Category Archives: Cameras

Mirrorless fun

At the back end of last year I decided to dip my toes in the mirrorless world – not with any intention of abandoning all the Nikon gear I’ve bought over the years, but more to get an idea of the mirrorless experience. 

I’d heard and read many good things about the Sony A7 range, right from the very first full frame model they launched back in 2013.  The original A7 is still available today and at a very reasonable price, so I decided give it a whirl.  Despite being seven years old, the A7 has a perfectly respectable spec if all you want is a serviceable full frame stills camera. It might not have some of the advanced features a demanding photographer might want but all I wanted was something to get to know what it was like working with a mirrorless camera.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

Sony A7 full frame camera

The Sony A7 is a great camera – light, easy to use and with excellent optics. Sure, the low light performance isn’t anywhere near my Nikon D750 but that’s not why I bought it. Whilst I’d heard bad things about the menu system, this didn’t really bother me to be honest.

So, after getting acquainted with the camera, one of the first things I thought I’d try was using it with some of my old Pentax lenses. I still had some old glass left around from the days before digital, when I’d shoot with Pentax gear. 

I bought a simple Gobe adaptor and dug out a couple of old lenses – a trusty Pentax SMC 50mm f/1.7 prime and a Tokina SD 70-210mm lens. Initial results with the Tokina were uninspiring, but the 50mm proved to be far more fruitful.

Sony A7 camera with Pentax 50mm lens attached

The 50mm SMC was the standard lens fitted to most Pentax cameras during the 70s and 80s and has a solid reputation. Like most prime lenses it is very sharp.

Used with the A7 and Gobe adaptor, operation is completely manual.  so I set up focus peaking in the EVF and monitor to help with focusing. 

The lens gave some excellent results, although wide open at f/1.7 it was a little soft. However, stopping down to f/2 and beyond produced some very sharp images.

It should be remembered that when using a basic adaptor like the Gobe, no metadata is recorded from the lens.

Unedited shot at f/4.0 1/500th ISO 100. Click for full sized image.
Unedited JPG file shot at f/4.0 1/2500th ISO 100. Click for full sized image.

As well as these outdoor shots I’ve also tried taking the camera and lens on a couple of stage shoots and it performed very well.

I’m not going to go in to any detailed analysis of the performance of the Pentax + Sony combo (if that’s what you’re in to try this). The exercise was simply to see what could be achieved and how the combination handled.

My pro kit will continue to be my Nikon D750 and associated lenses and I’m in no hurry to migrate to a new system, especially given the investment I’ve made in Nikon and the cost and logistics of moving.

A Good Advanced Compact: Sony RX100M2

For a while now I’ve been looking for a good, advanced compact camera – something that takes better photos than a smartphone but without the heft or bulk of a digital SLR. My quest brought me to the Sony RX100M2, an affordable, lightweight “travel camera” (or whatever you want to call this class of camera) that delivers excellent results.

The original RX100 was launched in 2012 and is now in it’s sixth iteration, each revision improving on the last. Unusually, all six versions are still made today and are available at prices ranging from around £300 to £1150.

Because I was looking for a simple point-and-shoot, albeit with greater control and higher quality than you’d normally find in a point-and-shoot, I went for the M2, the second in the series, which I picked up at my local John Lewis. 

The Sony RX100M2 features a Carl Zeiss f1.8 28-100 (equiv) lens and a 1″, 20.2MP CMOS sensor. Online reviews are excellent and at 280 grams it fits comfortable into a jeans pocket. 

The f1.8 lens makes it particularly good for low-light usage  whilst overall image quality is excellent.

I’m not going to go in to detail about the camera so check out reviews online to find out why I chose this little gem.

Olympus SP560

Despite now being some five years old, I still occasionally use my Olympus SP560-UZ, an excellent camera with a wealth of features and a good lens.

Being an ultra-zoom camera, the standout feature of course is the 18x zoom lens, equivalent to 27-486mm on a 35mm camera. There’s also the macro and super-macro functionality that allows you to focus as close as 1cm, which for me can be very handy when doing product photography with smaller items and need to show detail.

There’s also a wealth of other features, including aperture and shutter priority, as well as full manual exposure; optional 3×2 aspect ratio, ISO sensitivity up to 3200 and RAW mode. The digital image stabilisation is also very good.

As well as the useful macro mode, I like to take this camera out when I want to use something a little better than my point-and-shoot Canon IXUS but without the weight and bulk of my dSLR.

Point-and-shoot

Wherever I go I always make sure I have a camera with me. You never know when a golden opportunity might present itself so if and when that happens I want to make sure I’ve got something more than a camera phone to hand.

My current choice of point-and-shoot camera is a Canon IXUS 120 IS, a beautifully compact and well-built camera that not only shoots stills but also takes 720p High Definition video.

Some of the stand out features of this camera include a wide 28mm equivalent lens with 4x zoom, a large 2.7 inch screen, 80-3200 ISO sensitivity and optical image stabilisation (as opposed to the more common digital stabilisation found on compact cameras).

The IXUS is also a very stylish and pocketable piece of kit, at just 20mm think and the same size as a credit card. And, of course, it’s a Canon.

I’m very pleased with the images produced by this camera and the HD video is excellent. It’s small enough to fit in any pocket, although I often use a case. The 2.7″ display is also very good, with an anti-reflective coating.

Overall I’m very pleased with with the IXUS 120 and it’s a joy to carry around with me and use.