Saturday, December 29, 2012

More dance

I shot another modern dance performance in the same place as before when I had no cameras (waiting for my 580 to be fixed and A99 to be delivered) and used a Canon Rebel T2i instead.
The experience was of course much different. I did have a second photographer using a Canon EOS Kiss X3, shooting at the other edge of the stage as we were not allowed to cross the stage.
We both shot mostly in ISO 3200. I used the 50mm 1.4 lens, and Alon used a 50mm 1.8 lens. If you've ever been to a low budget performance in Israel, you'd know that they light the stage very little. They say it gives more character and drama to the shows.
Personally I think they should always have proper back lighting so we would not be forced to use these high ISO settings. Of course the lower-end Canon camera produced more grainy photos.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hanukkah in high ISO

Generally speaking, I don't like to take pictures in family or friends' parties of any kind. I like to participate in them like other people do, have fun, talk to people, dance, etc... I take photography seriously so it takes time out of my being a regular Joe.
However, from time to time I find myself in a situation where I have to take photos due to various reasons. For example, my mom pressured me into taking pictures at a family gathering for Hanukkah. She now has a few granddaughters and she really likes to have photos of them.
My family at 1600 ISO
It was a nighttime event and I knew the lighting won't be very good so I decided it was a good opportunity to test the high ISO capabilities of the A99. I shot at 1600, 3200, 4000 and 5000 ISOs, previously unheard of. Surprisingly enough , the results were not that bad, certainly better than the A580s. That said, the rules for good high ISO photography seem to be sort of the same as "regular" ISO. You still need to have contrast in order to have a nice image. You can have much less light to work with, but it stills needs to be pretty.
My brother and father at ISO 3200

My niece at 5000 ISO

 On a very different subject I now have an Indiegogo campaign for my upcoming feature film, so if you want to support a most revolutionary film, you can donate here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A little bit of Video

Finally got to use the A99 in a video job. I will probably not post the result video as it is not very pretty due to various reasons beyond my control.
 We shot a hand held scene where I switched focus manually between a newspaper showing some picture and a cellphone animating that picture using Augmented Reality technology. I used my 50mm 1.4 lens exclusively for this.
 I want to thank Sony for the really awesome  LCD on the A99 that lets me do these scenes where I can focus really well using just using the camera's screen. I did practice this quite a lot with the A580, and it works sort of the same and possibly slightly better with the A99.
The director of the video didn't like the crop factor of the video when using stabilization, so I had that switched off at some point.
I also discovered that, at least using the A99, some cellphones, including my Samsung Galaxy S3's display looked very flickery. I tried to change settings on both the A99 and the S3, including shutter speed, but nothing seemed to solve the problem.
 That said, the iPhone 3G and Samsung Galaxy S2 worked well for these shots. The iPad 2 was also a little bit flickerish, but slightly less than the Galaxy S3. I guess this is due to some new super AMOLED spec, with lower refresh rates that the screen traded for sharpness.

We also shot a few test scenes for my upcoming feature, "Spiral" but I will not post these either at this point. I did get a chance to use the flip to the front position of the LCD screen to both setup the shot without the need for a stand-in and to show the actresses how they looked in the shot.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wedding, that Dweem within a dweem

So, finally something serious to test my A99 with, a most joyous occasion.

The place where the wedding was shot was seriously darkish, so we had to rely once more on flash photography.

The A99 is simply fantastic in terms of color reproduction, much better than the competition in my mind, bust serious event photographers might still prefer the likes of Canon 5D MkIII due to the better high ISO performance.
We shot with both my new A99 and my now ancient A580, and of course the A99 produced much more stunning images.  That said, my Sony 20mm 1.8 lens doesn't seem to match well Full Frame, though it's supposed to. There is too much curving distortion at the edges, making people's heads look strange, and made me work furiously with Photoshop to try and compensate, and also make a lot of crops to negate this issue. It works better with the APS-C sized A580.
I also found out that 32GB cards are just not enough for the A99, even when you have two slots.  I should get a 64GB card, but the prices are a little bit steep right now. It is worth to invest in a speedy 90MB/s card as there is never a delay in writing RAW files, even when you shoot a bunch of them. Switching to a slower card, I found some delays when shooting multiple photos that I was used to with the A580.
Why not just buy multiple cards? SD cards sort of scare me. I wish cameras would just come with an internal 256GB or 512GB hard drive and Wifi capability for over-the-air backup.
What happened was that sooner rather than later, my first 32GB was full. I thought that the camera would switch to the next slot, or at least offer to, but it didn't. Instead, you have to go once again through the menus to switch to the other slot. Bare in mind that the playback and recording slots are not necessarily the same. This should definitely be addressed. When in a hurry, you don't want to go through menu options. It's bad enough that switching between focus modes is also a menu option. There should be a button to go through them. Maybe, when video recording is disabled when not in video mode, the record button should switch between focus modes.
So, verdict is - great camera, not that great a work when it comes to to human interface design. Please, Sony, next time you have a new camera, please send it to me so I can check it out and let you know how it performs in real life :)