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Sony a7RII: my opinion in 7 points

Yesterday, Sony announced 3 new cameras: the RX10 II, the RX100 IV, and the rumored a7R II, which we were waiting for and hearing about for a loooooong time.

Every camera is interesting and a huge step forward, but being a landscape photographer (mostly), I will tell you more about what excited me most about the a7RII, and especially in the light of long exposure photography.

11425539_846315538750965_7996445082006891878_o

Specs

  • 42MP Full-Frame Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor
  • BIONZ X Image Processor
  • 5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Stabilization
  • 399 Phase-Detect AF Points & 5 fps Burst
  • Internal 4K XAVC S Video & S-Log2 Gamma
  • Weather-Resistant Magnesium Alloy Body
  • Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC
  • ISO 102,400
  • no shutter blade motion
  • 3.5x faster than the A7r
  • A7rII focus is almost 40% faster than the one of the A7r
  • Shipping in August

Estimated Price: $3200 USD

 

My opinion in 7 points:

1- The 42MP sensor:

Very little info has surface about it, but given the quality of the previous Sony sensors (including those being used by other major camera manufacturers), I expect and HOPE for a high dynamic range, a very low noise level and limited number of hot pixels. Two of the most important aspects for long exposure.

sensor2- No low pass filter:

Back to one of the greatest features of the original a7R in my mind: the absence of a low pass filter. This feature will lead to crispier images, and you’ll see how sharp your lenses actually are…

filter

3- The 5-Axis SteadyShot Stabilization system:

It will give stabilization to EVERY lens available on the market, including 3rd party lenses. That’s right, you read it: EVERY lens available! From zoom lenses to 30+ years old medium format glass. From the latest Zeiss beauties to the highly technical and fully manual Canon tilt/shift lenses. And all of the others as well 🙂

Potentially, it also means that it is possible to move the sensor around in the camera body. What’s the point you’ll ask me, right? Well, if you move the sensor one way, take a shot, move it the other way, take a shot and stitch them together, that’s a pretty good way to increase the resolution of your image… sort of like doing a pano.

OISlenses

4- New silent shutter with no blade motion:

No noise!! How cool is that for genuine street and portrait photography?

Even better in my mind (very biased toward long exposure of course), no blade motion, meaning less vibrations in the system, meaning even crispier images!

shutter

5- Internal 4K:

Sure I’m a photographer, sure I normally don’t do video. But hey, 4K!! And no need for an external recorder, it does it all internally. So damn, I think I’ll get into video at one point or another

sensor-size

6- ISO 102,400:

Why ISO 102,400? Hell, why not! 🙂 Again, high sensitivity can be a nice addition. Not that I would personally use it too much, but having the option seems like a great way to sweeten the deal: you can use fast or not so fast lenses for street or action photography more easily

7- faster everything:

Sony heard the complains that people had with the a7R: slow-ish auto-focus, especially with 3rd party lenses. Well, to go hand in hand with a higher sensitivity, they were able to speed things along: the camera itself is 3.5x faster than the A7r, and auto focus is almost 40% faster than the one of the A7r. I even heard somewhere that Canon lenses will have next to the same speed as on Canon bodies.

specsmovies

Conclusion:

I am very excited about this new release. Sony was able to take the best of every camera in the alpha line and concentrate it in this body: high sensitivity, higher resolution, 4K video recording, image stabilization, to name just a few.

One big question that remains unclear however is how the sensor will behave in terms of noise level, dynamic range and hot pixels.

Working closely with Sony, I hope to have more info soon on these aspects, and I also hope to get my hands on a body ASAP, take it in the field and let you know more about it… So hang tight!

Your thoughts:

What do you think about this new release? Are you excited? Indifferent? Would you have wanted to see more features and then, which ones? Let me know in the comments below!

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Testing the Sony FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 G OSS for long exposure photography

IMG_20150417_145332I was very fortunate to get my hands on a Sony FE PZ 28-135mm f/4 G OSS and could not help but test it for long exposure.

You will see below some straight out of camera shots, as two new images that I was able to process. This is not meant to be a full review of the lens, more of a road test to see how well it works for long exposure photography.

General Comments: First of all, let me say that the lens is HUGE! It takes 95mm diameter filters, and feels very sturdy and smooth when using it. It also has a nice foot to mount it directly on a tripod head, which is a nice addition. I never used it though, because my setup was steady enough that I was not bothered by vibrations, however big the lens is.

A quick snapshot of my bag with the lens inside, together with the very nice 16-35 f/4:

IMG_20150417_124539

One tip for doing long exposure: no matter the camera or lens, I ALWAYS wrap my setup with a cloth to avoid light leakage from the sides of the mount or lens. I used this lens in the same way, and you’ll see below that I had no diffraction issue: mission accomplished 🙂

 

IMG_20150412_165545

Un-processed images: Now let’s look at a few “almost SOOC” images: (almost because some have been stitched)

DSC01342_adj copieEXIF: 28-135mm @28mm, f/8, ~8 minutes, ISO 50, ND16 Firecrest filter

Panorama sans titre2 copieEXIF: 2 images after stitching, 28-135mm @45mm, f/8, ~4 minutes each image, ISO 50, ND16 Firecrest filter

DSC01425 copieEXIF: 3 images after stitching, 28-135mm @72mm, f/8, ~3 minutes each image, ISO 100, ND16 Firecrest filter

 Pretty good, right? 🙂

Final images: Now let’s see a couple images after processing:

DSC01425 copie_resizeEXIF: 3 images after stitching, 28-135mm @72mm, f/8, ~3 minutes each image, ISO 100, ND16 Firecrest filter

DSC01509 copie_resize EXIF: 3 images after stitching, 28-135mm @80mm, f/8, ~3 minutes each image, ISO 100, ND16 Firecrest filter

 

Conclusion: I have made up my mind. Even if the lens is mostly made for video, it’s an amazing piece of hardware, including for long exposure. The constant f/4 aperture is also a great treat. I am going to make this lens a permanent addition to my gear!

As usual, don’t hesitate to comment or ask questions below or in PM.

Preparation of my upcoming exhibitions in Paris

IMG_1754I’ve been lately hard at work preparing the two exhibitions that will take place in Paris next week.

I feel very fortunate to have the help and support of many people for these two HUGE events. To name but a few, Sony US and Sony France (in particular, Kayla, Astrid and Romain) have helped a great deal with the marketing materials, press releases and more. Chritophe Marlot and José Alcantara were of course instrumental in letting me show my work in their galleries, thnak you both! And Christine and Philippe for their incredible help and support in way too many ways to describe here.IMG_1755

You will find higher two photographs of the flyers and posters that Sony France printed. These will be sent to their partner pro photography stores in Paris. don’t they look great!? 🙂

Please click the following link to access Sony France Press Release (in French): Press Release Sony France.

Details of the show on the flyers and in the text below:

Kusch+CO

25 rue de Verneuil

75007 Paris

France Thibault-ROLAND-flyer-US-KuschBJF

27 rue de Verneuil

75007 Paris

France

Thibault-ROLAND-flyer-US-BJF

Below are some of the photographs I will show next week right after signing and numbering them (they are all of course limited editions):

18594_1602552453348086_4490956993676541288_n 11350838_1602552910014707_4146764417238019095_n 20150502_121127 20150502_122451 20150502_12211520150502_121127 20150502_125413

And these two are the largest prints I have ever had printed to date: ~50×150 cm! (~20×60″!)

 

20150502_124403

20150502_123758 20150502_123831 For those of you who wonder how my limited editions are, I sign and number them on the front side (see higher) and use a seal on each one of them, and add my signature, number in the series and the title on the back, see below:

20150502_121037 20150502_121748 20150502_122056 20150502_124316

Building a technical camera – Part IV

20150322_130154Step Four of Building a technical camera: adding left/right shifting to the back element

Last time, I showed you the results of milling out a chunk of the back element of the Fuji camera. Today, I’ll show you why I did it, and how to mount different parts together and insure they are perfectly parallel or perpendicular to each other.

For that particular step, I bought a cheap Chinese precision rail system on eBay. For $8 USD, it’s hard to get a better system that can be modified, drilled, cut or tapped. The following picture shows you exactly what this part looks like before modifying and mounting on the camera.

DSC01151First step was to take apart the rail itself (with the screw sticking out of the slot), from the support piece that is originally meant to attach on the tripod head. In the final design, the parts will be flipped: the rail will become the support (attached to the camera, see below) and the other part with the precise movement knob and the stopper. The latter part will be modified so I can attach a support plate for the camera.20150404_192705

You will find below a few pictures that I shot while adjusting the rail to the camera so that these two part are perfectly perpendicular to each other. This step is very delicate, because the slightest misalignment between them will lead to the sensor plane not being perpendicular to the lenses, effectively creating unwanted tilt. 20150404_192717

To make sure the parts were perpendicular, I used the precision of the milling machine and an indicator, see below:

20150404_192732

Just so you have a better sense of what things will look like eventually, here is a photograph of the back element with the inverted support part that I’ll drill and tap in order to mound the camera standard:20150404_193117No a few photographs of the camera with the rail system, where you can see how left/right shift will work:

DSC01173 DSC01171 DSC01164 DSC01160 Next step:

Drill the rear standard support (part with the two knobs in the pictures higher).

Conclusions:

1/ this was one of the most delicate but easiest steps so far. Easiest when you have the right tools, but these are hard to come by and even harder to let a machinist let you use his toys 🙂

2/ I found a solution to add rear swing (left/right tilt) by ordering a precise optical rotating stage for about $80 USD from China. I’ll give you the details in a later post if you are interested (please use the comment below if so). I’ll first work on a prototype that won’t have swing, see how it goes and then add the rotating stage.

Joint exhibits in Paris at Kusch+CO and BJF Galleries June 2015.

Thibault-ROLAND-poster_resizeI am very happy to announce that I will show photographs in two galleries in Paris (France) for joint solo shows in June, supported by Sony USA and Sony France. Both galleries are located in the prestigious Distric “Carré Rive Gauche” located near the Assemblée Nationale. The exhibits are part of the annual district event “Metamorphosis“.

Each will present two aspects of my work: architectural and seascape photography for Kusch+CO and BJF galleries, respectively.

The opening ceremony will be at Kusch+CO Tuesday June 2nd 5pm-9pm.

For more details, please see below and flyers.

Kusch+CO

25 rue de Verneuil

75007 Paris

France

Thibault-ROLAND-flyer-US-Kusch

BJF

27 rue de Verneuil

75007 Paris

France

Thibault-ROLAND-flyer-US-BJF

Building a technical camera – Part III

20150404_183123Step Three of Building a technical camera: milling out part of the back element

Good news! I was able to modify the back element of the Fuji GX camera that I took apart some time ago (see here for details about taking this guy apart).

Did I mention this project is VERY exciting? Yes? Well, I’m even more excited, and using power tools is something I really enjoy.

And so I was really happy to use a milling machine (see picture higher; big fancy machine) in order to remove parts of the back element of the camera in order to make a nice platform I will use to fix a rail for left/right (pano) movement.

ATTENTION: I would like to stress out that you should not use power tools and machine aluminum (or any other material for that matter) yourself if you do not know how to use such tools. They are extremely dangerous if not used properly, and they can injure badly, or worse… So please be careful, and let the “pros” handle them 🙂

As a reminder, you’ll find below the picture of the camera “skeleton” showing with red arrows the parts of the back element that need to be removed (milled):

Sans titre-1 copie

You will see in the next few photographs the part after milling. For those who are not familiar with machining, you can see where I removed metal because it looks all shiny / silver. As I mentioned before, I had to remove the posts for the screws entirely, as well as some of the front and back vertical stands to make a nice leveled platform.

Let me point out that the level must be as close to perfection as possible, if one want to ensure movement in the horizontal plane rather than having a left/right shifted image that will be higher or lower than the previously shot image.

20150404_183158 20150404_183140 20150404_183130Let’s do a comparison of before and after milling:

11046131_10153153202593485_1501836423_o20150322_130154 20150322_130218Next step:

Fix the rail system where you can see the nuts in the last two pictures. This rail will be used in order to shift the camera left and right in order to make panoramas. This is another very delicate step, as the rail needs to be perfectly parallel to the stands of the back element (that is perfectly perpendicular to the optical axis), unless it will introduce a change in the position of the sensor plane while shifting, therefore leading to unwanted blur in the final image.

Conclusions:

1/ I had lots of fun milling the back part of the Fuji camera. Making chips and machining using tools like a milling machine is incredibly fun, but you have to be very careful and need to know what you’re doing, so PLEASE don’t do it yourself if you have not been taught how to.

2/ Now that’s it, even if I wanted to go back and put the camera in it’s original state I could not. I am not overly concerned the project won’t work, but when you take one like this you have to keep in your mind you may waste a lot of money and time. But it’s a risk I’m willing to take because it’s fun, and also because the goals are well worth the risks 😉

3/ You have to plan well in advance about the next steps you’ll take, if only because you have to order parts which may come from China and take time to get there. I have to admit I am better advanced than I’m showing right now, and things are looking good for now.

New Publication: Landscape Photography Magazine (UK)

landscape-pageI was glad to learn recently that one of my only color photographs is published in the great UK Landscape Photography Magazine, issue 49.
It’s a picture I shot in Monument Valley in the USA. Truly one of my fondest memories of my first (and longest) road trip in the USA: about a month, and 20 000 km. Epic! 😉

Have you ever done such a road trip? If so, I’d be curious to hear about the little gems you found on the road. Did you find not-so-famous locations you’d recommend others to visit? Please share them in the comments below if you do!landscape-cover