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New camera test shots and wittering

I have been experimenting with my new Sony A5000.  At the moment I'm sticking to using the lens that came with it, a 16-50mm pancake lens.  It is absurdly small and light wearing that lens - very pocketable, at least into a coat pocket.

One downside to that lens is that it has a special small lens cap - much smaller than would fit any of my other lenses - which inevitably I am going to lose because it has no way to attach it to the camera.   The other downside is that it's a smaller lens with a minimum 3.5 aperture, so it doesn't get quite so much light to the sensor as I am used to with my legacy lenses.   I'm also having to get used to the screen: since for the last 4 years I've been using a camera with a screen that makes everything look a bit too dark, I keep thinking that this new one is overexposing things that are actually OK.

I was pleased to catch this shot, but sort of disappointed too, because it would definitely have been crisper if I'd caught it with a manual focus lens focussed precisely over the logs.  This lens is struggling a bit, I think because it's trying to use software to identify what to focus on rather than me telling it. This is exactly what I find a bit frustrating about autofocus.  Autofocus doesn't know that I'm about to call a 30mph dog into the middle of the shot.   To be fair, it was a bit dark that morning which doesn't help.

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Whereas I'm not honestly sure HOW to get a shot like this one more right.   The previous photo was a setup: I stood behind the log ready to take the shot, and then called Rosie over, knowing that probably she would choose to jump.  (well, eventually.  She kept me waiting a while, then shot off like a rocket...)   Whereas this next one, I was focussing on Brythen posing heroically among the heather in his red jumper with Rosie in the background, when suddenly a rabbit shot right past my foot and Brythen went after it.  So I didn't know he was suddenly going to be moving fast towards me and therefore it's not all that surprising that the camera very slightly missed its focus on his face.

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This one isn't bad, although I cropped it, it had more foreground.  I don't think I'd have caught this with the legacy lenses as again, I didn't know they were going to do it (although if I had had an old lens on that had happened to be focussed right and got lucky, it would be crisper on the foreground)

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The lens  seems more comfortable focussing in better light with dogs going sideways rather than straight at the camera but somehow I feel this shot would have been better with my ancient 50mm lens although I really can't put my finger on why.

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It may be about depth of field.  My default way of taking photos tends to be to whack the lens as wide open as it will go, and use the fastest shutter speed available.  I take a lot of photos at F2.8 or even less.    This gives me a nice crisp foreground and a blurred background, and lots of light.

Whereas, auto settings always seem to end up taking photos using much higher f numbers and lower shutter speed for some reason: even if you use a sports mode, they will try to use a shutter speed that seems insanely slow sometimes, and I'm not sure why.

I'm not really sure what to do with Fnumbers above about 5ish.  I should really try to work out what those are useful for: they must have a purpose, or surely they would not put them on the lenses :-D.

Also I need to read the manual and find out what all the HDR functions actually do.  This is my first camera that can do HDR!  Expect some terrible HDR photos until I get bored with that...

I do really like the 16mm wide angle though, you can get so much into the picture!

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It seems to do a not entirely terrible job as a macro lens too.  I think that the water inside the rotten twig has frozen and expanded, and as the water has expanded through tiny holes in the twig it's created a tiny tracery of ice?  Or is it something else?  It was definitely frozen.

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( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
puddleshark
26th Jan, 2015 10:35 (UTC)
Ooh, I do like that wide angle shot! And the colours in all the pictures look really good.

I have the same problems with the Canon when trying to take action shots of Max on a darkish day, even though the Canon is HUGE. The autofocus really struggles to get a crisp shot of a brown spaniel bouncing through the brown heather. I have to get Max in the very centre of the shot if I'm going to have any chance of him being in focus.
bunn
26th Jan, 2015 17:16 (UTC)
I think brown is particularly difficult too. I seem to remember I had a camera a few years ago which took excellent photos of Az, but never managed to get Mollydog in focus, and a photographer told me it was because it was easier for the software to get a lock on a grey face.
king_pellinor
26th Jan, 2015 13:42 (UTC)
"...it has no way to attach it to the camera"

Says the person who sends aid parcels of sugru to people...
bunn
26th Jan, 2015 17:14 (UTC)
Well, OK. On my old camera I rigged up an anchor for a lens cap using a bit of copper wire and some old fishing line (I could have used sugru, but I didn't). But that camera only had one size of lens cap, so one cap fit any lens I happened to have attached to it.

The thing about this lens cap is that it doesn't fit my other lenses, so if I make a thing to tie it to this camera, I'll still need another sized lens cap if I use a different lens.

I suppose I could tie both big and small lens caps to fishing line and hence to the camera, but it might get a bit tangly, and then I wouldnt' have a lens cap that would fit the small lens when I wasn't using it so it might get dusty.

perhaps the answer is some sort of dismountable lens cap anchor.

boggyb
26th Jan, 2015 22:08 (UTC)
This lens is struggling a bit, I think because it's trying to use software to identify what to focus on rather than me telling it. This is exactly what I find a bit frustrating about autofocus.

The old Olympus C-3030 compact camera that I used for many years had a feature where with the shutter at half-press, I could press another button to get it to recalculate the exposure. This was quite handy when trying to get it to focus on something off-centre as it didn't have multipoint focussing!

I've yet to find this on a slightly less old Panasonic DMC-FZ20, but that has a different solution - it has a focus mode switch with auto, manual and one-shot positions. The latter does an immediate auto-focus, then goes back to manual mode and won't re-focus until I move the switch again.

auto settings always seem to end up taking photos using much higher f numbers and lower shutter speed for some reason: even if you use a sports mode, they will try to use a shutter speed that seems insanely slow sometimes, and I'm not sure why.

The Olympus didn't have any extra modes so I often ended up running it in aperture-priority mode to get the shutter speed I wanted while still letting it pick a sensible overall exposure. Sometimes I dig out an even older Nikon F-301 film camera and that I almost always run in P-HI (which uses a faster shutter speed than the normal program mode) or A.

I'm not really sure what to do with Fnumbers above about 5ish. I should really try to work out what those are useful for: they must have a purpose, or surely they would not put them on the lenses :-D.

They're for cheating and not focussing at all :)

I do really like the 16mm wide angle though, you can get so much into the picture!

Nice!
bunn
29th Jan, 2015 18:53 (UTC)
Yes, I can get it to recalculate the exposure.

I just find it so enfuriating that I'm trying to focus on one thing, and it starts making its own decisions! The nice thing about the manual focus lenses is that they have no intelligence and just focus on EXACTLY the thing you tell them to, first time, every time.

I imagine the camera muttering resentfully to itself about this :-D
lindahoyland
27th Jan, 2015 06:03 (UTC)
Great shots.
bunn
29th Jan, 2015 18:51 (UTC)
Thank you!
carmarthen
28th Jan, 2015 18:03 (UTC)
Well, in a DSLR, f-stops above 5 are for landscapes, wildlife, macro (where f11 takes your razor-thin DOF to three razors or so), and sometimes architectural (I use f8-11 almost exclusively, unless I really really want a very shallow DOF or the lighting is poor and it's not a long exposure situation), or sometimes taking long exposures when you don't have an ND filter or you want light stars at night, although there are tradeoffs with diffraction. F-stops on compact cameras work differently, and I have no idea about mirrorless.

I don't know anything about your new camera specifically, but if it has an aperture priority mode, that might solve some of your problems. Full auto is almost always going to pick a stupid aperture/shutter speed combo. Aperture priority is what most nature photographers I know use, since it's the fastest way to get the look you want (DOF) while dealing with changing light (automatic shutter speed adjustment). The same should apply to moving doggies as eagles. :-)

If it has interchangeable lenses, is there a viewfinder and a manual focus option that doesn't require using the screen (manual focus with screens really works best with a tripod and stationary subject)? It is also probably possibly to lock focus/exposure by pressing the shutter halfway and then recomposing and waiting for your moving critter to move before taking the photo.
bunn
29th Jan, 2015 18:50 (UTC)
Thank you! I have a tendency to take landscapes by just focussing on infinity, but I should experiment with using higher f-stops instead, at least when there's a bit more light. Light is my bugbear really, I am so often in woods on the North side of a hill, which has definitely contributed to my tendency to keep the lens wide open, even now I have a camera with a decently sized sensor...

I used to use aperture priority a lot, but I found that even that way, my autofocus lenses did not focus reliably where I wanted them to, and I got frustrated with them. Whereas using manual focus, I can focus on the place where I expect the animals to be, if not there yet. I tend to use full manual for everything now but I should probably try aperture priority again and see how well it does on the new camera.

There is no viewfinder on this model - I economised on that because I tend not to use it. But because it is mirrorless, you can use the screen with a manual focus assist option to see in detail what you are focussing on which works fairly well.

Basically it Just Seems Wrong that I find i can get photos closer to what I want with lenses from the 1980s. I feel with all the intelligence in a new camera, it should be able to read my mind!
carmarthen
29th Jan, 2015 21:46 (UTC)
Well, there are different schools of thought on landscapes - but that's why Srs Landscape Photographers (of which I am not one) tend to use tripods. The one thing to keep in mind with digital is that you get diffraction softening at small apertures (usually smaller than f13), although that may or may not bother you, especially if you're not the kind of person who zooms in to 100% to check focus.

Autofocus HAS improved a lot, and it depends on the camera - you might want to see if it has different settings (on sub-pro cameras, usually the center autofocus point is the most reliable). I routinely get perfectly sharp photos with autofocus, but I also tend to take and toss a lot of photos - and the difference in autofocus reliability between my old kit lens and my new telephoto is vast. I don't trust my eyes as much as the camera, unfortunately, although getting a camera with a brighter viewfinder helped and I do use manual for macro. But some people are just more comfortable with manual in general. And old lenses are often much better quality than comparable kit lenses now!

I think all that intelligence in a new camera is helpful only up to a certain point, and then it's more stuff you need to learn to figure out how to get the camera to do what you want.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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