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December 9th, 2016
January 2nd, 2014
I finally got my hands on the much anticipated and newly released full-frame Sony A7r camera!
I'll spare you all the specifics as if you are reading this you already are well aware of this 36 MP full frame powerhouse and revolutionary camera. I, along with many other landscape photographer's have been waiting patiently for this camera. It's small, light and boasts a HUGE full-frame sensor. It offers FANTASTIC resolution and the ability for huge prints without any print enlargement and modification. You can go 24x36" without any issue at all.
So why did I return the Sony A7r, a camera that I've been wanting for the better part of a year? Here's my list of issues with this camera (in order of importance):
1) Red dot flare issue - The camera, as do many mirror-less camera's coming out, suffers from a horrible red dot flare issue. If you include the sun in your composition, there seems to be a reflection from the rear lens element reflecting onto the sensor due to very short distance between the two. The resulting flare becomes increasingly more visible the higher the f-stop is. It's still present with wider apertures, but not as apparent, but disrupts color and clarity. This is a huge issue for landscape photographer's as sunrise and sunset are primary shooting times, and will affect depth-of-field aperture settings to minimize flare. Typically, a coating can be applied to alleviate this, but there is a definite issue with the A7r. Note: I have not seen if this is an issue with the A7, but I'll assume it is.
2) No battery charger! Seriously Sony...I just paid $2,300 and no battery charger. They supply a wall receptacle to USB, hence you have to charge the battery inside the camera. There's no excuse for this one!
3) Short battery life...which makes #2 above even more important!
4) Lack of lenses (I knew this before buying it), but I can see using an adapter and having to manually focusing getting really old.
5) There is shutter vibration issue (this is becoming well documented now), particularly when shooting with telephoto lens focal lengths. I rarely ever shoot this type of lens as I much prefer wide angle or ultra wide angle lenses. Which leads me to #6...
6) No native ultra wide angle lens (preferably a prime lens) is due out for quite some time. While when I purchased the camera I was willing to wait, but with the above issues noted, I've decided to return the camera until these issues are addressed and an amazing prime ultra wide angle Zeiss lens is released and tests well.
I still think this camera will be my next camera and kudos to Sony for the design, however, it's going back for now.
July 4th, 2013
I've decided to put together a collection of blog posts about some of the tools I like to use when planning to shoot a particular location or I am researching where I want to shoot sunrise and/or sunset on a trip. The Photographer's Ephemeris is one of the most important tools out there for planning ... period! This program is simply fantastic and indispensable for planning. My most recent outing was shooting sunrise at Eagle Falls overlooking Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe, California. I've been to this location numerous times, but I had a preconceived composition in my head that I was after. This included having the sun at a particular spot when it breached the horizon as I like to capture first light and sunbursts.
In stead of explaining how to use this program (it does have a little bit of a learning curve), I'll simply direct you to the tutorials that are very helpful. They're located here: http://photoephemeris.com/tutorials/
You can see from the attached picture that with this program I can plan: Sunrise time, angle, time the sun will actually breach the horizon, etc. It also draws a line to where the sun will be when it breaches. I wanted my composition to include the sun breaching right over the outlet of Emerald Bay into Lake Tahoe. It's all possible with The Photographer's Ephemeris and the best part is it's FREE!
June 15th, 2013
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August 17th, 2012
Here's another example of landscape work using the Pentax SMC DA 15mm f4 Limited Lens on a Pentax K-5 body. This camera captures a fantastic amount of dynamic range! The Pentax K-5 sensor is the currently the highest rated APS-C digital camera sensor available on the market right. However, as of yesterday, Pentax has announced it is no longer producing K-5's as it's focusing it's marketing efforts on the new Pentax K-30 (which seems to a fantastic camera in it's own right). Sooo...if you want to buy a new Pentax K-5 you better hurry. As of today Amazon on had 13 units left!
August 17th, 2012
The Pentax SMC DA 15mm f/4.0 Limited Lens is my number one choice for landscape work. It produces very little distortion and controls chromatic aberrations quite well for an ultra wide lens. The lens is very well built and while expensive (currently $550)...it is well worth it's price tag. It produces very sharp images when the aperture is stopped down at f/8.0 or f/11.0. This lens produces an extreme amount of contrast and also produces the best sunburst I've seen a lens produce while also reducing flare. You can point this lens straight at the sun and come away with a useable image. See here (http://scott-mcguire.artistwebsites.com/blogs/pentax-smc-da-15mm-limited-example.html)
While I primarily use this lens for landscape work, it also works well for real estate and architecture work as well. It also works surprisingly well when used as a close up composition. You can see an example here: http://scott-mcguire.artistwebsites.com/featured/gold-and-silver-ore-crusher-scott-mcguire.html
August 8th, 2012
The Pentax SMC DA 15mm f/4.0 Limited is an excellent ultra wide angle lens. It is extremely well built, particularly for today's standards and the lens flare control is phenomenal! The bokeh, contrast and lack of chromatic aberrations are all excellent. You can literally point this lens straight at the sun and not get any lens flare. In fact...it produces a beautiful sunburst (see image)! The lens is decently sharp wide open at f4.0, but stopped down to f/8.0 it is quite sharp for such a wide angle lens. Also, the further the lens is stopped down the great the sunburst effect becomes. It comes with a built in lens hood and the color hue and saturation it produces is like using a circular polarized filter with out having a filter on. This lens is capable of opening up a whole new world of photography!