Dec 172013
 

I visited the Merseyside Maritime Museum at Liverpool’s Albert Dock at the weekend and enjoyed a fascinating couple of hours learning about Merseyside’s maritime history.

The Second World War’s Battle of The Atlantic figured prominently and the displays charted Britain’s struggle against the threat posed by Germany’s U-Boats and surface fleet of pocket battleships.

The term “pocket battleship” flashed through my mind when I called in at my local camera store and handled one of Sony’s  latest compact system cameras — the Sony A7 and A7R.

The A7 and A7R are diminutive cameras, when compared in size with the likes of the Canon 5D Mark III and Nikon D800, but offer the same kind of fire power as their larger cousins – a full-frame sensor, with 24 Megapixels for the A7 and 36 Megapixels for the A7R, as well as a weather-sealed body. Pocket battleship therefore seems an apt description.

Sony A7R camera and  Zeiss lens.

Sony A7R and Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 lens. Picture courtesy of Imaging- Resource. com

The A7R also differs from the A7 in that it dispenses with the anti-aliasing filter for greater resolution and so is on a par with the Nikon D800E. But whereas the Nikon weighs in at 31.75oz, the A7R is only 16.4oz, almost half the weight of the former and both cameras are made from magnesium alloy. In size, the D800E measures 146 x 123 x 82mm, while the A7R is only 127 x 94 x 48mm.

While it may be hard to get your head round those dimensions, I can say the A7 and A7R are not that much bigger in size than a Ricoh GR, although they are roughly twice the weight. They really do have to be seen and handled to appreciate just how small they are.

For me, and photographers of my generation, the presence of an EVF is something that provokes a sharp intake of breath, although it is the direction in which camera manufacturers seem to be heading.

I tried a Fujifilm XPro-1 a few weeks back, Fujifilm has a generous offer until January 31, 2014, and it was most definitely worth checking out. But as I peered through the EVF, something just didn’t feel right. The XPro-1 does come with the option to switch between an EVF and OVF. The latter was worse as I could see the barrel of the lens protruding into my field of vision. My left eye is my shooting eye and for people whose right eye is the stronger, it may not be such a problem. I don’t know. I only have the one pair of eyes.

The EVF of the Sony A7 is quite a different proposition. I could live with the A7’s EVF and no doubt in time become comfortable with it.  Full marks go to Sony for their EVF.

In some ways, a Sony digital camera should have been a natural progression for me. My film SLR was, and still is, a Minolta XD7 and we all know that Sony benefited from Minolta’s digital camera technology when it absorbed the camera–making arm of Konica Minolta.

I am also a big fan of Carl Zeiss lenses and Sony has a partnership with Carl Zeiss dating back to 1996.

Hitherto, Sony never quite had the product that I was looking for that would allow me to benefit from their Zeiss lenses. With the launch of the A7/A7R cameras, all that has changed. A Sony A7R and a Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 lens now head my wish list, displacing the illustrious Canon 5D Mark III.  And in the fullness of time, I am sure Zeiss will be extending their range of FE mount lenses for the A7/A7R and its successors.

A recent review called the A7/A7R a game-changer on a par with Apple’s introduction of the iPhone and Ford’s development of the Mustang. I can fully identify with that analogy.

Michael Reichmann at Luminous Landscape has already called the A7R’s sensor the best in the world and the A7/A7R is garnering favorable reviews.

Is it the perfect camera? Of course not, no such product exists. Some reviewers are not overly impressed by the autofocus or shutter sound; others moan about battery life, although I think some reviewers are a little unrealistic in their expectations; and over on Fred Miranda someone has noticed strange orange-peel effects when an image is magnified 11x. Angels dancing on a pin springs to mind but each to their own. One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

For a camera to challenge the dominance of Canon in my thoughts speaks volumes for what the A7/A7R offers. I am impressed and it takes a lot to impress me.

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Oct 242013
 

When baby boomers like myself gather together and talk photography, we often lament the demise of SLR cameras in terms of their size and weight. As we get older, the appeal of lugging a DSLR and the lenses to cover all photographic eventualities becomes less and less; some of us can no longer cope with such a weight of photographic equipment because of health concerns.

When Olympus announced the retro OM-D EM-5 last year, it caused considerable interest among us oldies, many of whom cut their photographic teeth with the original Olympus OM-1. But the OM-D is a micro four-thirds camera and we want what we had in the past, namely full-frame capability but without the accompanying bulk.

I have long failed to understand why camera manufacturers seemed reluctant to offer a full-frame DSLR based on the design of the old SLR cameras.

If rumor is to be believed, it appears Nikon are about to step up to the plate and offer a DSLR based on the classic Nikon FM2 design.

New Nikon camera rumored to be based on the Nikon FM2

Return of a classic? Picture courtesy of Nikon Rumors

I can imagine many older Nikon shooters are salivating at the prospect.

I have never shot with a Nikon but started my journalism career when the press camera of choice was always a Nikon. When I had to replace my gear following a burglary, I toyed with the idea of going with Nikon but the Minolta XD-7 offered more bangs for the buck and also felt better in my hands. I had been shooting with a Minolta SRT 303 for several years previously. If only Minolta were still in business. I am sure they would have already delivered what a great many photographers want in a camera.

According to Nikon Rumors, the new Nikon will feature:

 Nikon FM2 design

16.2MP 36 x 23.9 full-frame sensor, the same as the D4

2016-pixel RGB image sensor

Expeed 3 processor

Native ISO range: 100-12,800 (incl. ISO 50 and ISO 108,200)

9-cell framing grid display

3D color matrix metering II

Standard F mount

3.2″ LCD screen

Pentaprism viewfinder

5.5 fps for up to 100 shots

SD memory card

Battery: EN-EL14

Weight: 765g

Dimensions: 143.5 x 110 x 66.5mm

It will come with a new AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens

NO video capability

The last point is particularly pleasing. A great many older photographers could happily live without the video capability that is seen as a vital ingredient of DSLR cameras these days.

Mark Dubovoy writing for Luminous Landscape states:

Many photographers who are not interested in video (present company included) are beginning to get quite annoyed at the concept of convergence because it burdens them with additional complexity in their cameras with a series of functions and buttons that are completely unnecessary for still photography.

“To make matters worse, often times the video functions spell disaster in terms of accidental activation and battery consumption, as well as compromises that result in bad ergonomics for still photography. It can also make the cameras and lenses more expensive because of additional design work; buttons, dials and electronics; additional software; more expensive focusing or zoom motors for lenses; etc.”

I am glad to see that I am not alone in wanting a camera that does not include video capability. If that view makes me a photography dinosaur then so be it.

It would appear the message expressed by many older photographers has finally gotten through to at least one major camera manufacturer and here is me thinking only Ricoh designed cameras with photographers in mind.

An announcement about the new Nikon is expected in the first week of November, with November 6 being touted as a possible date.

Will Nikon go where others have feared to tread? It looks to be that way.