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Friday, August 31, 2012

Samui Island Seaview Thailand

Samui Island Seaview Thailand Sony a900 CZ 16-35mm f2.8

I think some photos are even better viewed when they are developed into large prints. Like the one above for example, there are lots of little details in the sea and the area near the pier on the bottom left that just can't be seen on a monitor, even if you enlarge it to full screen on a 21 inch monitor. With an A0 size print you can actually see lots of little boats, some just lying in anchor, and some are sailing along creating a wake trail.

Samui Island Seaview Thailand 2 Sony a900 CZ 16-35mm f2.8
The ease of which you can process an infinite variation of a single image today always give me a real headache, I can never decide which one to use as the final version. One day I will like one better, and the next I will prefer the other :(.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Man vs Nature with Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f2.8 and a900

Man vs Nature

About a year ago, I took a few days to escape the hectic city of Bangkok to the relative calm of the countryside. While I was taking a short hike on a nearby hill to where I was staying, I came across this scene that I thought perfectly summed up the current balance between Man and Nature in the world.

At first glance it seemed just like yet another example of the destruction of nature by humans, a hillside along with the trees on it being carved out to make way for a local road. From the angle I was standing however, the small remaining mound of rock and trees was casting a very interesting shadow on the bare hillside.

The shadow looked like some sort of creature or deity of nature squaring up against the bulldozer representing the destructive force of man. It's kind of like the current state of the world, with first man's constant destruction of nature creating an imbalance in the climate which in turn is coming back to hurt man, like a constant struggle for balance.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cheap Packshot with Sony RX100 Compact ($17 including light source)

The other day while playing around with the Sony RX100, a crazy idea just popped into my head for some reason, that idea was "why not try to take some packshots with it". The idea was crazy because prior to this I have only "attempted" to do packshot photography, but after a very short time of having to try and move a large and heavy DSLR around a small set, I soon gave up. I have always thought it might be more convenient doing it with a compact, but until now I haven't had a compact with a good enough image quality to be worth trying, and equally important, one that takes RAW images, so I can white balance the image properly.

looking pretty good for a 30 year old

You can see the image I got from the RX100 above. Not bad for a first attempt ever if I say so myself :). The lens in the picture is the Minolta 35mm f1.4, and I think it's looking pretty good considering it is about 30 years old. The little white specks you see aren't scratches either, they are dusts, note to self "don't forget to clean the product next time". In case you are wondering how I setup the shot, please carry on reading below.

the cheapest lamps I could find
I didn't set myself a challenge to do the cheapest packshot possible, but with the state of the economy (and more importantly me being pretty cheap), I just wanted to spend as little money as possible. I knew I needed light sources for the shoot, and I figure using lamps would be the cheapest option. I just didn't realize how expensive lamps are these days, everywhere I looked they were costing at least 10-12 dollars each. So I kept searching and hoping, and my efforts were not in vain, eventually I found some at a discount store that costs $5 each, and so I bought a couple.

what? the bulbs cost almost as much as the lamp?
Sadly the lamps did not come with light bulbs included, so that meant more money. I bought a 100 watt to use as the main, and a 25 watt to use as fill and it was $5 for the two. It could have cost even less had I bought a regular filament, but I decided to keep with the time and be conscience of the environment and so I went with the more expensive energy saving bulbs.

I also used a torch I had lying around as another extra fill light.

A $2 piece of future board will have to do as the stage.

For the subject I chose an old Minolta 35mm f1.4 lens, since it took great pictures maybe it will take a great picture as well...get it :).

The China Rig

Above is my rough setup, with the 100 watt bulb in front of the lens (on the near side of the photo) and the 25 watt bulb as fill from behind (far side of the photo). The flashlight was used as an extra soft fill to light the shadow area right below the lens, to help make the shadow less harsh.

I call it the China Rig, since pretty much everything is made in China except for the lens.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sony RX100 Random Image Samples

In this blog post I will be putting up random image samples I have taken with the Sony RX100. The photos are not design to be any kind of test of the camera's abilities, but just for those interested to see some of the images produced by the RX100. I will try to keep updating as I take more pictures with the camera.

Cow Dolls Sony RX100 iso 3200 f4.9 100mm
Crispy Sushi Sony RX100 iso 200 f3.2 28mm
Cemetery Sony RX100 iso 125 f6.3 28mm
Ice Rink Sony RX100 iso 640 f6.3 28mm

Chandelier Sony RX100 iso 2500 f3.5 59mm
Multi-Colored TV Sony RX100 iso 1600 f4.9 100mm
Raining Flowers Sony RX100 iso 125 f5.6 28mm

Part 2 Here

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sony RX100 Macro Wildlife

Macro photography is something I am completely useless at, not that I am any good at any other type of photography, I am just extra bad at Macro. When I saw this...thing...jumped onto my friend though, I just couldn't resist testing out the Sony RX100 that I happened to have on me.

hold still will ya?

I have heard that it could take macro shots as close as 5 cm to the subject. So I quickly whipped out the camera and fired off a few shots before the "thing" flew away. With it being night I had no choice but to use the dreaded popup flash, and so I wasn't really expecting anything. When I checked out the photos on my computer today though I was pleasantly surprised.

Certainly the RX100 is no match for a DSLR with a macro lens, which can "zoom in" much further, but the 20 Megapixels really help it in this situation. You can "zoom in" post process and crop away quite a lot and still be left with plenty of resolution. Another benefit of the smaller RX100 (and most compact cameras) is that it's popup flash give better results than popup flashes on most DSLRs. Overall I have got to say that the macro shots from the RX100 is nothing to be written off, especially for a compact. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sony RX100 ISO Test Sample Photos RAW vs JPEG vs Multi Frame Noise Reduction

After the previous iso test I did with the Sony RX100 RAW files

A question I, and am sure many others have is "what about comparing the iso performance of RAW files to JPEG files, or the JPEG files using the multi frame noise reduction mode?". So let's see shall we?

a familiar patch of grass

I will be using the same setup as the previous test.

ISO 3200

Sony RX100 RAW ISO 3200 100% crop

Sony RX100 JPEG ISO 3200 100% crop

Sony RX100 MFNR ISO 3200 100% crop

ISO 6400

Sony RX100 RAW ISO 6400 100% crop

Sony RX100 JPEG ISO 6400 100% crop

Sony RX100 MFNR ISO 6400 100% crop

ISO 12800

Sony RX100 MFNR ISO 12800 100% crop

ISO 25600

Sony RX100 MFNR ISO 25600 100% crop


At iso 3200 there is not much difference between the normal JPEG and the MFNR file, so there is pretty much no reason to use MFNR at this iso. Your choice is probably between using the JPEG for convenience or the RAW for flexibility. With the RAW file you can achieve files as smooth as the JPEG easily by applying some noise reduction in post processing, but you also have the choice to retain more detail if you want, so the noise/detail tradeoff is in your hand.

At iso 6400 the difference between the JPEG and MFNR file is not massive, but certainly noticeable. They are both equally smooth but the MFNR file is able to retain more detail. The RAW file is almost able to match the MFNR file with post processing in terms of smoothness and detail, but again has far superior flexibility in terms of how much detail you want to sacrifice for smoothness. So at iso 6400 you have a choice between using the JPEG for maximum convenience, using RAW for maximum flexibility and quality, or in cases where there are no significant movements in the frame using MFNR for convenience and superior quality to the normal JPEG.

Of course if you ever need to use iso 12800 or 25600, you don't really have any choice but to use the multi frame noise reduction. But I must say that you shouldn't expect great quality photos at these two settings, as you can probably see yourself in the above samples. They will only look reasonable at small viewing sizes, maybe no more than 600x400 pixels. But I guess it's better to have the option available if you want than not at all.  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Sony RX100 ISO Test Sample Photos

When looking at the RX100, having the the aperture capability of f1.8 at 28mm, with it's small size meaning that you can always have it with you just in case and when the time comes not putting people off as much as sticking a dslr or a mirror-less in their faces, the words "Night Street Photography" just popped right in my head. The next thing that popped into my head was "how good is it's high iso performance?"...let's find out :)

Since Adobe Camera Raw does not yet support the RX100 RAW files, I used sony data image converter ver 4.1 just to open the files and saving the photos as is, turning off any noise reduction.

And since there is pretty much zero noise at iso 400 and below, I will only show photo samples from iso 800 upwards to iso 6400.

Test 1

the grass is always greener on the other side of the lens
Sony RX100 ISO 800 100% Crop

Sony RX100 ISO 1600 100% Crop

Sony RX100 ISO 3200 100% Crop

Sony RX100 ISO 6400 100% Crop

Test 2

let's try some wildlife photography, another place where high iso is sometimes needed
Sony RX100 ISO 800 100% Crop
Sony RX100 ISO 1600 100% Crop
Sony RX100 ISO 3200 100% Crop
Sony RX100 ISO 6400 100% Crop


Wow, I am impressed, the results are much better than I was expecting both in terms of the noise performance and the quality of the files. In fact the noise performance is...dare I say it...just as good as the a900!!! Some of you might be saying "is it really that good, there still seems to be a lot of noise", but you have got to keep in mind that these files are with ZERO noise reduction, and the level of detail relative to noise is really good. With these image files you could just apply some noise reduction to get really low noise photos at pretty high iso, as can be seen below

Sony RX100 ISO 3200 100% Crop with some noise reduction
Above is a photo at iso 3200 at 100% crop with some simple noise reduction applied in Adobe Camera Raw (don't use the one in Sony data image converter, it's horrible), that took about 5 seconds. You have also got to keep in mind that the files are 20 Megapixels, so the 100% crops are zoomed in much more than other cameras in the same class, if you were to look at the photos normally they will have even less noise.

Having seen these test results I can't wait to try the RX100 out in the field.

Program To Open Sony RX100 RAW files

Currently Adobe Camera RAW does not yet support the Sony RX100 RAW files, so you will need another program to open and process the files. If you do not yet have one I recommend the Sony Data Image Converter ver 4.1, which is quite a small program and can be downloaded for free here

I personally just use it to open the RAW files and re-save it as TIFF files so that I can open them in Adobe Camera Raw. 

CAUTION: When opening the files in the Sony Data Image Converter, I highly recommend that you go to the Noise Reduction option and turn it OFF. The noise reduction algorithm in the program is pretty bad and will leave the images looking like water color paintings. Initially I was really disappointed with the quality of the RX100 images, but then when I turned off the noise reduction...Wow...the differences was night and day. If you want to apply noise reduction I suggest you do it in Adobe Camera Raw, you will get much much better results.

Sony RX100 Sample Photos and Tests

I haven't used a compact styled camera in a long long time. Five or six years ago when I took photos just to record memories, I used to use them exclusively. But later when I started to get more into photography, and had a taste of what dslrs can do, I just never looked back. I just found compacts quite limiting, with slow focus, slow shutter response and no RAW mode. From what I have been hearing on the interweb though, is that Sony has changed all that with the new RX100. 
is it a DSLR in a compact's body?
It is supposed to be a compact camera designed for dslr users. With the portability of a compact, yet with a sensor large enough to offer image quality comparable to a dslr.

Personally I am waiting (and saving) for Sony's new full frame line up, which is suppose to come out sometime this century, but I still couldn't help to wonder if this camera really is the holy grail many of us has been hoping for and never expected to get. So when recently one of my friend bought the RX100, I kindly asked (threaten) him if I could "borrow" it to test it out. I just didn't say how long :)... don't worry he is one of those people who loves to buy gadgets but never gets around to actually using them, so he wouldn't even miss it...I hope.
Anyways, now that I have the camera in my hand I will try and put up sample photos, tests and how I feel about the camera in this post for anyone else who might be interested in buying it.
My first impression of the RX100 is that it really is designed for dslr users, especially if you have used Sony's dslrs or slts you will be right at home. I was also very pleased to find that the "shutter lag", which is one of the thing I hate most about compacts, is non-existent.

Oups...straight away when trying to open my RAW files I realized that Adobe Camera Raw does not yet support the RX100 RAW files, so the fist thing you might want to do is to download the Sony data image converter version 4.1  

Here is an ISO test I did for the Sony RX100 the results really exceeded my expectations.

Here is a test comparing the ISO noise performance of the RAW files, JPEG files and Multi Frame Noise Reduction Files of the RX100  

An unintended Macro Photography Session with the RX100 

Some Random Image Samples I have taken with the camera