camera

3 March 2014

Sony NEX-6 Review

Posted in: camera, hdr, landscape, mexico, people, review|

Warm light
Image quality is one of the biggest strengths of Sony NEX-6. It beats my backup DSLR (Canon 50D) in this category.

I promised it, and here it is – my complete review of Sony NEX-6 mirrorless camera. After using it for a few weeks now I can say a lot about it. Do I like it? Is it good replacement for DSLR? Find out by reading this review.

Sony NEX-6

Please note that today I won’t talk much about the lenses. I hope to review them separately. Especially the Sony E f/4 10-18 lens which is pretty fantastic. And one of the best ultra wide angle zoom lenses I worked with.

Introduction & Parameters

You can get Sony NEX-6 in a few packages:

  • As a body alone for around $750.00,
  • With a 16-50 mm kit lens for $900.00, or
  • With 16-50 mm and 55-210 mm lenses for $995.00.

I went with the last option. Additionally I got Sony E f/4 10-18 mm lens which I mentioned at the very beginning of this review. So I currently own 3 Sony E-mount lenses – they cover almost all focal lengths that are interesting for me.

Before going any further take a look at some of the most important parameters of this camera:

Vendor Sony
Released on 2012-09-12
Weight 345 g (including battery and memory card)
Dimensions 119.9 × 66.9 × 42.6 mm
Megapixel count 16
Sensor type ASP-C
Supported file formats Photos: RAW, JPEG, RAW + JPEG
Videos: AVCHD 2.0 (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264), MP4
ISO range 100 – 25.600
Shutter speed range 1/4000 – 30 s, bulb mode
Video resolution Full-HD
Burst mode FPS 10
Built-in flash Yes
Wi-Fi Yes
GPS No
Other Swivel LCD screen,
Electronic viewfinder

The biggest advantage of Sony NEX-6 for me is its size and weight. It’s really small and light. It looks and feels like a typical compact camera (it’s even smaller than some of them!). Together with a lens it weighs less than Canon DSLR body alone. It’s so light that when I had it in my backpack I needed to check it’s really there or whether I forgot to take it from home. It’s really light. Dimensions make it look less professional what is also an advantage because in some places of the world professional photo equipment is now not allowed.

With its small size, comes one issue though. If you have large fingers or try controlling this camera wearing thick gloves, you might have some problems as the buttons are rather small and in such circumstances I ended accidentally pressing wrong buttons.

I also really loved electronic viewfinder – it’s the best one I have seen so far. It offers full coverage of the scene and very nice colours and resolution. What’s more it can also show virtual horizon or real-time histogram – both features are very useful and can help you take better shots.

Image quality

Image quality, which is one of the most important factors when choosing camera, is surprisingly good – better than on my Canon 50D (which I use as a backup DSLR) – thanks to large ASP-C sensor. Of course image quality is worse than on the full-frame cameras but it’s still excellent. The colours are very natural and the images are sharp. Also noise is very low.

The only problem I found is that when using automatic white balance the images had some kind of slight green cast on them (most of the time it wasn’t very noticeable though). And it’s not only me – Lightroom thinks the same as when I use automatic white balance in it, it almost always moves tint towards magenta.

I was also positively surprised by low light performance of this camera. Both ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 are perfectly usable (although the latter is a little bit noisy). Noise levels are acceptable and can be removed easily in any noise reduction software (like Lightroom or Topaz Denoise). I wouldn’t recommend using higher ISOs though (that is 12800 and 25600) because they look much worse. Noise is much bigger on them. However, in some cases they might be useful (it’s better to take noisy shot than not to take it at all).

Sony NEX-6 back

Focusing

Regarding auto-focus – it might be better than in most of the compact cameras I tried (and that’s true) but it’s still far worse than in modern DSLRs. Unfortunately I’m used to the fantastic AF of Canon 5D MK III. Sony NEX-6’s one is much much worse. In fact it’s hard to compare the two. Object tracking in NEX-6 is virtually useless. If object was moving I lost the majority of shots. In case of 5D – I usually end up with most of the images being in focus in such a case.

Fortunately for me, as I’m landscape photographer, I use manual focus most of the time. And there are a few focus assisting features in Sony NEX-6 that I really liked. They are:

  • Focus peaking – which shows which parts of the image are in focus using bright colour (red, green or yellow) visual cue,
  • Focus assistant – automatically zooms in when you’re focusing so you can set your focus precisely. This feature also works also in an electronic viewfinder – which is another advantage of it compared to optical viewfinder.

Issues

As I already mentioned here, my Sony NEX-6 stopped working when I was in Mexico (on the 2nd day of my 14 days stay!). It just got back from repair so I know the cause now. Apparently it got a little bit of water and this broke viewfinder sensor… Luckily it was easy to fix (and not too expensive). Now, the good thing is that water didn’t got deeper inside. The bad thing, however, is that I don’t recall any water. Ok, there was some moisture in the air (it was Mexico after all which has rather tropical climate) there were some occasional drops of water from the sea but it wasn’t much. Either I had some very bad luck and some droplet hit my Sony NEX in its sensitive spot or weather sealing is really really poor.

Another issue is how fast the battery drains. It should suffice for around 250 – 300 photos (sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t for me) which is rather low number. So most of the time I was dragging 3 batteries with me. Another issue is that there is no separate charger. You charge battery by connecting your camera to the electrical outlet – like a smartphone or tablet. It’s not very convenient because this way you cannot charge your battery while shooting. What I often do with my DSLRs is to take a few batteries with me for a shoot. At the same time a few others are recharging back at home. When I’m back from photo shoot I have a few more fully charged batteries at my disposal (in case I want to leave to take some photos in a few hours what I often do when travelling). With NEX – I can’t do that.

And finally a few problems for HDR photographers:

  • You can only capture 3 exposures in auto-bracketing mode, at 3 EV spacing maximum. It alone wouldn’t be a big problem as it’s sufficient in many cases (and many other cameras have similar limits), but there is something even worse…
  • Auto-bracketing CANNOT be started with neither 2s delay nor with remote controller. Basically it means that in order to capture photos in auto-bracketing mode you need to hold shutter release button while all 3 exposures are taken. It’s not a big deal when you’re shooting in bright light with fast shutter speed, but when you’re shooting sunset for instance or long exposure – it becomes a serious issue. Holding shutter release in such a case will introduce a lot of camera shake and thus will significantly affect images sharpness. What I do to overcome this is to shoot in Manual mode and quickly change exposure between the shots – this way I can at least use remote controller. Photos might be a little misaligned (and there might be some ghosting) but it’s still better than blurry images.
Let it burn

Summary

Time for a short summary. This is an excellent camera in terms of performance and image quality. However, I’m really disappointed by lack of weather and water sealing. If you’re, like me, serious about landscape or travel photography, you will probably use it in difficult conditions sometimes. Almost complete lack of weather sealing might be a great obstacle here. Next time I will go shooting seascapes with it I’ll probably take some kind of housing to protect it from moisture.

Another problem for me as a HDR photographer are very limited auto-bracketing capabilities. They are so limited that I prefer to shoot in Manual mode and change the exposure between the shots manually.

Other than that this camera is really great. As I mentioned image quality is really fantastic and that’s the most important thing for me. It’s also great choice if you would like to travel light or would like to look like a regular tourist (but still taking professional looking photos).

Pros:
– fantastic image quality
– excellent electronic viewfinder
– small dimensions and weight
– good low light performance
– super fast burst mode (10 frames per second)
– a lot of useful features, like focus peaking, Wi-Fi support etc.
– standard hot shoe

Cons:
– poor weather sealing (almost none…)
– still rather poor AF compared to DSLR
– automatic white balance often moves colour balance toward greens
– very poor automatic bracketing features
– low capacity of battery

7 August 2013

Canon 5D Mark III Review

Posted in: camera, crete, landscape, review|

I took this photo with Canon 5D MK III during blue hour. The tree was lit by the lights of the hotel situated nearby what resulted in a bit surreal look.

For more than a year I was using Canon 5D Mark II but very recently I switched to its successor – 5D Mark III. Was it worth the switch? Read my short review below.

Just after starting up 5D MK III you notice one thing – it is much more professional than its predecessor. From menu layout to AF system and weather sealing. Everything is more complex and looking much more professional than in Mark II. And complex doesn’t mean worse or more difficult – extra options are welcome as they are creating some very nice opportunities.

The size and weight of the camera is very close to that of 5D MK II. Most of the buttons are in the same places but there are still some nice ergonomics and layout improvements and additions, like:

  • ON/OFF switch is now situated in the same place where mode dial is. At first I wasn’t sure if it’s good but after longer use I really prefer it to the older way. It’s much more difficult to switch it on/off accidentally, eg. in a photo bag. What’s more now this switch is bi-state instead of tri-state from 5D Mark III.
  • Mode you’re shooting in is now locked. If you want to turn mode dial you first need to press small button at the top of it. Again it helps in preventing accidental changing of the mode.
  • Slightly bigger LCD screen (3.2 inch vs 3.0 in Mark II) this is great as it makes reviewing photos easier
  • Depth-of-field preview button is now on the right of the lens what makes it more easier to access. It’s also slightly larger.
  • Rate button which allows you to rate your photos in a camera. It’s a really great feature because then these marks will show, eg. in Lightroom what makes rejecting and picking best photos much easier and effective

    New Auto Focus System

    There was much talk about new auto-focusing system in 5D Mark III and I can only confirm what you probably know already – it’s really superb. 61 AF points give a lot of opportunities and given the fact that many of them are cross type and double-cross type (41 and 5 respectively) you no longer need to stick to the center AF point because other are usable and accurate as well.

    Also continuous AF is finally usable! It’s fast and have a lot of options for different types of movement. In my tests it performed very well even with fast moving subjects.

    The only issue with AF is that the points could be wider spreaded in a frame because they are still gathered quite close to the center.

    For me quite important change is increasing number of frames to 7 in auto-bracketing mode. It’s a significant improvement over just 3 frames available in 5D MK II. Combined with very fast burst mode (6 frames per second) it makes for a great HDR camera.

    Moving subjects were a big problem for AF from 5D MK II. In 5D MK III this is no longer an issue. This beautiful tiger was walking quite fast in my direction but the image still is very sharp and correctly focused.

    HDR

    There is also a HDR mode but frankly speaking I don’t like it. I much prefer to have better control over the creative process and this of 5D MK gives almost no options. Also it isn’t as sophisticated as eg. Photomatix and it can’t be given computing power of regular PC vs computing power of DSLR. However, this mode can be quite useful to check how your HDR might look, if you exposed the shadows and highlights correctly etc.

    Image Quality and low-light performance

    But what about image quality? It’s almost the same as in 5D MK II, dynamic range is also very close to that and it’s about 11 EV. Compared to some Nikons (eg. D800 with 14 EV of dynamic range) this value isn’t impressive. So that’s rather disappointing.

    I did notice some improvements in case of low light shooting. For me the maximum usable ISO on 5D MK II was 6400. On 5D Mark III both 12800 and 25600 (which are now native ISO) are fully usable. There is some noise of course but it’s very easy to get rid of it with Lightroom or any other noise reduction tool.

    Other changes

    But there are plenty of other improvements. Below are a few I especially like:

    • Virtual horizon which makes levelling the photos much easier.
    • Videos with up to 60 FPS (although 60 FPS isn’t available in Full HD)
    • Ability to develop RAWs inside camera
    • ISO expandable to 102.400!
    • Multi-exposure mode – you shoot a few photos and they are combined into one. Although one can do that in Photoshop of course, having such option in camera is great

    Summary

    Pros:

    • a lot of great additions and improvements
    • fantastic AF performance
    • fast burst mode (6 FPS)
    • auto-bracketing up to 7 frames 
    • great low-light performance
    • dual card slot

    Cons:

    • dynamic range could be better
    • AF points could be spaced a bit wider 

    So summing up it’s a really great camera. If it had dynamic range of Nikon D800 it would be ideal. It isn’t but I believe it’s still worth a switch because it’s packed with a lot of useful features that make taking photos much easier and that also help in achieving better results.

      23 January 2012

      Friendship and Canon 5D MK II

      Posted in: animals, camera, portrait|

      Friendship by Wojciech Toman (WojciechToman)) on 500px.com



      I had enough waiting for Canon 5D MK III. Will it arrive this year? What sensor will it have etc. I needed camera right now so I bought MK II and I’m really happy with it so far. Its low-light capabilities are tremendous. Noise is acceptable on ISO 6400. I had even some successes using ISO 12800 and 25600 although the last setting required quite heavy denoising (sometimes however it can be a life-saver). Image quality and depth of field are much better than on any other camera I used so far. I’m also happy with auto-focus, even though some reviews claimed it’s quite poor. I haven’t noticed that even when trying to focus in pretty difficult lightning conditions.

      So yes, I’m very satisfied with this camera so far.

      Also I upload a photo I took in the rain (although it’s winter so snow would be more natural) yesterday. Click it to see it in large.