entire process very easy, allowing me to hand hold.

At the weekend, I came to shoot a bracketed sequence using the Fuji XT2. This also makes shooting the bracketed sequence very easy. There is a dial switch allowing you to change from single shot to bracket. You press the shutter button once and the sequence of three images is captured with no need to keep your finger on the shutter. I found this great, until the scene I wanted to shoot required a five-image sequence at 1 stop intervals. That’s when I found out that the XT2 is limited to shooting only 3 images in a bracket. Come on Fuji, please fix this in your next firmware update. It’s basic stuff.

Now, I should stress that it’s not just Fuji that seem to have overlooked the obvious. When I also came to set up my Sony A7r at the weekend, I found a similar problem. This camera can be set to shoot a bracket sequence of 5 images, providing you don’t want to set the exposure intervals to more than 0.7EV. As soon as you set the exposure interval for a bracket to 1EV or more, you can only shoot a 3 shot sequence. What on earth are they thinking.

If you have been frustrated by this limitation with your camera, there is a simple workaround (other than changing your camera):

  • Set your camera to bracket 3 shots at 2EV intervals in the Av mode (aperture priority) and set your exposure compensation to 0.
  • Shoot the bracket sequence of 3 images.
  • Set the exposure compensation to +1.
  • Shoot a second bracket sequence of 3 images.

This gives you two sequences of three images, but across the two you will have images at 1EV intervals. These will range from -2EV to +3 EV which is what you need for HDR and Luminance blending if you want to ensure maximum flexibility. Unfortunately, you’re not going to be able to hand hold using this method but hopefully it will make things a little easier.

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Friday Image No. 86

Sony RX10, ISO80, 1/160" at f/5.6
Sony RX10, ISO80, 1/160″ at f/5.6

Have you ever tried to photograph a tree trunk with a full frame or even an APSC sensor camera? It’s very difficult and you often need to resort focus stacking because you can’t get the depth of field you need. This is one of the advantages of the smaller sensor cameras such as they can give greater depth of field.

I shot this particular image near to my house using the RX10 which has a 1” sensor. It’s sharp and crisp from corner to corner despite my zooming in to pick out a portion of the tree trunk. I also ran off a print at A3 and the quality is exceptional.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

Sony RX10 – Is now the time to buy

The sea in Cornwall has a wonderul colour and the Sony RX10 captures this perfectly.
The sea in Cornwall has a wonderul colour and the Sony RX10 captures this perfectly.

I just received an email from WEX Photographic saying that I can pre-order the RX10 MKII. Whilst they don’t list the release date, it must be soon. The price is just short of £1,200 and browsing the spec, the thing that hits me is that it seems quite similar to the current RX10 model. Sure it shoots 4K video but I suspect the image quality is similar to the RX10 and that, as a landscape photographer is what I’m interested in.

I love the RX10 but I won’t be trading it for the MKII. In fact checking the prices on Amazon I can see that I can pick up the current model for just under £600 which is a 50% reduction on the new release. If all your interested in is still photography and you have been thinking about buying an RX10, now might be the time to keep an eye open for a great deal. I’m even tempted to buy a second one and convert it to Infrared.

How Much Depth of Field

Hale, Cornwall. Sony RX10, ISO80, f/5.6, 1/50".
Hale, Cornwall. Sony RX10, ISO80, f/5.6, 1/50″.

Last week I took a well-deserved break (at least in my eyes) and went on holiday to Cornwall. Whilst away I took this photo that I wanted to share with you. The reason for sharing is not that this is a great Landscape image (I have a much better one taken at sunset rather than on an overcast day, that I will share soon). No the reason for sharing this is that it illustrates just how much depth of field can be achieved with smaller sensor cameras.

This image was taken using a Sony RX10 which has a 1” sensor. This is slightly smaller than the micro 43 sensors but somehow Sony has managed to cram 20Mpixels onto it. If you were looking at the print of this scene you would say that the image was in focus from the foreground to the background. It’s only when you view the image at 100% magnification on the screen that you see the distant lighthouse is very slightly outside the depth of field but is still acceptably sharp. Also the flowers nearest to the camera (literally inches from the camera) are out of focus but again this isn’t objectionable. Interestingly you don’t notice either of these points on the print as the image appears very natural.

What really makes you stop and think though is that the Aperture used to achieve this is f/5.6. The trick to this if there is one, is where you place the point of focus. Here I was focussing on the hillside just beyond the foreground flowers (probably around 10 feet from the camera. Had I tried to get all the flowers in perfect focus I would have lost the distant lighthouse. This compromise appears to work very well.

I hope this gives you food for thought about depth of field and needing to use very small apertures.

The RX10 is winning me over by osmosis

Sony RX10 in the Peak District, 62mm, ISO80, 1/50", f/5.6
Sony RX10 in the Peak District, 62mm, ISO80, 1/50″, f/5.6

I’ve had the RX10 for around 14 months now so I should be in a position to say if it’s a good camera or not. Had you asked me this question 12 months ago I would probably have said (if I was being totally truthful) that it was a bit of a letdown.

You see my expectations were way too high having previously owned a Sony R1. The reason I expected so much was that the R1 had an amazing lens and the RX10 looked pretty much identical. It’s a huge Zeiss lens with a tiny sensor bolted to the back and a bit of a grip to hold on to. It won’t win any awards for being beautiful but it certainly feels good in the hands.

Part of the reason I felt let down also was that the EM5 produces such sharp, crisp, detailed images. I had dearly wanted the RX10 to produce the same “quality” but it doesn’t. It also has corners that are a little distorted and soft in comparison. What I had failed to realise and what only dawned on me when I bought the Nikon D800 is that most cameras suffer from this. In fact the RX10 is a very good performer, it’s just different. In fact, I’m now really quite pleased with the image quality I am able to achieve. The images make lovely prints all the way up to A2 (I haven’t tried anything larger).

But it’s not the image quality that I like, it’s the handling. It’s very easy and intuitive to use. I like the aperture ring on the body of the lens (isn’t this something we had on all lenses at one time). I also like the huge zoom range from 24mm to 200mm and the fast f/2.8 constant maximum aperture. It even has a great battery life.

In all, this is a very impressive camera and great when you don’t want to carry around multiple lenses. I am starting to find myself reaching for this camera more and more, especially when I am out walking.