Building on the Sony NEX System

Building on the Sony NEX System

Sony’s NEX cameras have been taking the mirror less camera market by storm of late, coming out with models that repeatedly and substantially improve on their predecessors. And, as these models have evolved, the number – and quality – of add-ons for them have increased as well. In this article, we’ll take a look at a few ways of building on the NEX series of cameras – which now include some fantastic video-specific offerings from Sony as well. First, let’s clear one thing up. Sony’s NEX series of cameras, which include the NEX–5, NEX–6, and NEX–7, as well as the VG-series of video cameras, use a lens mount called the “E-Mount”. Sony also has a line of popular DSLRs, which use the older “A-Mount” system they inherited when they bought Minolta. Sony has made a number of fantastic lenses for the E-Mount, including the 16–50mm f/3.5–5.6 OSS and the 10–18 f/4 OSS lens, both of which offer built-in Optical SteadyShot, Sony’s name for their image stabilization technology. The stable of E-Mount lenses isn’t filled out just yet. There are a few missing holes, mainly in the area of constant-aperture zooms and longer lenses. However, this isn’t as noticeable an issue as you might think, as Sony – and a few third-party vendors – have come up with a first-rate way to compensate for the lack of a full selection of lenses. They have done so with a number of adapters that allow you to use Canon, Nikon, and Sony A-Mount adapters with the NEX system, and in this article, we’ll take a look at some of them. From Sony...
Understanding Softboxes

Understanding Softboxes

Off-camera strobes and other forms of lighting have become remarkably approachable over the past few years. The knowledge and information that were once the sole province of pros working with tens of thousands of dollars of equipment in studios or on location is now all over the internet for the taking. We carry a fair amount of lighting gear, and given that we cater to the novice as well as the pros, we also answer a number of questions about one particular piece of lighting gear: the softbox. Over the phone, via email, and through our social networking outlets, we respond to queries ranging from the number of stops a box’s diffusion fabric will eat, to “What’s a speedring?” This article is designed to help you understand the various pieces of a softbox and how it is used with a studio light like the Einstein E640 or the Profoto D4 heads we rent. Let’s start with what a softbox is. Basically, it’s a light modifier. Its purpose is to diffuse the lighting coming out of a studio head (or a small flash, but we’ll cover that in a later article) so that you can achieve the soft shadows and gentler light quality you see in so many professionally-taken photographs. Now let’s break down a complete light setup, with softbox. In the image above, you can see the three basic components of a studio light with a softbox. We have the softbox itself, a speedring (which is only barely visible right now), and a studio light. You’ll probably have noticed that the softbox is made by Profoto, while the studio...
Tilt/Shift: Working With Perspective-Control Lenses, Part 2

Tilt/Shift: Working With Perspective-Control Lenses, Part 2

This is Part 2 of a series on using Tilt-Shift or Perspective-Control lenses. In this part, we look at the “Tilt” functionality of these unique lenses. Part 1, which covered “shift” functionality, can be found here. At some point in time, we’ve all seen photos where the subjects – usually views from high-up of cars, buildings, people, etc. – appear to be miniaturized versions of reality. This is perhaps the most the most often-seen result from using tilt-capable lenses like the Nikon 85mm PC-E. In this part of our series, we’ll explain how this effect is achieved with tilt-shift lenses. The image below was shot by Jim Goldstein, our Marketing VP. Taken in Geneva with a tilt-shift lens, the camera was pointing downwards at the railroad tracks, with the tilt element swung upwards. The reason these tracks look like miniatures is because the plane of focus is so narrow, that both the foreground AND the background are out of focus.  That’s not something the human eye is used to seeing, and we interpret images like this differently. Wikipedia adds to that  explanation as follows: Diorama effect or “diorama illusion” is a process in which a photograph of a life-size location or object is made to look like a photograph of a miniature scale model. Blurring parts of the photo simulates the shallow depth of field normally encountered in close-up photography, making the scene seem much smaller than it actually is… Now, in order to achieve that effect, you have to swing the front part of your tilt-shift lens in so that it is either as perpendicular as possible to...
Sony Delivers Big-time with the Nex-6

Sony Delivers Big-time with the Nex-6

When rumors of the Sony NEX-6 hit the internet, it was a welcome bit of information for fans who wanted something between the high-end NEX-7 and the more consumer-friendly NEX-5N. There was a real need for a camera that added a few more physical controls for advanced amateurs, for example, who are used to dials and switches to quickly change camera settings, or for a camera with tweaks to the user interface, or – a pretty important feature for me – a viewfinder. Well, Sony has provided all of those features, and then some with the NEX-6. So, naturally, when we received this shiny new toy, I had to take it for a spin. Now, the really cool lenses – the 16-50mm and the 10-18mm are very much in demand, and all of our copies were checked out when I wanted to take them for a spin, so I settled on the massive 18-200mm lens and the Zeiss-badged 24mm f/1.8 lens. I shot them in a variety of different conditions, and – spoiler alert – I had an absolute blast. Operation First, let’s look at the top of the NEX-6. As you can see, there are two dials up-top, a Mode dial and a silver one, directly underneath it. Depending on the mode you put the camera in, the silver dial can change aperture or shutter speed. The Fn button’s use changed depending on your settings or the mode the camera is in. Sony aficionados will notice that the hotshoe looks very different from the ones on the NEX-7. After years, Sony has finally gotten rid of the old...
Op-Ed: Thoughts on Switching

Op-Ed: Thoughts on Switching

Last week, I posted Part V of my “Switch” series, which you can find here: Previously, in the Switch series: Part 1: I talk our marketing VP into letting me go Nikon for a while. Part 1.5: which was mislabeled Part 0.5, in which I gawk at a violin. Part II: The Nikon gets abusive. Part III: CLS starts to look pretty good. Part IV: In which I return to Canon for a spell. Part V: The conclusion, in which you learn what I ended up with. I’ve pretty-much laid out my reasons for switching, but I felt compelled to add some kind of postscript to that series. So, here it is. Switching from one platform to another isn’t easy. It kind of forces you to take a hard look at the platform you have and, if it isn’t working for you, you have to be willing to say, “Yeah, what I have now doesn’t work for me.” That takes a bit of humility to admit. It also takes a bit of firmness to say that a certain camera/computer/whatever isn’t working for you. It might work just fine for someone else. But it’s not working for you. On Facebook and Twitter and G+, the reaction to this series was largely positive. There was the usual plethora of “Gear doesn’t matter” posts, of course (to which I say, “No it doesn’t – except when it does.“), but for the most part, folks liked the series and they were generally supportive. I did, however, receive a verbal shellacking from some folks who know me personally and laid into me about this switch. The...