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Sony and Photocomment photowalk

Sony Alpha SLT-A77V
Sony Alpha SLT-A77V

On the 31st of August I was at a Photocomment and Sony photowalk in Pretoria, I find these useful and educative with the added bonus of being exposed to new gear, in this case the Sony Alpha SLT-A77V.

This was not my first time in the company of Sony Alpha SLT-A77V but it was my first time with it and very little more. Being forced to use a camera one learns a lot about it’s character, the Alpha 77 is a serious camera that does not get the attention it deserves. With functions like panorama, built in GPS, 12 fps, 3 way tiltable screen, a 24.3MP APS sensor and 19 point of full time continuous focus goodness and every thing else you expect from a modern DSLR, how can it be ignored?

Additionally it is lighter than expected with excellent results in any modes, what could possibly be wrong with it? The Sony SLT software is a bit clunky, the menu could be easier to use, but this applies to the entire range of Sony cameras. The only other issue I have with it is the Electronic Viewfinder, I find it dated, it does not really represent a true refection of the final image, the Sony NEX-6 Electronic Viewfinder is far superior in my opinion.

Short of these minor issues, the camera performed well, it easily competes in the professional space with no shortage of lenses and it is well priced – I found it for about R14 000 with a Sony 16-50mm f/2.8 lens.

I enjoyed my time with it.

Sony Alpha SLT-A77V samples

ISO, under used and misunderstood

Cape Town at night
Hand-held Panoramic of Cape Town at night
Little to no noise at ISO12800 with the Canon EOS 5D MarkIII and a little stitching.

Photography is about compromises and ISO is no different, however the last camera generations have improved the odds in our favour dramatically.

Firstly, what is ISO? In short and without going into the technical details, it is the measurement related to the sensitivity of the sensor to light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive to light the sensor becomes and that is good. However, there is a price, as we raise the ISO, the image gets noisier or, in film terms, grainier and that is not good.

In the film day’s, the baseline ISO is 100 and is generally the accepted best quality image standard, as of ISO 800 many older generation cameras get noisy and rarely usable beyond ISO 1600. This caused people to avoid it, even ignore it as a tool, however the last few years saw leaps and bounces in this department, ISO 12800 is now commonplace and has become usable. This allows us to shoot in darker places with fewer worries about image quality.

The most efficient way to use this is to find out what the maximum acceptable ISO setting is for your camera is, to do that I suggest that you shoot a few photos in a relatively dark place and decide for yourself what is acceptable to you. Once that has been done, as light vanishes you can raise your ISO until you reach your maximum or simply set it to your maximum when you know that you will be in dark places. This will allow you to shoot at faster shutter speed in darker situations, this is important to get sharper images.

Additionally, your camera may have an automatic ISO setting, I set mine to automatic with the maximum limit set to my maximum acceptable ISO, this allows me to focus on the other more important elements of photography such as depth of field, shutter speed and composition. It is also very handy in conditions where the light changes often and without warning, like tracking wildlife in changing ground condition, shade to light and back. It ensures that the photograph is as intended as opposed to photos that are too dark or too light and cannot be corrected.

In tandem with image stabilization, a higher ISO setting may allow you to shot a scene at night without the need of a tripod or a low light shot without the need of a flash. Noise at high ISO is inevitable, however modern software may come to the rescue. Software such as Abobe Camera RAW (ACR), Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and even Canon’s own software will help to reduce the noise without sacrificing image quality.

ISO is no longer something to fear but rather a tool to use and sometimes abuse.

Antique phone
Antique phone
pushing the limits of ISO at 6400 with the Caonn EOS 7D

 

Chandellier, Canon Powershot N
Chandellier, Canon Powershot N.
You can clearly see the noise at ISO1600 on this photograph.

Hands on review: Canon EOS 700D

Canon EOS 700D
Canon EOS 700D

Being the brother of the Canon EOS 100D by sharing much of its components and features the Canon EOS 700D is distinguishing itself by adding features I wish the 100D had. The first of these is a better handle that does not need small hands and the ability to add a battery grip. It is not a heavy or cumbersome camera by any length and feels like it’s solidly made.

It also has a 3 inch touch swivel screen, my biggest problem with swivel as opposed to tilt is the general handling of the camera changes when it is opened, the camera also takes twice the horizontal space. However, it feels solid and has the advantage of being functional in both portrait and landscape shooting and I found the touch screen is as addictive as ever.

My biggest surprise by far was the low light handling, it produced far less noise than I expected in both RAW and JPG. The AUTO mode (Scene Intelligent Auto) seems to select the “right” approach and setting in most conditions making it a perfect occasional and novice camera.

Big pipe organ
Big pipe organ – in low light conditions at ISO3200

The colour reproduction of the 18Mp sensor is surprisingly accurate and is not afraid of high contrast situations.
A lot has to be said of the new kit lens, the Canon EF 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS ST, it keeps surprising me. As seen below, short depth of field with clarity is easily achievable add that to its video prowess and it makes it a very desirable lens that easily competes with it’s own bigger brothers. This zoom lens paired the Canon EOS 700D makes this combination a strong contender in this space.

Spokes
Spokes

I tested the video and as with the 100D the results were very good, I will not post it because, unbeknown to me, it has a lot of copyrighted material. Fell free to have a look at the Canon EOS 100D video test here which yeilded similar results.

As with most kits most people will find the 18-55mm kit lens does not always satisfy zoom needs and I recommend that a 55-250 or a 70-300 be considered as part of the kit. Most retailers will have these in stock.

More photographs from my Canon EOS 700D review.

The Canon EOS 700D is available in South Africa from R7000 for the body, 18-55 kits are from R7800 and 18-55 + 55-250 kits from R9900.
Test camera kindly supplied by Canon South Africa.