Major Geekout Time!

Sony has leaked several images on their site, hidden in news links somewhere. Anyway, they’re all at this link at Photoclub Alpha!

* I will refer to my Minolta Dynax 7 film SLR as the D7, and the Konica Minolta 7 Digital as the 7D.

What I love:
– Grip sensor (only when you are gripping the hand grip and look through the viewfinder, does Eye-Start Autofocus work, just like my D7.)
– Two dials like the D7 and 7D
– ISO, WB, Drive buttons
– AF/MF toggle button (this is different from an AF On button, because you can use it to switch from any AF mode to MF, or in MF mode to AF)
– metering mode knob (though I’m quite used to tapping AEL to toggle between multi-segment and spot metering.)
– (possibly) CMOS sensor. Now, the Sonys will have less noise! Sony is known for their cutting edge sensors, so we might see some Live View. Or not. No biggie.

What I like:
– Support for vertical grip, so people can stop complaining.

What I don’t like:
– missing EV dial and flash EV dial on top-left which goes -3 to +3 in half stops, or -2 to +2 in third stops (it was on the D7 and 7D)
– mode dial moved to the left (I prefer to do everything right-handed, and not take my hand off the lens I am supporting. This is possible with the D7 and 7D.)
– not having the WB as a knob on the 7D.
– Drive knob missing. They’d better show everything in the viewfinder while changing.
– Where’s the Flash button? I hope they don’t hide it in the menus like on the 7D, while on the D7 it was a recessed knob under your right hand.

Left: Konica Minolta 7 Digital, right: Minolta Dynax 7.

What I really appreciate about my Dynax 7, which even Xian Jin has realized, is how everything can be changed with just the right hand. When you’re holding a heavy lens with your left hand, it would be a pain to let go and tweak something on the left.

In this sense, it’s a bit more practical than the Nikon D200, which has Qual, ISO, BKT and WB buttons on the top-left, and the Drive dial right under those.

Left: Konica Minolta 7 Digital, right: Minolta Dynax 7 (Click image for bigger version.)

Although the EV and flash EV dial was on the top-left of the D7 and 7D, I did not need to tweak it unless I wanted to set a permanent EV compensation. If anything, I’d turn it to 0 on the -3 to +3 side, to change EV in half steps, and turn it to 0 on the -2 to +2 side to change EV in third steps. However, I prefer third steps anyway, so I leave it on the 0 on the -2 to +2 side. If I change EV, it’s by the rear right dial anyway, so I don’t need to touch the left EV dial. Flash EV is also bound to EV compensation by default on my Sony A100, so when I dial -2 EV the flash underexposes.

Thus, I might not miss the EV/Flash EV dials after all. 🙂 I would like my Mode dial on the right, though, or I’d have to use my chin to turn it. Yes it looks silly but I’ve operated my camera in such a way, in dire one-handed times. Fortunately, I am very much an Aperture-Priority person, with rare trips to Shutter-Priority.

I wouldn’t need a vertical grip unless I had a 1.4kg lens. The Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan, at 695 grams, and the Carl Zeiss 135mm F1.8 at 1050 grams, is still handholdable on my A100 even in portrait mode, anti-clockwise handgrip up (for low shots) or clockwise handgrip down (for birds-eye view grabs).

On to lenses!

The classic Minolta 600mm F4 APO returns!

Can you walk around town shooting, requiring just 1/60th of a second to get a steady shot? Yes.

The 80-400mm range looks interesting, too, for the birder/chick stalker in all of us. A part of me secretly wishes that the new 70-300mm is actually a 70-200mm F4.

The 16-35mm F2.8 full-frame lens is sweet!

The 24mm F1.4 is definitely my kind of lens. 24mm on full-frame and 36mm on APS-C, two of my favorite wide focal lengths.

The Carl Zeiss 24-70mm F2.8 finally makes its debut.

The 35mm F1.8 will appease everybody who wants a normal lens. So that’s why Sony didn’t rerelease the Minolta 50mm F1.7; they had something more people would want. It’s also brighter than everybody else’s 35mm F2.

I wish they brought back the Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan, though. The Sony will just have to settle with something 1% of its original price. Here’s a real beercan next to the Minolta beercan.

All this makes previous speculation very fun to read. 😀

That makes us at ClubAlpha excited. (Of course there are more than these.)

I found an old flash concentrator in my stash somewhere. Effect on top-right image. I doubt I’d have much use for it, though.

I also found a Kenko 2x teleconverter for Minolta AF/Sony A-mount! I put my Minolta 50mm F1.4 on it excitedly, but the camera thought it was a 105mm F3.5 for some reason. It should be a 100mm F2.8! (The shutter speed however corresponded with F2.8, just that the teleconverter chip reported it wrongly.)

You can see it stacked with my Tamron 1.4x teleconverter, too, for a 3x teleconverter effect. It physically cannot stack the other way.

Top: The 50mm F1.4 with Kenko 2x teleconverter for 105mm F3.5, bottom is the 50mm F1.4 with the Tamron 1.4x teleconverter then the Kenko 2x teleconverter for 150mm F4! As you can see it was extremely soft, but if you follow my blog you’ll know there is a practical application for everything.

I went to Bandung and came back with this – a Vivitar Series 1 28-105mm F2.8-3.8 lens for A-mount, for a very very good price. This was the 18-70mm of film. The lens is a push-pull, which might be odd to some people but perfectly fine by me. There is obvious lens creep.

I love this lens.

The autofocus is zippy and as violent as my Minolta 35-105mm F3.5-4.5 N! Focus slaps into place. This is because the AF motor only needs 1.6 turns to go from minimum focus distance to infinity. The 35-105mm on the other hand takes 2.5 turns. At 105mm F3.8 there is no hunting, or rather, hunting happens so fast.

The only downside would be the minimum focusing distance of 5 meters/1.5 feet, making it hard to use even on full-frame to get a standard wide camwhore shot. This works to the autofocus speed though, as it does not have to focus through macro ranges.

This made my Minolta-related collection an obscene 7, in the A-mount alone.

From back row, left to right: Minolta AF Big Finder (35mm compact), Sony Alpha 100 digital SLR with Tamron 1.4x teleconverter and Sony HVL-F56AM, Minolta Dynax 7 35mm SLR, Minolta X300 35mm SLR.

The lenses on the right, from the Minolta X300, in Minolta MD manual-focus mount, are the Vivitar 28-70mm F3.9-4.8 and Seagull 50mm F1.8, and a whole lot of caps.

The lenses from the right, front row, are the Peleng 8mm F3.5 circular fisheye for M42 mount (with M42 to A-mount adapter), Sony 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 DT kit lens, Minolta 28-80mm F3.5-5.6, Vivitar Series 1 28-105mm F2.8-3.8, Minolta 35-105mm F3.5-4.5 N, Minolta 50mm F1.4 original, Minolta 70-210mm F4.0 beercan.

I am selling the Minolta 28-80mm F3.5-5.6 (and sold the Minolta 35-105mm F3.5-4.5 N) as I got the Vivitar Series 1 28-105mm F2.8-3.8 which replaces both lenses and is brighter, faster focusing and covers both lenses’ range.

Details here:

Tamron 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 for A-mount

I got to try one of these at Leos Com Trading, 1st Floor, Ampang Park. This shot was handheld, 250mm F6.3 1/25s ISO800. Yep, SuperSteadyShot held true.

This lens is also pretty sharp! This is a 100% crop of a 5.6 megapixel image, 250mm F6.3 1/125s ISO100 with flash. Please pardon the nose closeup.

My rule of determining whether a lens is sharp is very simple – can I see stubble?

Screw MTF charts man.

However, it is slow to focus – it took 25 turns of the AF screw to go from minimum focusing distance to infinity. However, this is the walkaround lens of the moment.

The Canon EOS 1D MkII! However, it had a Canon 50mm F1.8 MkII on it, a slow, slow, slow focusing lens. Or rather, just as slow as if it was on a Canon EOS 350D. A slow lens will make your camera uncool. I felt no difference.

The 1.3x crop factor did make a difference, though. 😀 (This is not the full-frame Canon EOS 1Ds MkII, though.)

I like the idea of those three buttons used in different combinations to change stuff. However, that goes against my right-hand-controls-only preference.

I went around Bintang Walk with KJ, who wanted to survey digital SLRs. He was stuck between the Canon EOS 400D for noise control and the Sony Alpha 100 for cheapo stabilization. He felt that the 400D’s grip was too small, and not that great for portrait shots, so he wanted a battery grip too. He also wanted to play with wireless flash. We added the street prices up:

Canon 400D with 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens – RM2700
Canon 70-200mm F4L non-IS USM = RM2600
Canon ST-E2 wireless flash trigger – RM600
Canon 580EX big flash – RM1580
Canon BG-E3 battery grip – RM300
Extra battery – RM300
Total = RM8080

Sony A100 with 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens – RM2600
Minolta 70-210mm F4 (secondhand) = RM700
Sony HVL-F56AM big flash – RM1170
Extra battery – RM200
Total = RM4670

Other things notably missing from the 400D were spot metering (do you shoot, chimp, adjust EV, and repeat until proper exposure?) and a most annoying way of choosing focus point. The only thing it’s good at is noise control.

We were joined by Ray and Hui Wen. I’d been cajoling them to get the Pentax K10D. That was another button-and-knob fest; it also has in-body lens stabilization, the cheapest 50mm F1.4 lens around, and wireless flash capability!

I loved the Pentax K10D’s emergency green button, for use in getting correct exposure in Manual Exposure mode. I also liked the idea of MTF Priority Program mode, where it picks the best aperture for the lens to be at its sharpest. You can’t go wrong with 9 cross-type AF sensors, either!

On the left, it had a Raw toggle button, a Flash button, a Drive button, a Metering dial and the Mode dial.

I thought the Sony HVL-F56AM was fat compared to the slim Nikon SB-800… until I saw the Pentax AF540 FGZ TTL flash (on the left).

We also found this hidden gem. A Sigma 300mm F4 APO Macro for A-mount!

300mm F4 ISO400 at 1/20s you say with SuperSteadyShot? (I’m amazed the guy was still enough.)

I could even add my Tamron 1.4x teleconverter for 420mm F5.6 ISO400 at 1/15s. This was KJ’s shot. Good idea shooting a poster to test stability, as everybody else was walking.

The lens was, well, very affordable. Hooray to orphaned lenses nobody else wants!

I found the sliding, unscrewing lens hood cool. The adjustable tripod collar, at any angle, was cool too. The AF/MF clutch was a bit of confusion, but it made more sense than a tiny AF/MF switch. It wouldn’t AF on my Dynax 7, oddly; usually the D7 is more compatible than my A100!

The lens hunted badly in indoor lighting as it lacked an internal focus motor. I had to half-press until it was near focus, then tap it a bit to get into focus. This worked much better than half-pressing all the way and overshooting. This technique can also be used on any lens, try it!

AF speeds were a lot faster once I discovered the AF Limit/Full switch and turned it to Limit, heh. 😀

Meanwhile, back at Leos Com Trading, Jeff had the Gary Fong Photojournalist Lightsphere for Minolta 5600HS/Sony HVL-F56AM flash units.

I removed the white cap and stuck my Peleng 8mm F3.5 circular fisheye inside it.

8mm fisheye F8 1/125s ISO100.

The fisheye can capture the lightsphere! (Okay, so I tilted it in front a bit to test. It’s supposed to point straight up.) However, whether the flash was in the picture or not, I was still getting a lot of light loss. Maybe I was too ambitious to tax the flash at F8 and ISO100. Plus every fisheye shot I take with flash always taxes the flash and tends to underexpose.

28mm F2.8 1/125s ISO400. I also tried the Stofen Omnibounce, but that too ate batteries and caused a harsher neck shadow. However, Jeff’s face appears to be more lit in a graduation from his nose.

Honestly however, I preferred my method of just using the built-in diffuser. Just pull the wide-panel diffuser up, but not all the way, so it stands up and acts as a bounce card. Of all the shots I took, draining batteries at that, this method turned out the best, with a graduated shadow down Jeff’s neck. Also, light bounced from the top, giving a more naturally-lit-from-above look.

And now, from Mount Olympus!

I got to try out the new Olympus EVOLT E-410 and Olympus EVOLT E-510.

I like how the E-410 felt just like my Olympus OM-2000. Also, its rear dial could be accessed with my right thumb or forefinger. However, it was missing functions bound to the keypad.

As for the E-510, Image Stabilization seems to work on 45mm at 1/13s (3 stops) but the noise reduction makes it softer and harder to tell. IS at 1/8 is hit-and-miss with a bit of chimping. I used the relaxed grip method as Pentax’s Ned Bunnell suggests.

I loved how ALL settings can be seen in the viewfinder LCD. They literally moved the shooting info LCD inside! Plus, the relevant settings can be changed with the arrow keys (ISO, etc). This was notably missing from the E-410. Even Olympus point-and-shoots have functions bound to their arrow keys!

I hated the dial being at your thumb instead of near the shutter. Now you have to press a button on the keypad with your thumb to change ISO, then use the same thumb to change the setting by tapping the keypad or rolling the dial (which is more tedious as your thumb has to travel up.)

If I got a E-510 body for free, I’d want to hack it so the dial is in front instead of the back. That would make it so much faster to use.

The 14-45mm F3.5-5.6 is soft at 45mm F4.5 1/8s ISO200. Noise reduction smearing is evident (though I should’ve went through the menus to disable it.)

In Live View, you must press AFL/AEL to focus first. Half-pressing the shutter in Live View will not focus the lens!

Annoyingly, if you don’t focus first, pressing the shutter will lag the camera indefinitely until it focuses. You will hear the shutter trip anywhere up to two seconds, if it can find the subject by then. You’re better off in MF mode, and tapping the AFL/AEL when you need some AF.

I would not recommend the E-410 even on a budget because you’ll take a long time to change settings. You’ll feel like you’re dealing with a point-and-shoot here. The E-510 is much, much faster in this aspect.

The prices of midrange lenses are pretty scary, too, and the only cheap one is the 40-150mm F3.5-4.5. The only hope is getting those something-to-4/3rds-mount adapters. I could use my Soligor 70-220mm F3.5 OM-mount on this!

Would I buy the E-510 if I was not a second-hand lens collector? Well, I’d really hope they move the dial forward. It’s like driving out into a clear highway and finding a massive jam at the end of it. That horribly misplaced dial, and them not using a digicam-style AF mode in Live View, are two glaring niggles about this camera. Also, with a dodgy AF implementation, Live View becomes purely for MF applications in angles where you simply cannot look through the viewfinder.

In other news, there is an awesome Olympus hacker blog:

CameraLabs tested the Olympus E-510 with in-body stabilization with the Leica 14-50mm F2.8-3.5 with Mega OIS in-lens stabilization.

Sadly, as predicted, activating both stabilization methods cancels each other out. Imagine two dudes on a boat; they both want to make a turn, so both start paddling but end up going straight.

Links, for those who are not tired of reading:

Minolta AF/Sony Alpha FAQ:

Here’s a technical explanation of how Minolta’s wireless flash system works:

13 thoughts on “Major Geekout Time!

  1. Dr. Tan Post author

    Nifty good shits.

    I was just thinking, while my lenses are plastic bodied as well, somehow Sony’s look exceedingly ugly. Really toy like. Its quite a put off isn’t it?

  2. Canon Freak Post author

    hey again! i read 70-200 f4L IS USM is RM2700? typo error or real cheap? maybe the non-IS??

  3. Albert Ng Post author

    Ray: Wow, thanks! (Though I bet most of it can only be understood when you’ve held all those cameras.)

    huiwen7: If you weren’t so tall, you might be able to spot spare change on the ground! Paper money is harder to spot than shiny coins hehe.

  4. Albert Ng Post author

    Dr. Tan: I’d say it’s more of the rubber grip design. I wonder why the Canon 50mm F1.8 Mk II hasn’t got DOF markings, though.

    Canon Freak: Oh shit, you’re right; it’s the non-IS version. Corrected! Though for fair comparison, the RM4300 F4L IS version should be put in.

  5. Canon Freak Post author

    yeap. 4k in most shops. sad for the 67mm filter size though 🙁 love how you used the beercan in Cheer, makes me want the 70-200 f4l IS USM even more 😉

    the bullseye bokeh lens looks strange when extended, perhaps a paparazi lens for stealth.

  6. Canon Freak Post author

    one more question, does the ST-E2 work when the slave is behind the camera? and the price is RM600? pretty steep. a few more hundreds could get a 430ex.

  7. Canon Freak Post author

    haha you got me pretty excited there. i’ve always wanted the IS version and hopefully get one soon enough. i don’t think jeff stocks it though, does he? the last time i checked, he stocked the 70-300 f4.5-5.6 DO IS USM, but green rings are such a turn off.

  8. Albert Ng Post author

    Oddly, the beercan’s filter size is 55mm.

    I have not tried the ST-E2. However, the manual says it works up to 15 meters. KJ and I also tried the same thing with the Sony, and found that it could do 15 meters, too.

    Wireless flash works by the flash sending pulsed signals via the built-in flash. As long as the flash can see the pulses, even if it is bounced off a subject, it WILL fire. Thus, slave behind A100 definitely works. I don’t know if the ST-E2 does, though.

  9. Albert Ng Post author

    Also, it depends which lens you’re talking about; the Sony 50mm F1.4 looks just like mine, definitely not toy-like. Neither is the 24-105mm F3.5-4.5 or the Carl Zeiss lenses, which have a different texture about them. The kit lens and 75-300mm obviously looks like a cheapie.

  10. Dr. Tan Post author

    Canon Freak – 70-200 f/4L can be bought as low as RM2000, its quite in abundance on the net.

    IS would be around 3000++

  11. Albert Ng Post author

    Eh, the 70-200mm F4L IS USM is nearer to RM4000 new, right?

    The 70-300mm F4.5-5.6 DO IS USM is a turn-off but not for the green ring; you’re paying a lot for just a shorter (but not bright) tele and donut bokeh! Just drop by, he might have it.


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