Canon adds another(lame) mirrorless camera.

Canon just announced the M50, their latest entry into the mirrorless camera market. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Canon for the past several years. They seem to deliberately cripple their cameras. Who knows what the real reason is, but market segmentation and dribbling out features to keep customers on a constant upgrade cycle are likely the main reasons.

For example, look at the 4K video. Canon makes a camera that delivers excellent 4K, but it’s the top of the line model(1DxMark2) that weighs a ton and has a price to match. Or alternatively, you could pick up the 5Dmark4, still a pricey body, but it gives you 4K video. However, it tacks on a crop factor that delivers lower quality.

How about cameras with fast frame rates? The 1DxMark2 will give you 14fps, but if it’s out of your price range, you can settle for the 5Dmark4 with slightly better resolution, but only 7 fps.

Canon never seems to give you something without taking something away if you buy anything but the top body.

A simple formula I have for calculating data flow is frames per second times sensor megapixels. The 1Dx clocks 280mp/sec, the 5DMark4, 210mp/sec, and the 7Dmark2 gives us 200mp/sec. Why is that important? To me, it tells me how much data the camera can process. What if we compared to Sony? Let’s see, their entry-level camera, the A6000 gives 11fps at 24 megapixels, so we get 264mp/sec. Hmm, a three-year-old budget camera provides as much throughput as Canon’s top of the line?

What about Sony’s latest? The A7R3 with 42 megapixels and 10 fps gives 420 mp/sec!

So why did I call the M50 lame?

Canon gives it 4k, but it’s severely crippled(a crop camera with another crop for the 4k), I’d be surprised if it’s any different in quality than my iPhones 4k!

They offer a “silent” shutter, but it only works in one mode. The camera has a frame rate of 7fps, but the buffer will only handle one second of shooting. They put in eye detection, but it only works in single shot autofocus(what’s the point then?), and finally, an underpowered battery.

After all the marketing hoopla about the new processor and raw formats, they delivered a pretty lame camera!

Sony finally hits the big leagues…sort of.

As the saying goes, “the Third time’s the charm,” so it goes with Sony and their latest iteration of full-frame mirrorless cameras. I own the original Sony A7R, the follow-up, the A7R2, and now the A7R3. The original camera was groundbreaking. It was the first time a large sensor was jammed into a small form factor, and the sensor was top notch being found in Nikon’s superb D800 series of cameras. But the A7R suffered from three serious flaws, shutter vibration was significant at certain shutter speeds(never mind what pundits say elsewhere, it is a problem), battery life was miserable, and the camera was slow at everything.
The A7R2 was a nice upgrade, and Sony addressed several of the early problems, but they didn’t upgrade the battery, and I always worried about battery life(sometimes only a couple hundred images).
Last year Sony introduced the A9, their first camera that challenged the big boys, Canon and Nikon in the high-end sport/action camera realm. They fixed several operational issues such as poor battery life that plagued the A7 series, and the autofocus speed and accuracy are now top-notch.
With the A7R3 and now, the recently released A73, have the upgraded battery and “battery anxiety” is no more. The top three bodies, A9, A7R3 and A73 all share the same battery, top notch autofocus, and sensor performance.
For sports and action camera we have the A9, the A7R3 is an “all-rounder” as it can do action and high-resolution work, and the new A73 fills in the bottom end as a great lower cost alternative that gives up little. The A73 is priced aggressively, and I’d argue it’s the best full frame body available in its class(compared to the likes of Canon 6Dmark2, Nikon D750 and I think, an even better choice than the Canon 5Dmark4).
So why the qualifier in the blog title? Despite the excellent camera selection and performance, there’s one area where Sony is missing the boat, and that’s in lenses. Or I should say, in long lenses. They’ve nailed the shorter ranges with excellent optics, but they have not filled out the long end at all. They have a superb 100-400 that performs well even with a 1.4x teleconverter, but that’s not good enough for serious sports and wildlife work.
When Sony introduced the superb A9, with top autofocus, they aimed it squarely at the Canon 1Dx2 and Nikon D5. But someone forgot that the camera needed something to go on the front of it for sports shooters to use it with,  and a 100-400 f5.6 doesn’t cut it for action in dimly lit stadiums. Sony has said a 400mmf2.8 lens is in the works and slated for release later this year, but it should have been introduced at the same time as the A9. Releasing it eighteen months later is just dumb and takes away a lot of the spin that the A9 generated.
The other category of shooter that’s been ignored with the dearth of long lenses are the wildlife shooters. A 400mmf2.8 is excellent, but it’s a big, heavy lens with a price to match.
There goes the advantage of beautiful small bodies!
Why not produce a 500mm or 600mm f5.6 lens? Lenses with a one stop slower aperture are far cheaper and simpler to build, losing one f-stop is not significant with the excellent high ISO performance of their cameras, and the weight and size savings compliments the small cameras.
The important photography show known as Photokina occurs this fall, and you can bet Canon and Nikon will come to the show with mirrorless options. Sony has had a nice run to get the cameras right before they show up to spoil their party, but lenses lock people into a camera system and they are missing a lot of what the sport and wildlife shooter needs. Cameras come and go, but glass sticks around.
Sony’s like the villagers kicking the sleeping dragon, eventually it wakes up and you need to be ready on all fronts.

Bokeh test

One of the downsides to shooting with smaller sensors shows up in Bokeh, or the quality and ability to render out of focus areas pleasingly. My favorite wide aperture lens of all time is the Canon 85mm f1.2 Version II for full format and the Panasonic/Leica Nocticron 42.5mm f1.2 for m43. Using the Nocticron on a micro 43 sensor gives a field of view equivalent of 85mm. So by shooting in the same spot, with about the same angle and framing, you can get an idea of the difference between a large format sensor, in this case, the Sony A7R3, and the Olympus OM-D E-m1 Mark2(god I hate Olympus naming conventions).

I deliberately choose a very dull subject matter to illustrate the dramatic difference. The Canon 85mmf1.2 can take something quite drab and generate interest, simply due to the narrow depth of field and quality of the out of focus areas. The Olympus, despite the illusion of equivalence in FOV, is just no match.

So even though the FOV is equivalent, the lenses are not as one is an 85mm lens, and the other behaves as a 42.5mm lens would on a full frame camera. Here the smaller sensor has cropped the image by a factor of two, so we get the depth of field of a lens with half the focal length.

Therefore, if you want to get the narrow depth of field that full frame offers, but on an m43 system, you will need to pick a comparable focal length AND aperture. Of course, you will also need to back up to twice the distance of full frame to keep the FOV the same.

The comparable lenses don’t exist, but the Olympus 75mmf1.8 will get you close, and it’s a beauty.

_DSC2324OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAImage details – f1.2, Canon 85mm on top.

 

Olympus E-M1 MarkII

I’m going to do an extensive review of this camera. The micro four-thirds sensor format is a unique beast, and there is a fair bit of “bigger sensor” snobbery out there, so the m43 cameras tend to get ignored by the more prominent websites.

The considerable advantage of shooting m43 is the smaller lens and camera sizes, at least compared to Canon and Nikon which still cling to traditional brick sized DSLR sizes. Sony cameras have thrown a bit of a monkey wrench in the size advantage of m43 because they are full frame sensor but extraordinary small, rivalling m43 cameras.However, physics is physics and their lenses have to be big in order to cast a large enough image circle to the bigger sensors. M43 has no such disadvantage and you get in return, lenses that are much smaller. In addition, the smaller sensor provides an effective focal length “multiplier” effect so a 300mmf4 m43 lens gives the FOV of a 600mmf4 monster lens from Canon or Nikon without the 10-pound weight penalty.

Strangely, marketing for m43 largely ignores these advantages. I’ll be exploring this in great detail in future articles.

I live and breathe science fiction stories. I will be posting original short flash fiction type stories and periodically excerpts from three novels I’m currently working on. They will be mostly unedited, at least by a professional, and will be a bit rough around the edges since it is impossible to see apparent goof-ups in your own work. Those pesky little typos, word omissions, author intrusions and such, sneak in and without another set of eyes or beta readers, I’ll likely miss things.

But feel free to pipe in and point them out. I’ll fix them!

And, if anyone has a story they want to share, send it along to me, and I’d be happy to post it. Copyright will be yours and if Ridley Scott or Christopher Nolan purchase the movie rights, be sure to mention that you got your big break on PenandPixel.ca!! Ha Ha…

Sony A7RIII

A few days ago, I picked up the brand new Sony A7RIII mirrorless camera. I’m not going down the usual goat path of well-worn attribute lists that most review sites cover, instead, I hope to look at features that are home runs, fails and make comparisons with other gear in such a way that other places never do. To give you an idea of what I mean, consider this upcoming comparison.

I’ve wondered how a small sensor using pixel shift would compare to a native high-resolution sensor. The cameras I will analyze will be the Olympus E-M1 MarkII in high-resolution pixel shift mode to the Sony A7RIII at its native resolution. The question I hope to answer is, how well does the pixel shift of the smaller sensor of the Olympus compare to a state of the art full frame camera? Is it a blowout, or is the Olympus the “little camera that could” challenge the big boys?

Some would argue that it’s not a fair test, that the Sony full frame will have a two stop light gathering advantage and so on. Of course, I will not be using the same lenses for the comparison, and the Olympus pixel shift depends on no movement of the subject matter while it completes the pixel shift. So it will be a bit of apple to oranges comparison, but then again, there’s no other option, and if I was making prints or sending the images to an editor for consideration, they could care less about all that. How the picture looks on the screen is what’s important, and that’s the way it should be.

So in the end, I’m going to pick top quality glass for both systems and shoot those lenses at their best aperture values. Identical field of views and histograms optimized. I will take a bit different tack when I process the files. I will apply sharpening, and I will tune each image with a few quick adjustments, and then we’ll see how it looks!

Of course, there is that little aggravation about posting to the site, web compression and so on to deal with. I’ll try to post a small relevant jpg saved at maximum quality so the comparisons will be informative, but I’m not sure yet if WordPress will apply some other funky compression and wreck the detail. Hopefully, in the next few days, I’ll load some comparisons and see how it goes.

 

First Blog Post

Ok, so you may have noticed my site meanders a bit. Hopefully, by the time a lot of people find the site, this comment will seem out of place as I will have fixed everything by then. But in the meantime, you the early visitor, bear with me!

I hope to have new content a few times a week. I will be commenting on the state of the industry, camera brands, image editing, techniques and hopefully, cover topics that are largely ignored by other sites.