Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Sony a6500 - First thoughts

My long suffering NEX 6 has been showing signs of age, in particular there were times when the camera would start clicking through the menu options. This I have been able to fix by switching off and rotating the control dials, so it is probably caused by dirt on the contacts. It's a very intermittent fault, and most of the time the camera is just fine, despite having taken a humengous number (39433) of shots.

So it came to pass that I decided to add an a6500 to this year's tax allowance.

First impressions, it's a bit heavier than the NEX and the grip is more ergonomically shaped and protrudes more. I'm not too keen on the extra mass, but the grip is better.

The electronic viewfinder is very good indeed, I had thought that it might be the same as that used in the NEX 6, but, combined with the extra pixels on the sensor, this does appear to be an improvement.

Then there are the menus, an overwhelming array of choices, but, for heritage lens users, the camera now appears to default to release without lens. whereas previously you would need to set that parameter.

I like the fact that you can program a button (C1 in my case) to select the focal length in use, in body stabilisation is a real boon for users of old lenses. It's early days as yet, but IS brings a real improvement to the use of heritage lenses on this camera. I've not carried out any rigorous testing, but I've used my 75-150 Pentax zoom (112-225 mm FF equivalent)  at 1/100th and obtained crisp results. It's not a panacea, if you bounce on the shutter release you will get blurred shots!

A further improvement is the ability to set the minimum shutter speed to be used with auto ISO, again I have programmed a button (C2) to set this. I need to do some rethinking about what those minimum values should be, now that I have IS in camera, but for static subjects, and shorter focal lengths, the previously available (NEX 6) 1/60th minimum is far too pessimistic.

Actually my needs are few, I normally shoot raw using auto ISO, and aperture priority, with the occasional descent into manual operation, so I don't need all those menus etc.

One slight negative, possibly due to my ignorance of the camera's capabilities, is the need to restore full frame magnification before shooting, whereas my NEX would jump back into shooting mode at a half press of the shutter. The manual states that this should happen with the a6500 too, but for some reason mine does not. It's probably user incompetence!

My old lenses appear to be coping well with the increased pixel density, although the edge definition provided by my Pentax 28mm f2.8 is not great on distant views. It's fine close up, so I wonder if this is a field curvature problem?

Friday, 17 March 2017

Jesmond Flint Mill

I walked from Newcastle's Freeman Hospital to Gateshead, following the valley of the Ouseburn.

Once this was a major trading route from the river Tyne northwards, the valley providing a steady incline for the horse drawn vehicles of the day. Years ago the burn was enclosed in a culvert, south of Armstrong Park, and material heaped above, so blocking off the road. You can still walk the route but it involves climbing over the substantial man made barrier that stands in the way.

I had to ask for directions as I approached the covered section and was fortunate to come across a local resident who knew all of the history of the area, and who drew my attention to the site of Jesmond Flint Mill, close to where he lives. Sadly I didn't get his name, but this information and photos are down to his kindness.

The flint mill was built to grind flint, carried as ballast by colliers on the London trade. The ground material was used in the local pottery industry, presumably including the nearby Malings factory.

Originally the mill was powered by a water wheel, supplied by a mill race dug alongside the Ouseburn to an upstream location near Jesmond Dene.

Later a stationary steam engine was installed, rumoured to have been engineered by a young George Stephenson, who was at that time employed as a colliery engineer nearby. The photo above shows the site of the mill and the plinth in the foreground might have been the engine base.

Further evidence of the mill seen in this stone wall built into the west bank of the burn.

The stone arch may have been the discharge from the water wheel.

Sony NEX 6, Pentax lenses.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Spectacles and Photography

In my late sixties I need reading glasses, but my distance vision is not too bad. How does this impinge upon my photography?

Well I find it difficult to read the control dials on the top of a camera, and data on the rear screen, without the aid of specs.

However my compact mirrorless Sony NEX 6 camera can be controlled almost exclusively from the electronic viewfinder (EVF), as that has a built in dioptre correction that enables me to see all of the necessary information without using glasses. I also find that I can manually focus using the 9.6x magnification that the camera provides through the EVF.

Moving from camera to computer screen it's a different story. I need to use glasses to clearly see what I am doing. Question is, what is the best solution overall?

I've tried bifocals and varifocals. My bifocals were setup to allow me to read at a close distance or see my computer screen, i.e. two distinct degrees of magnification. This worked well enough, but further deterioration in my eyesight has meant that I now need assistance for viewing middle distance objects, i.e. small road signs maybe 20 yards away etc.

Solution, a pair of varifocals, providing a continually variable range of magnification from close up to distant viewing.

Nothing is perfect, there are pros and cons.

They are great for reading, and using a small computer tablet, while in the car they allow me to read the Satnav clearly, and give an enlarged view of those middle distance objects. In the shops I can read the prices on the products etc. So far so good.

How about the negatives?

In order to best use the range of magnification, you need to look through different parts of the lenses. I.e. Lower down for close up and higher for distance. This involves moving your head.

They are not good for reading the large computer screens that I use for image processing. This involves far too much head movement to keep the required zone of vision in focus. Similarly they are not good for reading music, there I've enough to worry about without having to constantly adjust my line of sight! For distance vision they do provide a slightly enlarged image, but at some expense in the level of contrast and brightness. As a consequence I tend not to wear them when out and about.

The computer screen/music problem has been resolved by the purchase of a pair of specs of fixed magnification optimised for objects  18 to 24" away. They are far superior to the varifocals within their limited range of application.

Now everyone's eyes are different and what works for me won't necessarily work for you. Consult a qualified optician for advice!

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Progress on new river Wear bridge, Sunderland

I missed the raising of the supporting pylon, combination of a bad cold and a horrible day!

However these two shots were taken shortly afterwards.  Look out for the heron in the foreground of the vertical format shot.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Tidal Surge Roker

A combination of a tidal surge and strong north westerly winds led to some impressive waves crashing over the pier at Roker, Sunderland. Friday 13th January 2017.

Canon 5DII Sigma 100-300 f4

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Christmas Day, Alnmouth beach, Northumberland

We went for a walk around Alnmouth, it was very warm for the time of year, with occasional full sun, but a very strong south westerly wind blowing sand on the beach and spume from the waves.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Marsden Bay, late December 2016

A break in the overcast winter weather allowed me to walk from Marsden to South Shields along the north east coast. There was fabulous sunshine and a deep blue sea.

Sony NEX 6 manual focus lens.