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- Professional Portfolio: Nicholas Huisman - See the winning image from the 2009 year end competition

JANUARY 2010

- Sony Alpha A500 in South America - Consumer Electronics Show


JANUARY 2010

Editor’s Comment

4

Readers Comments

4

We want to hear from you magazine@photocomment.net

Scoop

5

All about what is happening in the photographic world locally and internationally

Cover Image by: Nicholas Huisman Founder: Tristan Hall Design & Layout: Greg Wrench

CES

7

The lastest in technology on show

Contact: magazine@photocomment.net Website: http://photocomment.net To advertise in PhotoComment please email us at magazine@photocoment.net

Competition

10

Professional Portfolio 16 Nicholas Huisman

20

Antony Soicher takes the Alpha 550 to South America

Final Comment

Š 2010

International and local Intellectual Property and Copyright laws protect all material (text, images, photographs, graphics, software and icons) used herein. You are only permitted to download, copy or print this on-line publication or any features there from for personal, instructional and non-commercial use.

See the winning image from our 2009 Year End Competition, and the highly commended entries.

Review

photocomment

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Whilst all care and attention is employed to ensure the legitimacy, accuracy and correctness of the information, data, texts, images, ideas, photographs and opinions expressed herein, PHOTOCOMMENT cannot be held responsible or liable in any way whatsoever for the content as it appears herein. Similarly, PHOTOCOMMENT makes no express or implied warranty or representation as to the proprietorship or intellectual property inherent in the images and photographs published herein and which it has commissioned for use from external sources on good faith dealing. Accordingly, PHOTOCOMMENT is hereby indemnified, defended and held harmless against all claims, liability, damages, costs and expenses in regard thereto.


Editor’s Comment

W

ow! It is already 2010! Last year flew

support of PhotoComment and for sponsoring the

past and many things I fear slipped

prize for this competition.

through the cracks. Here at PhotoComment we had a busy year starting our online magazine and

We also gave away an Olympus FE-4000 Compact

getting the content that we bring yu every month.

Digital Camera to a lucky reader who registered on

It has been a great challenge to keep it interesting

our website. We will be running many more

and kep you the reader coming back month after

competitions and promotions both in the magazine

month. We have seen in our readership that

and on our website, so keep you eyes open!

PhotoComment is becoming more and more popular.

This months professional portfolio is Nicholas Huisman an accomplished wedding and fashion

This year we have many plans to improve the

photographer. See what he has to say about his

magazine and website. Your comments and

work.

suggestions are valuable to us so please send them to us at magazine@photocomment.net.

Another highlight in this issue is an extended review on the Sony Alpha A500 by Antony

We were extremely impressed by the response to

Soicher. He was lucky enough to visit /South

our competitions at the end of last year. The

America last year and we sent the Alpha 500 along

quality of the entries received and the

to see how it performed.

interpretation of the theme kept us guessing who was going to walk away with the great prize of

Unitl next month, happy shooting.

the Sony Alpha A230. See the winning image plus other highly commended images later in this

Greg

issue. We must thank Sony for their continued

PhotoComment Designer

Readers Comments We welcome feedback about what you think of PhotoComment Magazine. Your stories, experiences, questions, inspirations, are all welcome and can be sent to magazine@photocomment.net enter “Letters” as the subject. Each month we will publish some of your feedback.


Nikon High End Digital SLR's get updated firmware

F

irmware updates seem to be the new norm in the

Digital SLR arena. Nikon has announced Firmware updates for the D3x, D3, D700 & D300S. The biggest update seems to be that all the models will now support 64GB memory cards. There are other model specific changes, for all the details contact Nikon or visit their website.

Register and win on photocomment.net

C

ongratulations to the winner of our first website competition. All Malcolm Pitman did was register on http://photocomment.net and he has won an Olympus FE-4000 Compact Digital Camera. Watch out for more competitions in this magazine and on our website. Registering on our website will automatically qualify you for most of the website based give aways! Register Now!

A SONY SD Card?

Camera Control Pro from Nikon gets an update

N

ikon has updated its Camera Control Pro remote control software to recognize the firmware changes in its D3 and D700 DSLRs. Version 2.7.1 modifies the behaviors of Auto ISO and Focus tracking to reflect the revisions made in the recent firmware updates.

Sony Bloggie

S

ony has launched a line of digital camcorders called the Bloggie. They will shoot 1080p MPEG4 video and 5 mega pixel stills. Featuring a host of functionality that is becoming more familiar like face detection and SteadyShot. The PM5K model will include a “360 degree� lens which is able to capture a wraparound panorama video viewable on Sony's Picture Motion Browser. The cameras have a built in USB port for charging and transferring data and will use SD memory. Hope we see them soon!

S

ony has announced that they will now be producing a line of SD memory cards. They will make both SD and mircoSD cards, the former of which run the gamut from 2GB to 32GB (all Class 4), while the latter will be available in 2GB, 4GB, or 8GB capacities. This does not mean the end for Memory Stick, according to Sony the SD cards merely "complement" its existing Memory Stick line, and strengthen its position as a "full line media supplier."


Flexline 100 Digital Camera from Rollei

CONTINUED

T

o celebrate 90 years in the business, Rollei is

bringing out the Flexline 100 Comact Digital Camera. It may look small and simple but the Rollei packs a bit of a punch. It features a 10 megapixel CCD sensor, an internal 3x optical zoom and 21 programmes, including smile and face detection.

Canon releases the new EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens for professionals

C

anon has added to its acclaimed L-series with the launch of the new EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM telephoto zoom lens. The lens launches as the successor to the immensely popular EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, offering improved performance in every area. True to the L-series’ heritage, the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM delivers optical excellence in the most challenging situations. As well as a revamp of the internal optical system, the lens has also been structurally re-developed as a direct result of user feedback, making it as robust and reliable as it is optically advanced. The EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM features a redesigned optical system, consisting of 23 elements in 19 groups to deliver truly impressive results. A highperformance fluorite element is used at the heart of the lens path, coupled with no fewer than five ultra-low dispersion (UD) elements, drastically reducing chromatic aberration throughout the zoom range to produce high contrast images with edge-to-edge definition. A high-speed Auto Focus (AF) system perfectly matches the abilities of the recently-launched EOS-1D Mark IV and EOS 7D Digital SLR (DSLR) cameras. The new model also features a ring-type USM AF motor, which combines with a new high-speed CPU and an optimised AF algorithm to make auto focusing both faster and quieter.


I N T E R N A T I O N A L

CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW LAS VEGAS - January 7-10, 2010

I

t’s January 2010 and the big year for South Africa

has arrived but while many are focusing on the kick

off date and what it could all mean for our economy, traffic congestion and general way of life for the five weeks that will follow, the direction for technology in general has been set for 2010 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. This annual event held each January is where manufacturers in the technology sector show off their innovations and launch their latest products and this year was, in my view, better than expected considering the recent world wide economic climate.

Olympus

So what’s new?

Olympus announced 9 new cameras across the board from the entry level FE-47 to the new mju Tough 3000.

Canon

Olympus bolstered the megapixel milestone for entry

Launching only four new cameras – all focused on the

consumer cameras to 14mp, particularly with the FE-47

entry level compact market – Canon introduced the

(5x Zoom) and the FE-4030 & 4040 both with 4x zoom

PowerShot A495 & A490 both 10mp 3.3x Zoom

starting at an impressive

models that support the new SDXC (Extreme Capacity

26mm wide-angle. The

SD cards) all that sets the A495 apart from the A490 is

FE-5030 also has 14mp

the 9-point AF over the 5-point AF and one or two

and has the 5x zoom

extra Scene modes.

starting at 26mm.

There was also the announcement of the A3000 IS at 10mp with 4x Zoom and the A3100 IS with an increased resolution of 12mp. On their mid to higher end range the Stylus-5010 shares the same lens as the FE-5030 but ads 720p HD Video while the bigger Stylus-7030 takes the lens to 7x zoom starting at 28mm and the bigger Stylus-7040 ads the 720p HD video as well. If that was not enough the mju 9010 takes the zoom to 10x with all the other key points mentioned in the Stylus-7040.


It would therefore seem that the odd one out really is the mju Tough 3000 which offers 12mp, 3.6x Zoom

.The other two remaining cameras were the HX5 and

starting at 28mm, the same 720p HD Video, and as we

TX7 both featuring the new backlit 10.2mp “Exmor R”

have come to expect from the Tough range 1.5m

CMOS sensor and capable of shooting the Handycam

shockproof, scratch proof, 3m waterproof, etc.

quality 1080i AVCHD high definition video. They also offer Auto HDR (High Dynamic Range) modes, Sweep

Sony

Panorama, Optical SteadyShot image stabilization. The

Never one to be out done, roughly a quarter of the new

TX7 is the typical slim style T-series camera we have

compact cameras announced at CES this year were

come to know featuring a 4x Carl Zeiss Optical Zoom.

Sony models. Many of them in my opinion being too

The HX5 has a 10x G-series lens and also offers built

similar to one another – something we have come to

in GPS for geo tagging your images plus a compass

expect from the Cyber-shot compacts.

that shows which way your were facing too.

The S series which for the last half of 2009 was only a

All new Sony products now support SD cards as well

single model range (S930) now becomes a two model

as Memory Stick and Sony also announced that they

range with the S2000 and S2100 both featuring 3x

are producing a range of SD cards. I am not so sure

zooms still with 10 and 12mp sensors respectively.

that they should or are going to scrap their own format just yet as I have found that the speeds offered by

The W-series received 8 new models to the current

Memory Stick are in many cases faster than an

WX1 which we were so impressed with recently. It is

equivalent priced SD card. This makes one wonder if

difficult to summarize them in any other way than with

this move is not just a way to make it easier for non

a brief chart:

Sony consumers to switch to Sony.

Model W390 W380 W370 W360 W350 W330 W320 W310

Lens 5X zoom (24mm) 5X zoom (24mm) 7X zoom (34mm) 4X zoom (26mm) 4X zoom (26mm) 4X zoom (26mm) 4X zoom (26mm) 4X zoom (28mm)

Resolution 14mp 14mp 14mp 14mp 14mp 14mp 14mp 12mp

HD Video 720p 720p 720p 720p 720p

Features f/2.4 G Lens, Sweep Panorama


Compact Camera Summary There were a number of cameras from other brands. Samsung launched 4 new compacts including the ST5500 and ST5000 with the ST5500 offering WiFi and Bluetooth making it easier to share your memories. In conclusion on the compacts, the big move seems to be to 14mp and HD video almost regardless of the brand making it no easier really for the average consumer in South Africa to make up his mind... in some cases within the same brand yet alone against others. More exciting is the announcement by Samsung of the

What else you ask?

NX10. They break away from their Pentax partnership

Well Panasonic launched their

for this model in that it uses a different lens mount. In

first SDXC card offering a mind

much the same vain as the Panasonic GH-1 and to a

blowing 64GB of storage.

lesser degree the PEN range from Olympus, this new

Remember that the potential for this

Samsung tries to offer the benefits of an SLR without

version of SD cards is 2 Terabytes so one has to

being a true SLR camera. Instead of a prism the

wonder what is coming next that could use so much

camera offers an electronic view finder making the

memory? Then again CES gave some direction here if

camera smaller than an SLR and should therefore

you look out of the Photographic category a bit and

allow it to utilise AF in its 720p HD video mode.

saw the vast range of 3D HD LCD TVs that were

Announced with a 18-55mm, 50-200mm and 30mm

announced and the move to having a full 3D home

F2 pancake lens one wonders if we will see the NX10

theatre, it won’t be long till we want to try our hand at

hit our shores following the poor sales of previous

making our own 3D home movies.

Pentax K Mount NX cameras.

On the DSLR side Sony announced the new Alpha 450 which we have heard may not make its way to our

Conclusion

shores due to the marginal price difference between it

So there you have the gist of it. As brief a CES round

and what is in my opinion a better spec'ed Alpha 500.

up as we dare make it. You can rest assured that we

One fails to understand why they threw away their

will endeavour to bring you as many reviews as we can

competitive advantage of Quick AF Live View on a

over the coming months on these new models though

flip screen to save a few hundred Rand.

time is not on our side as this year will be a big one for new photographic products. PMA (Photo Marketing Association) have their show in February where we may see ranges expanded further and later this year (Sep 21-26, 2010) will see the biggest photographic show of them all, Photokina held every second year in Germany so hold on to your hats. At the end of this all though, the best advice we can offer is to snap out of the lust phase, dab up the drool and get shooting... at least till your camera breaks. [o]


2009 YEAR END PHOTO COMPETITION We wanted your image that best defined your 2009

2009 has drawn to a close and we here at PhotoComment in conjunction with Sony South Africa held a competition to see the images that best defined your 2009. Judging by the entries received although 2009 was a tough year financially and in many other ways, the South African spirit could not be dampened. This may sound like a cliche but we really did have a hard time choosing a winner. In the end there could only be one winner and we are please to announce the Giles Ridley from Cape Town walks away with the honour of winning our first PhotoComment Photo Competition and the coveted prize of the Sony Alpha A230. Congratulations Giles! Lookout for more competitions in 2010 with more great prizes.


The Prize: Sony Alpha A230 with 18-55mm lens THE WINNER IS: GILES RIDLEY Cape Town’s Beauty- as one of the host cities for the FIFA World Cup 2009 was the year that Cape Town was put in the spotlight. The FIFA World Cup was upon us and every South African felt proud to be part of such a global venture. Cape Town was one of the cities chosen to host the FIFA games.

As a photographer, it made me look at Cape Town with different eyes. How do you capture the magic of this beautiful city in an image? I decided to climb the mountain and see my city through a bird’s eye view. For me 2009 was about appreciating my city, Table Mountain, our pristine beaches and the glorious sunlight. For a moment, my panoramic photograph of the Cape Peninsula captured all of the beauty that Cape Town has to offer.

Winning Image by: Giles Ridley


2009 YEAR END PHOTO COMPETITION HIGHLY COMMENDED IMAGES

Trevor Metrowich

Liam Cornell


Calvin Anderson Mark LeRoux


2009 YEAR END PHOTO COMPETITION HIGHLY COMMENDED IMAGES

Gabriel Dinsmoor

Marethe Grobler


Arno See Jacek Zawada


PROFESSIONAL PORTFOLIO NICHOLAS HUISMAN This month we feature Nicholas Huisman in our Professional Portfolio. He is well established as a wedding photographer and has a studio in Linden. The image shown on the cover of this month's issue won him a Gold Award in the fashion category at the 2009 Fujifilm Professional Awards. To see more of his work vist http://www.photofanatix.co.za. We caught up with him and were able to ask him a fews questions. PC: When did you know that you were going to be a photographer? NH: I started doing a design diploma and photography was one of the subjects. I found myself wanting to be in the darkroom more than any other subject and the rest was history. PC: Your first paying job. What was it like? NH: Trade Centre hired me to photograph all the shelves in there stores. I realised photography has many aspects and photographing people was going to be my future rather than products.


PC: What types of photography do you enjoy? NH: I enjoy people images mainly fashion and art deco images. PC: You are an accomplisehd wedding photographer. What are some of the challenges that you face on the day of a wedding shoot? NH: Well the main thing is to have a great attitude as the bride has to have a great day and you spend more time with her than the groom does on the day. Being creative is a great challenge as it is safe to do what you know and challenging to do something different, especially when we used to shoot film. PC: What sets fashion photography apart from normal studio or portrait work? NH: A model, make up and styling and most


of all time and preparation. A fashion shoot is always about an objective, normally the client has the largest opinion as its his or her product. It is the photographers job to please the clients need, while fulfilling his own standard of image as it’s the photographers name that is carried with the clients vision. I guess it’s a balancing act. Normal studio work the client generally doesn’t know what they want and would like you to give them ideas, which is the hard part. PC: Do you feel threatened by the masses of inexperienced photographers entering the professional market? NH: Well yes and no. Yes the pie will get cut thinner and work will be taken from experienced photographers mainly because of price. Money talks in most circles and unless you have an unquivering name that has taken years to achieve, it can be a problem. No because most fly by nights are well, just fly by nights.

such a level that when people compare brands they are

Like in any business the work can be hard and long

picking at straws, waiting until the next one comes up

hours and often longer than most, money and reward

with something that the other one hadn’t, but will

are often misunderstood in this business as you can put

shortly follow with. I belive in using the right camera

in both and often not make it due to lack of talent so its

for the type of work you need it for. Oh oops I

very important to get as many opinions of your work

blabbing again…. I use a Nikon D300 and a Canon 5D

as you can because art is very subjective.

mk11 wrap your head around that.

PC: What equipment do you shoot with?

PC: So then the big question is, Nikon or Canon?

NH: Well I know I use a camera and if I could would

PC: Sony I guess. (do I get a free camera for that

hide the label I would, as I really believe the camera is

comment.) Ha Ha see previous question.

just a tool. The companies that make them compete at

[o]


Sony Alpha A500 User Review By: Antony Soicher www.mainyak.co.za This is an unashamedly subjective user report on the new Sony Alpha 500. It is only fair to warn you that you’re in the wrong place if you want precise measurements of shutter noise, lens resolving power against standardised subject charts or curves showing

Getting Ready

aberrations at high ISO levels. You’re also going to be

My last trip to South America, in 2005, started off

disappointed if you’re looking for a side-by-side

disastrously when I discovered on the first night in

comparison with the closest matching Nikon or Canon

Brazil that my favourite, tried and tested, Mamiya 6

SLR. If however you’re looking for a candid opinion

medium format rangefinder was absolutely dead. No

on how this camera works for travel and street

warning signs, no ill-health, just an apparently

photography, you’re in the right place.

peaceful demise while crossing the Atlantic (I knew that airline food was deadly!) The battery was fine, but

In December 2009 I travelled from Johannesburg to

the electronics had given up completely, and never

Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro for a two week trip,

worked again despite numerous resuscitation and

and had the opportunity to test the new Sony Alpha

repair attempts on my return. So I ended up schlepping

500 in the field. Tristan from Sony South Africa

three wonderful but useless Mamiya lenses and a

arranged for a basic review kit consisting of the

paperweight Mamiya 6 body through Brazil, Argentina

camera body, DT 18-55mm kit lens, and DT 50mm

& Chile. Thankfully I had thrown in at the last minute

f1.8 lens.

a Fuji medium format folding rangefinder, so my 120 film stock was not just extra baggage, but my Leica M4-P rangefinder with heavyweight 50mm f1 Noctilux lens - taken along for low light work - was promoted to primary camera on that trip. So you can understand why, at the outset, I had some misgivings about the lack of a spare battery in the review package. While a spare battery is normally a standard item for any photo shoot, I would normally prefer to also pack a second body for a lengthy trip to avoid travelling with disparate systems, but that was not an option here. So I ended up taking a hodgepodge

Sony α500 My two children were the first to give the α500 the thumbs up. Within minutes they were negotiating when I could get them one, and asking how long they would have to save their pocket money to buy their own.

of cameras and lenses on this trip - partly to provide adequate backup, but mostly to cover the range of shooting situations I expected to encounter and which I felt I could not entrust entirely to unknown equipment.


While air travel, and increasingly stringent security policies around hand luggage, imposes its own constraints on how much gear you can practically travel with, the bigger consideration for me for street and travel photography is what you are prepared to carry around all day. After suffering through numerous camera backpacks and traditional shoulder bags on dozens of trips covering four continents over the last 20 years, I now tend to walk around with a minimum of luggage wherever possible. For this trip I squeezed my Sony Vaio laptop, external hard drive, chargers, cables, cards and assorted camera gear into a Tamrac Adventure 9 backpack, but this was only used between cities and spent

Rainy street - Buenos Aires

all of its time in my hotel room.

Travelling with too much photo gear makes it hard to move around unobtrusively and ultimately gets in the way of a focus on photography.

For day to day shooting I used a small, ugly but inconspicuous and hardy Crumpler

Nevertheless, the first non-negotiable accessory for

Blunderbus messenger bag, big enough only for a

travel is a spare battery, and spare charger (or Sony’s

spare lens, a Leica rangefinder camera & lens, hand-

dual battery charger) if you want to charge both

held light meter and a few rolls of spare film. By

batteries simultaneously.

design there was no space in the bag for the α500. For street photography, your camera needs to be

Since I also took along my Sony R1 camera (with

immediately at hand; having to dig for a camera when

spare battery) I could not help reflecting on the

you see something worth photographing is a sure way

irritation of camera manufacturers changing batteries

to miss the shot or draw attention to yourself and scare

between models. The R1’s battery does not fit the

off your subject.

α500, but at least it did fit the same charger. The hope of a universal battery is as close to reality as a

Battery Performance

universal language or currency. In the meantime, a

Despite my concerns, I never managed to exhaust the

good portion of your packing space will be dedicated

α500 battery - even on a long day of shooting - but I

to batteries, chargers, cables and other electronic

did come uncomfortably close. Battery life was good,

accessories.

but as expected is adversely affected by live view, focus hunting and photo review in camera.


Lens Choices I have long maintained that having too much camera

trapped insect, the ι500 couldn’t quite keep up with

equipment, besides being expensive, is also just a

the rapid movement. There was considerable focus

distraction; having tighter constraints, knowing your

hunting, especially when trying to track the moving

gear intuitively and pushing its boundaries in my

spider, and I ended up switching to manual focus,

experience results in better pictures. Call it focusing on

setting focus to minimum distance and moving the

the image, not the lens.

camera back & forth to get the subject in focus. The results were still not satisfactory - at least as much my

In response to this view, some years ago an old friend

fault of course rather than just the equipment. This was

challenged me to leave all other gear at home and use

something which most cameras would struggle with,

nothing other than a Leica M3 rangefinder with 50mm

but I did miss my dedicated 60mm Nikon macro lens

lens for a few weeks on an upcoming trip. This resulted in some of my all-time favourite images. I have imposed similar artificially tight constraints on numerous photo projects over the years with similar success. So I tend to be extremely selective in my choice of lenses - I prefer short, fast, prime lenses, and the few zoom lenses I have owned in the past never seemed to last long in my collection. The rather limited range zoom and longer than normal prime lens included in the Îą500 review kit did not worry me unduly, but would not have been my first lens choices. The 18 to 55mm (27 to 82.5mm equivalent) is perfectly acceptable as a general purpose lens, and performed well. The build quality of the kit lens was however disturbing, with a slight wobble of the front housing becoming apparent after just a few days use. While walking on a main road alongside a river in Penedo, in the Resende district (a couple of hours drive from Rio) I noticed a wonderful spider hiding in a dark corner of a road sign. It was almost impossible to get a decent shot while the spider huddled in his dark corner eating, but when it rushed out to grab a newly

Julio: Copocabana, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil The small, light and unobtrusive 50mm worked wonderfully as a short portrait lens.


which I have used to photograph insects in similar

found that pattern focus didn’t always do what I

circumstances, with far more satisfying results. Depth

wanted and that split second of extra confirmation,

of field is of course a major challenge at such close

having to look to see where the camera had decided to

distances and with a bit more time I would have

focus, was off-putting. Before I switched to spot focus,

pushed ISO up to allow for a smaller aperture. The

I found that all other options including facial

background behind the web was also not ideal, but in

recognition did what I wanted them to do about half

the few seconds I had to shoot, I managed to at least

the time. That lack of absolute certainty, and the need

get a decent record shot, but not something I was really

to check each time, were enough to convince me that

happy with.

spot focus better suited my working style.

The 50mm f1.8 (75mm equivalent), while still clearly

The menus on the α500 were well laid out and easy to

a budget lens with a cheap plastic feel, was still much

navigate, although I didn’t spend a huge amount of

more solidly built than the kit zoom lens, and optically

time exploring them. If this was a camera I had

amazingly good. After a day of shooting with the zoom

purchased, I would have invested more time in reading

lens I would switch to the 50mm as light levels

the manual and customising settings further, but there

dropped. Since the zoom lens was f3.5 to f5.6, this

were just so many options that I didn’t bother. I found

switch would often happen earlier than expected,

my way around well enough to get the camera to work

especially on rainy days in Rio.

for me for the two week test period. My main objective was to be ready to get that shot when I saw it - and the

The Camera

α500 did not get in the way of this at all, primarily

I value consistency and predictability in my cameras.

because I knew my preferences (keeping things

This may be a result of having used fully manual

simple) and managed to configure the α500 to behave

cameras for many years, but may also be the reason I

like I wanted.

made these choices in the first place. I tend to use digital cameras in much the same way, turning off

One noteworthy menu option that left me scratching

many distracting features which get in the way of this

my head was the auto rotate setting. I expected this to

ideal, while taking advantage of some remarkable

work like my Ricoh GX200 which senses the

innovations like live histograms.

orientation of the camera & flips the image 90 degrees making it really useful for reviewing portrait images.

The very first thing I did with the α500 was to turn off

This never seemed to work for me though.

the auto flash. I haven’t used a flash for so long that I can’t recall who the Soviet premier was at the time. So

As with many modern cameras, aiming to have the

my only opinion about the α500’s built-in flash is that

most complete set of software features, the α500 had

it happily turns off and stays turned off - I wasn’t

far more options than I wanted or needed. The

aware it was there after that.

dynamic range optimiser and high dynamic range options were interesting, but I only did some initial

It took me a few days of experimentation to fine tune

experimentation with these so cannot really comment

other features including selecting spot focus so I knew

on their broader usefulness, but the multi-exposure

exactly where focus would be set rather than the wider,

HDR approach is of course not suited to fast street

“smarter” focus area options. For travel / street

shooting.

shooting, focus needs to be fast and predictable. I


LCD Display - Live View Mode In live view mode the α500’s viewfinder window is

horizontal since the LCD only moves in a single plane

blocked and the rear LCD monitors the live image.

(up & down). By contrast, the Sony R1’s LCD moves in any direction which allows the camera to be held very

I am a huge fan of waist-level shooting especially for

unobtrusively and used in vertical orientation.

candid shots. One of the main reasons I moved from Olympus to Nikon many years ago was the

As soon as you lift a camera to your eye, people tend to

opportunity to use a waist-level finder on the Nikon F2

take notice. This can be very limiting for candid

& F3, and I have since used a Nikon F4 and numerous

shooting and you generally have no opportunity for a

medium format SLRs in waist-level mode. Similarly,

second shot, and often even the first shot is ruined in the

Sony’s R1 attracted me for its superb live view, but the

process.

α500 is a huge improvement on this simply in terms of Using a waist level finder or live view often means that

the size of the LCD.

you get that critical second or third shot without being One practical criticism of the α500’s LCD though is

noticed. Besides being unobtrusive, this also allows for

that vertical frames are a lot more awkward than

far more interesting angles without being a contortionist.

Harrods shop window: Buenos Aires, Argentina Heading back to my hotel in Buenos Aires late one night, I stopped on the sidewalk a couple of metres away from some activity inside Harrods. The angle of view of the 50mm lens on the α500 was a bit tighter than what I would normally get from my standard 30mm lens. I managed to grab two quick shots without attracting any attention, and walked on. Harrods is no longer a department store in Buenos Aires. It is a shabby shell now used for exhibitions. The day after this was shot, it was deserted and looked like it hadn't been used in years.


LCD Display - Optical Viewfinder Mode In optical viewfinder mode, the viewfinder window works as expected in an SLR with an unobtrusive LCD display at the bottom of the viewfinder frame. In this mode the rear LCD has three possible settings: 1. Default status display shows a grid of icons and basic exposure info. I found this mode of no value and quite gimmicky, especially since it is not interactive and you need to dive into the menus or other function buttons to change any settings 2. Exposure display featuring an initially impressive looking graphical exposure scale, plus other basic exposure and battery level details. The graphical scale deserves special mention as a good example of a nonsensical user interface. Rather than showing the currently selected exposure setting of aperture and shutter speed as well as equivalent combinations to achieve the same exposure value (EV), one of the two scales is going the wrong way. As a result, the aperture and shutter speeds to the right of the current setting both reduce the EV, meaning that the graphical display is confusing, wrong and useless. I have used countless light meters which managed to get this right - some more helpful than others in the way they displayed the information - but all correct. Sony though somehow managed to get this one horribly wrong.

3.

No display (my favourite mode)

I found both of the first two options to be distracting and of no value, especially when bringing the camera up to my eye. These were both easily turned off by cycling through the options with the DISP button, but they reappeared when the camera was turned on again, or more irritating, when the mode was changed from live view to OVF. I didn’t see a way to change the default setting so that this stayed turned off, but must admit that I only thought to look for this while writing this review, after the camera had been returned to Sony.

Focus mode What we see on the α500 graphical exposure display: shutter speed f-stop

8 15 30 60 125 250 2.8

4 5.6

8

11

16

500 22

notice that the red 1/125 f11 pair is 2 stops less than the bold pair, and the blue 1/250 f16 pair is 4 stops less - why we need this shown to us graphically remains a mystery

When walking through a foreign city, I typically wind my camera strap around my wrist so that the camera can be held or left hanging within easy reach while giving my fingers a stretch. The α500’s weight was a pleasure compared with some of my regular camera choices, but I found it quite disconcerting when walking around to have the camera constantly hunting for focus, even though it should have turned itself off after 30 seconds, to be woken up with a slight touch on

What we’d logically expect to see: Shutter speed 500 250 125 60 30 15 8 f-stop

2.8

4

5.6

8 11 16 22

as with any half-decent light meter from the last 50 years, any of the above pairings (colour pairs) give the same exposure value (EV) with different depth of field and shutter speed effects.

the shutter release button. After a bit more experimentation I ended up choosing single AF mode rather than continuous AF, even though I would have preferred focus tracking for my many shots of moving subjects.


Image Stabilisation -

Conclusion

Unexpected Consequences

While the lenses in the α500 review kit were not my first choice, I

I like motion and spend a lot of time panning

was generally impressed with the results, especially for these

bicycles, motorbikes, cars, buses, pedestrians and

lower priced options. I wasn’t convinced they would be as durable

even rivers. Yes, my wife is very patient.

as higher priced optics though.

Outside a bar across the road from our hotel, I took

The Sony line of lenses, building as it does on Minolta’s legacy,

a couple of unobtrusive waist-level shots of the two

offers a wide range to suit all needs and I would seriously

guys chatting and felt that a bit of motion might

consider shifting systems if I were not already heavily invested in

make the shot more interesting (sharp on the

Nikon, Leica, Mamiya and Bronica. OK, so there’s always room

talkers, with a blur on the bike moving through - a

for one more!

change from my usual panning technique). I recognise that there is no single perfect camera or lens. Each Only when reviewing the image (and other where I

choice involves some compromises. The Leica Noctilux F0.95

panned along moving subjects) did I notice some

lens is a remarkable asset in low light, but this comes at the

strange echo patterns in the moving portion of the

exorbitant cost in dollars and weight.

picture - enlarged from the above picture above. Despite some shortcomings and distractions, the Sony α500 I believe the jittery effect is a likely result of the

would be a valuable and welcome addition to my collection –

internal optical stabiliser. I did not confirm that

primarily for its noteworthy live view which would get a lot more

image stabilisation was set. I cannot confirm it was

use. If I were close to buying more gear, I would look more

switched on, but it seems to be a logical

closely at the similar but slightly higher spec α550 before making

conclusion. Of course, reading the manual is not a

a decision.

bad idea (assuming the manual is well written and well translated which cannot be taken for granted),

Ultimately though I constantly need to remind myself that it’s

and getting familiar with new gear is critical

really not about the camera. I’ve shot some of my favourite

BEFORE shooting anything important. But it takes

photos on low resolution cellphones and cameras that I couldn’t

time to learn the features and unintended features

give away today. The constant improvements in digital

of any equipment, and this is only more

photography in recent years has added a lot of noise to this

pronounced with modern camera with literally

overwhelming choice, but the tools still don’t make the images.

hundreds of options and combinations of settings.

They do however make it easier and more fun, and the α500 was

Fortunately this jitter effect didn’t appear too often.

certainly a pleasure to use.

[o]


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Readers Portfolio This is your chance to get your images published. For each issue we (the editors assisted by a panel of industry leading photographers) will choose a reader's portfolio that inspires and celebrates the art and craft of photography best for that month. You stand a chance to win a prize from Tandem Focus Distributors, one of our advertisers, should your portfolio be published. Include a self-portrait accompanied by a brief introduction of yourself, your style and your philosophy. Send us no more than 10 of your best images with your contact details to magazine@photocomment.net enter “Readers Portfolio� as the subject. Make sure the images are in JPEG format and no larger than 1 Megabyte (or closest too), we will contact you for larger files if needed. Needless to say that the standard will be high and uncompromising so please put your best foot forward.

FEBRUARY 2010 - Portfolios, Reviews and more! - Send us your sugestions magazine@photocomment.net - Have you submitted a portfolio? You could be featured next month!

TANDEM


Resolution?

T

he new year has begun and with it new

opportunities. Many at this time find themselves planning for the year, setting goals and resolutions, others regretting the resolutions they may have made in an intoxicated state or being downhearted as they have already failed to follow their exercise routine through in the first two weeks of the year. The result of all this talk on resolutions, plans etc, got my mind turning over a few ideas – which I am not sure is ever a good thing, and combined with the fantastic images that made it a tough task for the judges to pick our winning image for the year end competition, I compiled a list of thoughts you may want to pick up on and run with in the new year. Ÿ Plan to learn and try something new with your

photography. A great example is that flash that is gathering dust most months of the year because you been too anxious to try it. It’s a fact that many seldom use a flash and when they do thanks to modern marvels they get good results without understanding why, preventing them from trying to make the image better. On the other hand, perhaps you want to learn how to better understand your available light, maybe you are fascinated by low light imagery (see our first issue from March 2009) but whatever it may be, research it, try it and master it this year. Ÿ Always keep your camera on hand. This important

in June last year. Even now at 7 months he knows when his picture is being taken, but there a number of moments I have only really caught thanks to the camera on my Blackberry. Why not make this year the year where you shop for a well equipped pocket camera that is always on you when the decisive moment appears. Ÿ Lastly, plan and pursue a long term photographic

project, whether it be a wildlife documentary (even at the local zoo) or a simple yet essential family photo essay, look for a story that can be best told over a period of time in images that will drive you to share that story with the world and hone your ability to communicate your emotions with your viewer. Tell the tales of the earth and mankind through your eyes and the camera. These are just three ideas that I think can help us improve and lift our talent and sense of accomplishment this year. I would strongly encourage you to work on the last point as it comes down to the heart of what PhotoComment is about, a way to comment on the world through photography. See this as an early lead on what kind of competition you can expect in 2010 as well.

lesson really hit home with the birth of my first child We would like to hear what your goals are for 2010 photographically. Why not share them with us and give some ideas to other readers as well? [o]


Graffiti – Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro Green with envy? Fortunately the α500 wasn’t very flashy, since even a Joburg resident was made to feel uncomfortable walking around some parts of Buenos Aires and Rio with a camera at the ready. Image By: Antony Soicher - See Page 12 for Alpha 500 review


PhotoComment January 2010