Adventures, Photography, And more

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The Best Hiking Camers, Sony NEX?

Today at my local Sony Style store I got to try out the new NEX 5 camera that will be sold at the end of the month. This camera has some fun features that have been made easy for beginners like panorama stitching and HDR without the use of a tripod. But it’s biggest feature is that it is small. Real small.

Just take a look at it beside my average size DSLR.

Pentax K10d and Sony NEX 5 side by side

The new standard in small interchangable lenses.

And from the top.

Pentax K10d and Sony NEX 5 side by side top view

Another comparison of the K10d and NEX 5 size difference

This might be getting close to the perfect hiking camera. Small and lightweight with good image quality from a large sensor. 3 pancake primes would almost sell me on a camera like this. There is already the 16mm pancake prime lens but a 35mm and a 70 mm macro lens would make a fantastic lightweight camera kit. Add weather sealing and the days of heavy lenses and cameras while going up a mountain would be gone. One can dream.

The HDR feature worked surprisingly well. Here is a regular image with everything taken on auto and HDR off. Take note of the TV’s image.

Sony NEX 5 program mode image

An image taken with the Sony NEX 5

And here is with the HDR feature on auto.

Sony NEX 5 HDR image

An HDR image taken with the Sony NEX 5

A very natural looking image with much better dynamic range. Not as good as when done on a tripod, but for the average user it is simple and better than what most cameras have available to them.

At this stage I wouldn’t personally buy a Sony NEX or any of these new mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras until enough lens selection is available that matches my needs. With an adapter for Leica lenses that day may come soon. Until that day I can dream of a lightweight easy to carry and quick to setup system for hiking will be available and affordable soon.

For more information on the Sony NEX, see Sony’s news release


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Adjusting auto focus (The problem with sheep part 2)

Many SLR cameras now come with a way to adjust the auto focus calibration for lenses. Most cameras will save the adjustment for each lens and when you reattach the lens it will automatically apply the adjustment. Those camera’s that just allow a global adjustment will require the photographer to make the adjustment for each lens every time they attach it. Annoying but better than nothing.

As I explained in my post “The problem with sheep” my telephoto lens was focusing behind my subjects.  To fix this I had to setup a quick little test environment and run some tests.

The first step is to print a focus chart.   Next setup your camera on a tripod at a 45 degree  angle to the focus chart.  If you are like me and do not have any of your high school geometry sets around you can fold a square piece of paper diagonally so it forms a triangle which will have two 45 degree angles and a 90 degree angle.  You can use this with your camera on your tripod to see if the lens is at 45 degrees.

Set your lens to the longest focal length, max aperture and the closest focus distance.  In my case this was 320mm, f5.6 and about 4 feet away from my focus chart.  This should give you the narrowest depth of field.  Now move your lens so it is out of focus and use the camera’s auto focus to focus on the line that says “this text should be perfectly in focus”.  I focused right on the “s” in focus.

After each test I unfocused the lens, dialed in a focus adjustment (see your camera’s manual on how to do this), refocused using auto focus and took a picture.  Below are 100% crops of the different test shots with different focus adjustments.

Focus with default focus calibration

Focus with default focus calibration

Focus with a -20 focus adjustment

Focus with a -20 focus adjustment

Focus with a -40 focus adjustment

Focus with a -40 focus adjustment

As you can see the -20 focus adjustment is the closest to the line being perfectly in focus.

Please follow the link to see the specific instructions I used for focus adjustments on the Pentax K10d.

Now I just have to find the sheep to validate my results in the field!

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The problem with sheep (aka, autofocus problems) part 1

On my way to work I often see sheep outside grazing on a farm. Each time I passed I wanted to take a picture so I started carrying to work my camera with the telephoto lens attached.

Now my telephoto lens is not anything special. It is a Pentax FA 80-320 F4.5-5.6 that has a reputation for being fairly sharp between 80-200 and very soft 200-320mm. I have been very disappointed trying to get my telephoto lens to be sharp at the long range since switching to digital.

Back to the sheep. I stop on my way to work and take some pictures of the sheep. When I put the pictures on the computer I am very disappointed that none of my sheep are sharp, but after careful inspection of the picture below I see that the grass & leaves behind the sheep is what is in focus.

Back Focus Example Photo

Classic Back Focus - The grass just behind the sheep's legs are in focus.

I know that I had the focus point on the head of sheep that is on the right. Then it occurred to me why so many of my pictures may be “soft”. My camera has a back focusing problem where the auto focus system focuses behind the subject with my telephoto lens attached. My other lens I regularly use does not appear to have this problem. Now that I know the problem I have to find a solution.

Check back later in the week for part 2 where I try to correct the back focus problem.