The Sony Generation

As a dedicated Canon shooter for the last 25 years and “digitally” since the Digital Rebel was released over 10 years ago, I have loved working with my Canon equipment. Every time a new upgrade is released, I can’t help but get it.

The last major purchase for me was the Canon 5d MkIII and it’s been an incredible camera, powerful, well designed and completely customized now, finally… to my needs. Yet, as the years roll forward, everything seems heavier to me. I start to think about which lens to leave home, not “how can I cram one more lens into this bag” so weight is an issue.

Sony RX100About 2 years ago, I picked up a Sony RX100 camera that held promise as a super high quality micro-portable camera. It was certainly small, almost as small as my favorite pocket camera, the Canon S120.

Except it had a large, 20 megapixel sensor. I decided to get that Sony right before my trip to Jordan. I found the menu structure confusing and certain functions; like shooting in RAW didn’t work with other functions, like shooting an HDR image.

Unbelievable Low Light Quality from a Compact Camera!

Unbelievable Low Light Quality from a Compact Camera!

But I was impressed with its low light performance. The image of The Tea Man (above) was shot at a camp fire, at ISO 12,000 and with Sony’s image clarity technology, I was shocked at how well this came out. But for my other work, it wasn’t very useful, and still way too complicated for my taste. It felt like this camera was really a computer with an awkward interface to a sensor.

I was about to sell it when I had an idea. Why not convert it to InfraRed and see how it does? So that’s what I did. I converted the camera to IR and I took it with me a year later to New Zealand. If you’ve never been to New Zealand, it’s too beautiful to describe, you should go, look at my gallery here first of course and then go.

The Perfect IR Camera

IR landscapeSince I didn’t need any of the computer part of the camera, just the converted sensor and the manual control of shutter speed and aperture, I found a use for this megapixel mini-monster.

Flight1Even from a private plane, shaking as it was, hand held no less, this camera performed at a much higher level than I would have imagined. I’ve converted many a camera over the years to Infrared, this is – by far – the best of all.

 The Grand Divide

I found a use for my Sony RX100 as a light weight IR camera and my Canon 5D Mk III still had its place as my high fidelity, time exposure, night photography tool. It’s full frame sensor and incredible long exposure at ISO 100 noise reduction AND smooth, velvet like skies were not to be beat.

Now, back to my problem. How to reduce weight. And yes, there’s a birthday present in this story. My darling sweetheart Carol bought me (surprise, surprise) a new camera for my birthday, a Sony A6000. This is an APS-C size sensor with an incredible 24 megapixel sensor.

As you might guess, this was a candidate to take the place of my 5d MkIII and reduce my shoulder pain. The A6000 has a completely redesigned menu system which is far better than earlier Sony cameras, so right away I liked it. But unfortunately, Sony has overcomplicated the menus with too many useless options yet again.

Note to Sony: Let the photographer control the camera and get all those useless picture modes and options out of the way. For reference, see Canon 5d MkIII’s menus. Another note to Sony, what about custom functions? It’s HARD to switch modes in the dark!

Sony A6000 Hand-held, ISO 3200, wide open F3.5 1/20 sec

Sony A6000 Hand-held, ISO 3200, wide open F3.5 1/20 sec

As you can see, the A6000 has some wonderful attributes; high resolution, light weight and well made. It’s not very expensive, about $700 for the “kit” which includes a nice short-range zoom.

I could go on and on about it, but there are lots of reviews if this camera on the web already. Here’s the point I am making. The era of the large SLR may be coming to an end. Naturally, there will always be a place for that type of camera but as these more miniature cameras show up in 2nd and 3rd generation releases, it will be harder and harder to ignore them.

You may have seen stories about this new micro-four-thirds camera system, they are available from multiple manufacturers. They are small for sure but their sensor size is 1/2 that of a full frame camera. While excellent for some applications, they won’t replace my Canon 5d MkIII and that’s what I am eventually looking for.

What Should I do?

If you are reading this article and have an older generation camera you were thinking of upgrading, check out the Sony cameras I mentioned in this post. I personally would go for the A7r if you can afford it, but if not the A6000 is excellent for many different types of photography.

If you can afford to rent, try them both; the A7r and the Sony A6000 and see what you think, I doubt you will be disappointed with either one.

Upgrading to a Full Frame Sensor in a Small Package

Part of why I called this article “The Sony Generation” is because Sony has really leapfrogged the rest of the industry. The new Sony A7r really is a full blown SLR equivalent in a smaller package. The 36 megapixel sensor produces stunning images and the low light performance is spectacular. They have really leap-frogged the rest.

Sony A7r

I didn’t buy one, but I want one. This is the 1st generation and I should wait. There are still some things my Canon does better, even at just 22 megapixels, than this new Sony. Yet, it’s very temping to change brands and go with lighter weight, higher quality images as some of my photographer buddies have done.

What do you think?

Are you going to switch?

Have you already done so?

Leave me a comment and let me know what you are doing.

On my next trip, I will rent one and I will report back.

 

 

 

The Last New Zealand Post

Queenstown Harbor from Helicopter

Queenstown Harbor from Helicopter

On January 3rd 2014, I set out with my friend Ron Rosenstock in the midst of a severe winter blizzard, that shut down the airport, to travel to New Zealand. Not knowing what to expect I traveled in mystery. I left knowing that I would photograph for 2 whole weeks, and that was enough.

The trip is over, I am back home, I’ve returned  having visited a beautiful country with stories to tell and pictures to show. It was worth it, a lifetime experience.

I made some wonderful images. But, you decide for yourself, check out the gallery!

 

 

 

 

Queenstown Stories

Submerged Trees

So a Hobbit walked into a bar…. No.

There were three guys at the Prancing Pony and one disappeared…. No.

Or how about a walk among the Ents? If you are not following me then you didn’t see The Lord of the Rings, which has blessed this country with an everlasting fame. Today I looked up and saw the place where Isengarten was mythically located. But right behind that beautiful forest was a river and there were these sunken trees, you see… Never mind.

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You’d Never Know….

Trees and Mountains-3

It was New Zealand.

It’s just another beautiful place. I’m starting day 9 of a 15 day trip and I am noticing that my thoughts are more about being here than being home. It happened yesterday as I realized my mind was more focused on my surroundings than on my inner world. The inner world is quiet now, the outer world is bigger, brighter and more sparkly than before.

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To See

Flight1

I don’t know how to describe the feeling of low flight through incredible landscape and to see what is possible through the eyes of an infrared camera, it really is just so different. On Thursday I had the privilege of being invited to take a 50 minute flight though in the Mt. Cook area of South Island, New Zealand. Because of the IR effect, you can see through haze for miles.

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Eternity

Ocean Rock

I don’t think I can say much more than the title of this post. When I arrived at Maukatia Bay Beach, with it’s black sands and ancient stones, I just couldn’t imagine how long this must have been here. It was the eternity that held my interest as I watched the surf roll in and out, on and on, forever.

New Zealand and the Volcanoes

EruptionsIt’s no secret that much of this area is an active volcano zone which is part of the “ring of fire” throughout Asia. New Zealand is more active than people think. Today’s visit to Waimangu Volcanic Valley is one of the world’s newest geothermal systems, active for just around 100 years. The rich colors which permeate the surface come from different ores, fungus and algae which thrive on the hot springs and salts.

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The Story of Maori

The Spirit of Ngatoroirangi

The Spirit of Ngatoroirangi

What you are looking at is a pattern the size of a man, formed in the soil of the volcanic geyser field I came across today in my travels.

The earliest Maori stories speak of a man named Ngatoroirangi, a tohunga (high priest) who guided the Te Arawa canoe to the land from Hawaiki, the ancestral homeland of Maori. Anxious to explore, he travelled east from Maketu, down the coast until he reached what is now known as the Tarawera River. Naming it Te Awa-o-te-atua, he turned inland and followed it upstream until he reached Ruawahia, the central peak of Mount Tarawera. Here he had a remarkable experience.

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A Quiet Place, A Good Start

NZ ChurchI sometimes wonder why I start my trips with a visit to a church. I am not religious in that regard. I find they are always beautiful spaces and it always feels good to walk into any religious center and just feel the vibe. Mosques, Temples, Synagogues and forests work equally well.

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Gone!

 

Boston Blizzard-3Like escaping just as the police break in to raid the joint, I made it out of Boston the morning of January 3rd, after the worst blizzard of the year unfolded it’s fury on the entire east coast.

Some would think I was lucky, blessed even as my friend Ron and I snuck away before the blizzard noticed we were gone.

That day 4000 flights were cancelled, the airport was “supposed to” be closed until noon. Thousands of people were stranded. Yet, Ron and I made our way to the United gate and checked in to a flight, on time, unaffected by the rest of the world around us.

Is this the Twilight Zone, where we slip through a portal; a rip in reality to get on a flight leaving with it’s final destination 1/2 way around the globe? Maybe a wormhole to New Zealand while the rest of the world struggled under the weight of a nasty blizzard? From 9 below zero to seventy two degrees, trapped in transport for 25 hours, arriving finally was completely uneventful.

But here we are. land of the Kiwi. First stop; Auckland New Zealand and a cheap hotel good enough for a shower and a meal before the touring begins.

Even as I write this short but 1st entry into what I hope will be a tale of travels that lasts several weeks, I think of all I left back home and I miss my sweetheart and my daughter already.

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