Sony A100 Tips And Geeking Out

Reprogram the AEL/Slow Sync button

MENU – play icon – menu 1 – AEL button

Options are AE hold, AE toggle, spot meter AE hold and spot meter AE toggle. I choose spot meter AE toggle. (Okay, so it shows a spot metering icon; a circle with a box around it.)

Using spot meter AE toggle, I can keep my camera in MultiSegment metering, and press the AEL/Slow Sync button to use spot metering on whatever I’m pointing at. This is useful when pointing at a extremely bright or dark object, where it would otherwise lose detail by being too bright or dark; point at it so it covers the center circle, tap the AEL/Slow Sync button and shoot. Thus, I never have to access the Metering part of the left Function Dial.

Flipping up the flash and pressing AEL/Slow Sync will activate Slow Sync mode as usual. This saves me a trip to the left Function Dial. Also, if you spot meter on a bright object in the background, and point the flash from an angle, you will get a 3D pop on the subject, and a flat 2D look to the background.

Decreasing Contrast

Yes that’s right, decreasing contrast is good for this camera. Especially so when there is a backlit subject; it tends to retain the highlights and leave the shadows dark. (Even when Dynamic Range Optimizer is set to Advanced, its effect is subtle, unlike the overly grainy early versions of Nikon’s in-camera-post-processing D-Lighting.) While it can still be pulled up in Photoshop, decreasing the contrast to -2 makes the blacks… less black. Pleasantly reminiscent of my Canon Powershot A520. 😀

The Sony A100 is notoriously predictable that it would underexpose for backlight, while the Nikon D80 and D40 overexposes. Throw in +1 EV for backlit subjects and DRO+ saves the highlights from being clipped.

Alternatively, just tap the reprogrammed AEL/Slow Sync button to spot-meter on a face. 😀

Skipping Eye-Start Continuous Auto-Focus

There is a very simple way to disable Eye-Start Continuous Auto-Focus when the camera is on your stomach, without going through the menus – just press the Drive button!

It’s the button on the top surface, on the right, behind the shutter button. Pressing it will go to the Drive menu. In fact, you can press the Func, Menu, Play or EV button and Eye-Start will not be active.

Press the shutter halfway to reactivate Eye-Start.

By habit, I like to chimp (view shots right after shooting) so I press Play by reflex.

In dark areas with telephoto lenses, where the camera is more likely to hunt, I use this method, raise the camera to my eye, point at the subject (already in focus from before) and half-press. This way, the camera does not hunt because it is already closely in focus. If you were to look through the camera without aiming at the already correctly focused subject, the continuous auto-focus will hunt!

Direct Manual Focus… For Confirming Focus!

Direct Manual Focus means you can use manual focus after auto focus has locked focus. You will hear it focus, and when it has locked focus, the focusing screw releases itself from the lens so you can turn the focus ring.

When the focusing screw releases itself, you can hear an audible whirr. Look through the viewfinder and listen for the sound when the focus dot becomes solid.

In a way, it’s better than turning on the Audio Signals in Menu – Wrench Icon – 1. No more beep-beep that will make you sound like a newbie!

(This lets you set Menu – Gear Icon – 1 – Priority setup to Release, which lets you shoot whether or not the camera thinks it is in focus, while still knowing for sure if you’re in focus. Pressing the shutter fully and finding that it doesn’t take a picture because the camera thinks it is not in focus is annoying, especially when camwhoring with hand extended.)

Forcing Full 1/1 Power On Internal Flash

The Sony A100 always fires a preflash before firing the actual flash. This is so the camera can measure how much light is needed to illuminate the subject.

So what if you hid the preflash from the camera?

If you change to Rear Sync flash, Shutter Priority, and choose a slow shutter speed (1/4th of a second should be just nice), you can put your hand in front of the internal flash. Press the shutter, let the preflash fire, then quickly remove your hand. The actual flash will be at full power, because it thinks the preflash had not enough power or effect on the subject.

And now, for some geeking:

Some of my geek exploits are listed here! How to Clean, Upgrade, Repair, Mod, Disassemble a Camera

Rube Goldberg game!

Somebody has already done a M39-mount interchangeable-lens digital camera, like my infrared-modded Fujifilm Digital Q1. I particularly like his concept camera at the end, with a moving tilt-shift CCD to focus; tilting could give much greater depth of field at a very bright aperture. This would make a F1.0 lens usable.

How to make 300-style pictures (okay, maybe you guys already figured it out…)

Post-processing geeking at Matt Greer Photography!

Rotation 360 – an amazing rotating belt/camera bag system for those with loads of lenses.

A Minolta fan’s report of PMA Report 2007.

There was talk of a 70-300mm F4-5.6 dark zoomer, but that would be quite pointless as there is already one. I’d rather see the 70-210mm F4 beercan be reinstated, and the 50mm F1.7 to show what value for money the Sony with SuperSteadyShot can bring. The 24-70mm F2.8 be great on full-frame; one could have a constant F2.8 trio from the Tamron 17-50mm F2.8 DT (I’m surprised there was no collaboration on this), 24-70mm F2.8 and 70-200mm F2.8.

I love what David Kilpatrick pointed out here:

A top LCD would be fine if you could switch to put the data on the back screen when required. When the camera is mounted vertically – and this discussion has said loads about portrait shooting – the top LCD is round the left hand side and it’s much harder to turn the camera sideways to view it.

The back screen just reformats the data for a perfect view. When the camera is on a tripod for architectural work or seeing above crowds, obstacles etc – frequently at or above eye level, you can’t see the top LCD at all and have no idea what adjustments you are making (we found this a real pain with the Mamiya ZD which, of course, is exactly the kind of camera used on a tripod most of the time). It can also be a nuisance on a copy stand (you can always see the rear screen but ducking down to view the top LCD is awkward), and finally, when shooting normally, you have to drop the camera down from your eye to make adjustments, while I only have to move the camera forward a bit retaining my aim at the subject.

I have good eyesight in terms of sharpness but very poor accommodation and the tiny symbols used right next to the edge of the Fuji S5/Nikon D200 top LCD are actually not clear to me with or without specs. They are too small to be clear at a glance. The Dynax/Sony rear screen display, in contrast, is legible without removing my normal (corrected for distance) specs. I don’t have to lift my specs or even force myself to refocus my eyes, as everything is perfectly clear without correction.

I could not agree more. Heck, I thought the Canon 350D’s LCD placement, while a bit small, was already one step to genius. Having your shooting info on the back does not consume much battery power, really; I still get 750 shots by CIPA standard.

SLRs have been eating batteries since electronic shutters were invented. My Pentax P30t and Minolta X300 both eat batteries. Leave it on by accident, without even half-pressing to meter, and it will be dead the next day! Fortunately, the Olympus OM-2000 is fully mechanical and only needs 2 LR44 batteries for the meter (though, the sunny F16 rule will get you through.)

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