Vari ND Filters in Street photography

A Vari-ND filter is a filter made of two circular polarisers stacked one on top of the other. I bought the K&F Concept varied-nd which is advertised as and ND2-ND32 filter. I bought the 52mm diameter so it fits on my 35mm f/1.4 and 18mm f/2 lenses that I often use in street photography.

Light is an electromagnetic field which is emitted and travels with every angle from 0° to 360°. A polarizer or polariser is an optical filter that lets light waves of a specific polarization pass through while blocking light waves of other polarizations. It can filter a beam of light of undefined or mixed polarization into a beam of well-defined polarization, that is polarized light. (from wikipedia).

When a second polariser is stacked on top and in the same direction, it has little to no effect. However if the second polariser is rotated then it will cut out the light coming from the first polariser. The more it is rotated, the more light it cuts out

Maximum rotation
Somewhere in the middle
Minimum rotation

I can now control with a twist of the filter the amount of light that I let into the lens. I hear that these filters are not of a good enough quality for long exposure landscape photography. The light is too uneven across the frame and these filters do not give a good enough sharpness.

My idea is to put my camera in it’s lowest ISO setting (160 for the Fujifilm x-pro3). I choose quite a small aperture (from f/5.6 to f/11) and I twist the the filter until the shutter speed slows down around 1/6s or 1/3s. This will give me some blur in the photo.

35mm f/8 with 0.7s
35mm f/8 with 1/8s
18mm f/9 with 1/7s
35mm f/8 with 1/3s

The best street camera?

I bought a Sony a7r3 in 2017 and I have been using it exclusively since. It has had the Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 screwed on pretty much all of the time. I can truly say that it has been my main combo for two and a half years. The only other lens I have occasionally used is the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8.

A small camera for street photography

I have previously tried many cameras, bought or borrowed, from big DSLR cameras like the Nikon D700 and D800, the Fujifilm X-E2, X100T, X-T1 and X-T2, the Leica M240 and the Sony A7R more or less in that order. Out of them all, I loved using the Fujifilm cameras and the Leica was very special too.
I purchased the Sony a7r3 for a couple of reasons : the autofocus (including the face detection), the full-frame sensor and the very compact 35mm f/2.8
Another benefit is the battery lasts all day and more…

Face detection is great !

I quickly learned that the best setting for street is continuous auto-focus (AF-C) with the lock-on flexible spot with face detection on. This setting is fabulous. I do not have any more use for AF-S !
The face detection works very well for street photography, the camera picks up faces at quite a long distance and once it it locked on, it is like a pit-bull and doesn’t let go!

The green square is the flexible focus point. Once it locks on, you are good to go.

I have also put the camera in silent shutter mode to ensure perfect discretion and with the screen opened I can frame with the screen and shoot at waist level. People don’t notice me and don’t know I’m taking a photo. Perfect!

Looking at me, not the camera.

As I said, I have had the camera for a couple of years and hardly touched any settings for my street shooting. So where is the catch?
More recently, I have been having less fun taking street photos. I have been under the impression that I cannot create anything new or different. So I looked for another lens : a bit wider (28mm) or a bit longer (50mm). I tried a few vintage manual lenses adapt onto the camera like a Pentacon 50mm f/1.8 but manual focusing is less than ideal with this camera in fast moving situations. I have tried the Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 that has glowing reviews but after trying it a while, I never fell in love with it. I also find it too big.

I looked at the Sony 28mm f/2 but I have never tried it.

Then Fujifilm came out with the x-pro3. What a beautiful camera! I have kept the 35mm f/1.4 (50mm equivalent) and the 56mm f/1.2 (85mm equivalent) from my earlier Fujifilm days. I was very lucky to find a second hand model and after reading the reviews, I decided to buy it. It took me a while to set up but now I have used it for a couple of weeks, I have noticed that this great Sony a7r3 has made me very lazy. I will review the Fujifilm x-pro3 later but I can say that I am enjoying it hugely. I love the size of the lenses, the flip-down screen and obviously the film simulations. I have to put more thought into the way I want to take photos and I find myself doing much more that walking around, snapping off pictures as I walk. More of that later along with all the things it doesn’t do as well as the Sony.

Just walking and shooting.

If I had to recommend the Sony a7r3 for street photography then I would, without reserve. The autofocus is so great, I can walk and shoot in continuous autofocus without stopping or slowing down. I is the first camera I tried that could do this while locking on to my subject. The 35mm lens is very good, the pictures are sharp and clear. The 42 Mpx files are great with more than enough dynamic range. I have no intention of selling it any time soon and I will continue using it for macro photography and for my telephoto lens. Is it the best camera for street photography? Well, it is the one I have kept the longest!

Back Online … but in lockdown

I haven’t posted anything in the past 12 months, not because I have stopped taking photos but because having a blog is real hard work ! If anything, photography is taking more and more of my time.

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A jumping spider I found in the garden

 

Keeping focus is a damned hard thing to do. I am often distracted in my photographic pursuits by the rumour sites promising better and more advanced hardware, and by companies promising better and easier post-processing. I get sucked in, but more about that in another post.

Lockdown came upon us three weeks ago, I stopped going out, there is no more street photography. I have been working long hours from home, my children have moved back home from wherever they are studying. We are an organised family cell, living strange times. I feel for the families of the sick, for those who have lost close ones and for all the hospital staff and carers. An invisible, near imaginary, world of pain. From where we are, we see nothing, hear nothing… we stay at home in isolation.  We know it is true, we hear the news … and yet we the sun shines and we live out our ordinary mundane lives in lockdown. What is the nature of reality ? Does it exist outside of my perceptions ? Am I in a cage waiting to be devoured by the beast outside that I cannot see, hear or feel ?

SONY-ILCE-7RM3-2020-04-04-13h32min54s_dkt
My puppy Padmé.

I have had time to assess what is important in my life. My family comes first of course, then in no particular order : food, reading and photography. I have some time to read, some time to cook but what to photograph ?

SONY-ILCE-7RM3-2020-04-06-18h11min11s_dkt
The petal of an Iris after the rain.

Some ideas come to mind :
– I could read all my photography books again but I have few, I am very dependant on online sources.
– I could reorganise, look through and tidy my entire photo library of thousands of photos I have since I bought my first digital camera in 2004. Very boring, no ?
– I could learn how to better use the post-processing software I have but in the past year, I have tried them all, spend hours on you tube, and I have realised that I know enough for the kind of photography I do. I can improve of course, but I don’t want to learn compositing or any fancy stuff.
– I can spend time on YouTube, I have subscribed to so many photo channels. Unfortunately, they have all dried up : there is not much new to sell after all.

SONY-ILCE-7RM3-2020-04-07-17h16min29s_dkt
Lily-of-the-Valley, ready to open.

So what then ? Like many enthusiasts, I belong to a photo club. The weekly meetings have stopped, our yearly exhibition is cancelled. However, I did contact everyone and we have all subscribed to a social media called Discord. There are others. The point is that we are in contact again and that is a great feeling. I have started to publish a photo a day, taken in my confined space (not that shabby really : we have a house with a garden!). Ever heard of the 365 project ? This is like that but only as long as lockdown lasts… and if we miss one ? Well, nobody is counting!

Showing your photos to your friends, family and maybe not-so-close club members is very different from throwing them out on the internet, on Flickr, 500px or Instagram or whatever. I do have an Instagram feed, I am on Flickr as well but sometimes I feel as if I al throwing a photo out of the window, hoping someone will catch it.

OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP.-E-M5-2020-04-08-15h03min33s_dkt
A self-portrait in the eye of my son.

If you are in lockdown too, open your camera bag and keep on shooting. Share with your friends. And if you can resist your camera’s sad look in the bottom of the bag, then maybe you can think about what is important in your life … and stop purchasing extra kit !

The photos in this article are the first few of my lockdown project. I won’t bore you with them all. And if you feel lonely, get in touch.

Why not use colour?

When I first started out in photography, I had my fathers Praktika and a 50mm lens. I shot black and white film mostly but as I was a student, I didn’t do much film photography and after a while stopped photography altogether. When I bought my first digital camera (a Canon EOS 400D), I shot family and holiday snapshots in colour.  I started doing more and more photography in different genres : landscapes, long exposures, macro, portraits, high-speed, street… I think I have tried almost everything! Street photography has been growing on me since 2012, slowly but surely. I haven’t really consciously thought about it really but all my street photography has always been in black and white.

My inspiration has come from the French photographers Henri Cartier Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Willy Ronis,  Jacques Henri Lartigue, Sabine Weiss… all who photographed in black and white and often for a good reason!

SONYILCE-7RM3-2019-02-15-10h58min11s_C1

As I spend time on the internet, I realise that a lot of street photographers use colour for their work but at the same time, that the colour of my own photographs isn’t as compelling or as powerful.

I have put a lot of time and effort into pre-visualising my photos, trying to see the light and the contrasts at the same time as imagining the photo I am about to take, looking at the people around me and trying to predict where they will be and what they will do… Phew! Exhausting!

SONYILCE-7RM3-2019-02-15-11h06min01s_C1

I need to add to all that to be aware of the colours :  contrasts between colours, complimentary colours…  Even so, when I get in front of my computer and I look at my images, the colours are flat and rather lifeless. Raw files tend to be that way, but I have enough practice now to get a decent black and white image. I know where to go in the software, what to do. I have used Lightroom and now use ON1 photo raw quite a lot and in all honesty, the adjustments are the same, the methods are the same.

SONYILCE-7RM3-2019-02-15-11h08min23s_C1

To come back to colour, a good starting point seems to be colour grading. There are a lot of useful videos on YouTube that explain what it is and how to do it. Any decent software with a curves adjustment is enough. By shifting separately the red, green and blue curves, it is possible to make subtle changes to the hues in the shadows and highlights that completely change the way the photo looks. I’m not saying that it is enough but it is a start. I have tried and consequently excluded using presets or LUTs to change the colours because I don’t feel I have much control on what I am doing and I don’t think I will learn much.

Queue for luxury

In the photos in this post, I have followed this method. I have also masked out sometimes parts of the photos to keep the original colours and this can make some areas pop!

Queue for luxury

So which do you prefer : the colour version or the b&w version?

SONYILCE-7RM3-2019-02-14-10h20min49s_C1SONYILCE-7RM3-2019-02-14-10h20min49s_C1v1

It is a path to explore … the only way is forwards!

Silhouettes

In these winter months the sun is often hidden behind a thick layer of clouds and the light is ofter soft and cold. This can be great light for portraits, but it is a very difficult light in street photography. Flat light doesn’t create shadows or highlights, the foreground is lit as evenly as the background. The sky is boring, things just don’t stand out very well.

sony-a7r3-2018-12-14-10h47min10s copy

But when the sun comes out, street photography can be fun! Even in the middle of the day, the sun is quite low on the horizon and the shadows are long. This gives great opportunities to catch a great scene or two.

sony-a7r3-2018-12-14-10h04min16s copy

In this series, I found a good spot on the tram lines at around 10am in our town centre. I  took a 35mm lens in aperture mode (set at f/4) and set the exposure compensation to -0.7ev. Then I waited for people to pass.

sony-a7r3-2018-12-14-10h47min29s copy

I then found another spot a bit further on.

sony-a7r3-2018-12-14-10h35min31s

The post processing is done in On1 photo raw 2019 which I have been using a lot lately. It is much much better than the 2018 version which is sooo slow. The black and white conversion is fast and easy, I set different values to the colour responses. I also added a bit of glow.

 

Why ON1 Photo Raw may be for me.

In the list of photo management and editors, ON1 Photo Raw has been under my radar for a while. Although I disregarded it for years when it was still called Perfect photo suite because it lacked any kind of photo management (DAM) and raw processing, in 2017 the company released its first version of the Photo Raw software. There has been (and still is) a lot of publicity around the software, many reviewers criticised the bugs, the slow speed and the lack of features that left it clearly behind the industries standard editor which is Lightroom.

Fast forward a year and a half, I read that the Photo Raw 2018.5 was a usable piece of software so I gave it a try.

Testing these new programs has enabled me to think about was I need and expect from my photo editor. I have used Lightroom/Photoshop for years and have a nice workflow in place. I still can’t use photoshop very well, and to be honest I have very few ideas on what to do to transform my photos. I watch videos on youtube from time to time to learn and I see people take a drab landscape to a 500px winner in what seems to be a lot of time and a lot of steps… I couldn’t do that, I lack the imagination I think and anyway, all the landscapes on 500px look the same…

So what photography do I do and what do I need? I encourage you to think about this as well, it can help to simplify and streamline the processing and save time as well.

  •  I take street photography mainly but on my memory card I will also have some family photos and some other genres depending on my mood and the places I go to (architecture, macro, travel photography…). I want to import all my raw files and keep them together but export my family photos in a separate place from my personal photography.
  • My street photography is in black and white. The software I use needs to do that properly : I want to modify the colour response and contrast globally, manage the structure, dodge and burn locally, add a vignette and odd little things.
  • I need little for my family photos, some quick adjustments, straighten and crop.
  • I used the Nik Software/Google plugins from photoshop for a long period and that covered anything I needed for my landscapes, portraits and architecture : some precise contrast adjustments, adjusting colour contrast is fabulous etc… I never really learned how to do this in photoshop without plugins so I need to have some kind of equivalent if I want to replace photoshop/lightroom.
  • My street photos go on Flickr, Instagram and google+, I sometime publish to 500px as well.

That is it .
I don’t need much from my software then.
Lightroom/Photoshop with plugins cover my needs.
Photo raw 2018.5 is the first piece of software that can do this on its own.

Let’s edit a photo and I’ll make a few comments on my workflow, the things I like and the things that are missing in Photo Raw. All the images here are screenshots so the definition will not be that of the real files.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.19.11

The importing is simple enough and I can do the same as in Lightroom : I put all my photos in subfolders classed by year/month/date. I rename the files starting by the name of the camera then the capture date and time. Lightroom uses a more flexible editor and I can get a name like : Sony-A7r3-2018-08-16-10h01min51s.arw
The same file in ON1 will look like Sony-A7R3-20180816-100151.arw
The extra hyphens, min, h, s are missing and I don’t see that I can add them in.

Once the photos are imported, you can get to work pretty fast. Here is the original file I’m working on. The raw conversion is very good. Highlight and shadow recovery work very well.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.21.44

The picture was taken quickly as I was walking past, it is not straight. Lightroom will have an auto correct that works really well. In the develop module of Photo Raw, there is a transform module. I used the keystone feature.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.24.44

I clicked apply and cropped the result a little.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.30.02The result is pretty convincing. The niggle I have is on the crop tool. By default it is in “Freeform” but I like to keep a 3:2 ratio for 99% of my pictures. You have to select the “original” mode to keep the crop aspect.

In the develop panel there is lens correction module that recognises my FE 35mm f/2.8 lens (one of the first lenses ever created for the sony a7 line) but it does not have a profile to correct for the vignette, distortion and aberrations.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.43.01

How bizarre… lets carry on then. I did very little in the develop module : a slight boost in exposure, a small adjustment in the white/black points and a bit of sharpening.
The adjustments in the black and white points in Lightroom are great. Stay pressed on the option/alt key and the screen goes black to let you adjust with precision. In Photo Raw, you press option/alt J to see the underexposed pixels in blue and the overexposed pixels in red. Not fancy but it works.

The magic happens in the Effects panel, which for me replaces the round trip to Photoshop and its plugins.

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 12.57.31

The black and white conversion tool is very good, you can control the colour response, add grain, control the overall exposure, shadows, highlights and contrast without going back to the develop module. You can also do split toning to change to sepia, cyanotype…

I added a vignette and a bit of contrast with the dynamic contrast tool.

There are local adjustments possible too like in Lightroom with very good masking tools and what they call a “perfect brush” which is the same as edge detection in LR. You can make gradients, ovals, and a luminosity mask.
In this photo, I just added a bit of exposure to the faces. It was quickly done.

The last thing to do is to export. I make a jpg copy of my edited pictures in the same folder as the raw files and a copy to another drive. There are lots of options for the export (file type,size, location, sharpening…) which you can save into a preset like LR.
I’d like to export quickly using the right mouse button but it doesn’t work.  Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 13.05.40

I can export to Flickr from Photo Raw which is cool but there is nothing for google+, 500px or Instagram. I now use the ifttt.com website (If this then that) to publish from flickr to 500px and Googe photos but I need to upload to instagram manually.
LR manages the publishing better because you can see all the photos you have already uploaded and you can put them in the appropriate service but publish them later.

The effects panel has quite a few additions. I haven’t used them all yet. To each his own!

Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 13.11.01

There is one last Panel I’d like to mention. There is a layers panel where you can add layers that have different processing and merge them with masks. You can also merge different photos (like sky replacement). If my understanding is correct though the process is done in a tiff or psd format and you lose the non-destructive workflow. I think I need to watch a few tutorials before I try.

Conclusion : likes and niggles.

I could use this software!

  • It is fast enough (comparable to editing in Lightroom).
  • It is being improved regularly so features are being added and niggles are being improved.
  • The image quality is very good.
  • Using a single application is very comfortable and the effects added to the photos are in the non-destructive workflow. This is a big improvement on using photoshop plugins. No more tiff files hanging around!
  • I’d like a better import module that gives more flexible file renaming.
  • I’d like a better export module that gives a one-click export using several recipes (like in Capture one) and that keeps track of what photo I have uploaded to what service… and I need more social media services.
  • The masking features are very good, and complex enough to make me want to learn more to use them better.
  • There are blending options like in Photoshop for each effect and local adjustment. I feel I can learn how to use this software whereas photoshop seems too complex.
  • I don’t understand the pricing. I have seen offers at 49.99€ up to 129.99€ for a pro plus plan with free updates. On the site, they say it is a non subscription program but it is only written “perpetual licence” on the the pro plus plan. Yearly updates seem to cost about 70€. Adobe LR/Photoshop costs 11.48€ per month that is 137.76€ per year.
  • I have had a few crashes, it is annoying. LR has not crashed on me for a very long time.
  • I don’t understand the advantage of cataloging a folder under photo raw. I used the browser to edit my first photos then I catalogued my raw files folder. I can’t see the difference. If I take a photo in b&w on the camera, the embedded jpg is b&w. It therefore appears in b&w in Photo Raw. When I open the develop module, it turns into colour because it is reading the raw file. This takes about 5-10s (quite long then). I’d like an option to render my raw files when catalogued for them to open faster in the develop module. I could launch this at night maybe if it need to take a long time.

The Covered Passages of Paris.

The covered passages of Paris are a early form of shopping centres. They were built in the early part of the 19th and at one point Paris boasted over 150 of these passages. The architecture generally consists of a steel and glass ceiling, beautiful geometric floor tiles and shops one either side. These passages were pierced through other buildings and connect the streets on either side of a block. It would have been possible in the 1850’s to cross a great part of the right bank of the Seine through these passages.
Nowadays few remain, some are in a state of disrepair, others have been taken over by cafés and tea rooms or antique shops. One of the passages, Passage Brady, has quite a few Indian, Pakistani and other wonderfully exotic shops.

The challenge for a street photographer is finding an interesting spot, a street scene and good light. I spent a day walking through all the covered galleries but unfortunately the sky was overcast. In most of the galleries however, the light is diffused at best or quite dark if the glass roof doesn’t cover all the passage. Some passages don’t have a glass roof and are lit by lamps.

Here are some of my better shots from that day, all taken with a sony a7r3 and the sony 35mm f/2.8 lens. Edited in Lightroom and Skylum Tonality.

 

In a café

A stationary shop

Le Gardien

The passage

Walking past.
Walking past.

Leaving
Leaving

Pigs and books
Pigs and books

Phone call
Phone call

Quick break
Quick break

 

 

 

Installing Skylum Tonality plugin in Lightroom Classic

I recently added Skylum’s Creative Kit Tonality to my workflow. It is an excellent tool to create black and white photos. I had been using the Nik Software Silver Efex Pro but Tonality is so much cleaner. The Photoshop plugin  installed without a hitch but I couldn’t get the Lightroom classic plugin to install. The option was greyed out. I contacted the customer service and I got a very quick answer from a guy called Konstantin. He sent me some links and the instructions to install the plugin manually. I’d like to share the method with you here.

First of all, close Lightroom.

The first file to download is the .lrtemplate file: here or here 

The second file is the .lrplugin file : here or here

 

Open two instances of the finder (right click : new finder window). Go to the downloads folder on one and in the other, click on Command+Shift+G and enter ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom/External Editor Presets/ and hit Go.
Copy the Tonality.lrtemplate file from the download folder to the new one.

 

In the same manner, with the two instances of the Finder application open, leave one pointing to the downloads folder and in the other, click on Command+Shift+G and enter ~/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Lightroom/Modules/  and hit Go.
Copy the Tonality.lrplugin  file from the download folder to the new one.

Now launch Lightroom classic and it should be possible to edit photos in Tonality straight from Lightroom using the Files/Plug-in Extras menu.

 

The method on Windows must be similar if the plugin doesn’t install, you just need to find the correct path to place the two downloaded files.

 

 

Sony 70-200 f/4 vs sony 70-200 f/2.8

Image link to camera size.com : http://j.mp/2nyYCXO

Having just got back into sonyland with the a7r3, I’ve been looking at the standard telephoto zoom offerings namely the 70-200 f/4 G lens  released in 2013 and the 70-200 f/2.8 GM lens released in 2016. The choice between the two is not that obvious and here are a few of my thoughts.

The price point is very different to start with, the f2.8 GM costing around 2800€ whereas the f4 G costs less than half at around 1300€. The f4 lens weighs around 840g vs the huge 1480g of the f2.8.  The f4 lens is also smaller at 80x175mm, the f2.8 measuring 88x200mm.

The f2,8 GM lens is touted as the ultimate professional lens and it does have some clear advantages in the specs. The close focusing distance is smaller giving a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.25x whereas the f4 G lens is given at 0.13x. This is quite a difference already. With the sony a9, the professional lens in compatible with the 20 frames per second mode, the consumer lens reputedly gives between 10 and 15 fps. This means that the autofocus/tracking should be better in the pro lens. The f2.8 lens has an rounded aperture with 11 blades versus 9 for the f4 lens, giving a better bokeh on paper.

I had a chance to try out both lenses one after the other recently and honestly I found the difference minimal. Both lenses are very sharp on a 42 Mpx camera. I have some 100% crops to compare if you are interested. I felt no difference in autofocus speed, but I wasn’t photographing a wild boar running at me. I feel the pro lens has more contrast and a slightly colder color temperature.

Here is a 100% crop of a full-face portrait both lenses wide open at 200mm. This not being a scientific test, both photos were taken hand held and I and the subject moved a bit between the shots. I haven’t shown the entire pictures for privacy reasons. If anything, I find the pro lens a bit soft at this distance. I wonder if it is a characteristic of the lens or if it is a poor copy.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 14.48.31

100% crop at 70mm. This time the f2.8 lens looks a bit sharper. Notice though that the iso settings are higher on the f4 lens as in the previous photos.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 14.48.57100% crop in center of frame. Both lenses at f/4. Shooting distance of around 2 meters. The textile gives a good idea of the contrast and details.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 14.47.32

100% of a wall that is about 50 meters away. Focus is at infinity. I can’t see much difference.

Screen Shot 2018-01-31 at 14.46.48

My takeaway is quite simple really. I don’t imagine getting a teleconverter (that is only compatible with the f/2.8 lens) and for me, the difference between the lenses is negligible. I am sure there are real differences, Dxomark says the f4 lens can resolve 35mpx and gets a score of 35. The f2.8 lens can resolve 38mpx and gets a score of 39. In the 30 minutes I had of playing around with these lenses, I did notice one great advantage to the smaller f4 lens and that is the weight! I got a sore arm very quickly with the f2.8 lens.

As I intend to take my lens everywhere for street, travel and landscapes, portraits, whatever, I imagine the pro lens would be a burden more than a bonus. I think I’ll go with the f4 lens. All I need to do is find a second-hand pristine copy. There must be some about.

 

From the Fuji X-T2 to the Sony A7r III

I have a quick story here to tell about the switch I recently made from Fuji to Sony. I had been using the Fuji mirrorless system (x-e1,x-T1, x100T and x-T2) since 2012. The camera bodies have slowly improved over time giving fast and precise autofocus, a joystick (on the x-T2) to change focus point, a great picture quality and most of all easy access to all the necessary controls : shutter speed, iso, aperture… I must also stress the quality of the lenses, the XF16mm1.4, XF35mmF1.4 and XF90mmF2 are stellar prime lenses and the XF50-140 is a great zoom, sharp at all apertures and all focal lengths.

So why  change ?

Well, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence of course… I won’t try to convince anyone or try to justify myself (I’ve had so many cameras and lenses over the years, I gave up on that). I thought it might be interesting to show why the sony a7r III can help me move forwards in my photography and why I now think it is the ultimate (as of today) street camera.

But I like to think I am a little bit rational even if G.A.S is always a factor. First of all, image stabilisation is something that has creeped into a lot of systems and it is not a gimmick. I do a lot of street photography and I also use my macro lenses quite a bit. I own a Nikon 105 AF-D lens, which can be adapted on any mirrorless body, fuji or sony. There is no stabilisation in the lens so the in-body stabilisation is a great thing to have. The difference is huge between a stabilised and a non stabilised lens. I could have gone for the new fuji XF80mmF2.8 macro lens, but I really like my Nikon lens and I also have the laowa venus optics 60mm macro lens in Nikon mount which is really very good.

In street photography, my dream is to be able to walk around, shoot without stopping, getting anything I want in focus. I often pre-compose the picture before shooting, but I need to be lightning fast to put the focus point in the right place and shoot. This is where the Sony A7r III really shines, and where the A7r II does not work for me. The new joystick to place the focus point is a direct copy off fuji. It works well, but is often not fast enough in the street. The touch-screen allows me to place the focus point much quicker.

Sony a7r III +35mm f/2.8 @ 1/500s + F/2.8 + ISO 100

Now a bit of sony magic : when the screen is tilted out, the viewfinder detector is deactivated. Let me explain : on all the other camera bodies I have used, when the rear of the camera is too close to your body, or when you move a finger in front of the horizontal screen, the screen switches off… and you lose your shot. Not on this Sony camera. A simple thing to program maybe, but whereas I have been very critical of the ergonomics and haptics of the sony a7 series so far, I must admit this is brilliant.

Sony a7r III +35mm f/2.8 @ 1/800s + F/2.8 + ISO 100

The nail in the coffin for my Fujis is the way the sony can autofocus for my street shots. I have been a long time user of the af-s, flexible spot focusing for all my photography. Af-c has been for specific shoots : my dog, some cars and not much else because I don’t do a lot of wildlife or sport. The sony a7r III (and some other bodies before this one) have a flexible spot lock mode in af-c. Watch a video on you tube if you need to but I’ll explain briefly. When you press the shutter half way down, the small flexible spot focuses on the subject it is on and then stays locked on even if the subject moves around the viewfinder. Forget AF-S and use this! You see a subject in the street, put the focus point on it with the touchscreen, press half-way on the shutter and wait for the subject to get into the position you want, compose while you are doing this and them click! Photo done! Everything tack sharp, even if you are moving because that stabilised sensor really works. I use a shutter speed of 1/250s on my 35mm and it works fine. 1/500s if the subject is moving really close to you.

I have often said that the superiority of full-frame is over-rated, and I keep this opinion. It is an added bonus to have full frame because I can use my 50mm vintage lenses again at their intended focal length. The fall-off between the sharp in-focus areas and the out of focus parts in really smoother with full frame. I don’t give a damn about the number of pixels on the sensor, I really don’t. 16MP was enough, 24MP was great. 42MP is what it is at on the sony, so be it. The raw files by the way are slightly smaller than on the fuji X-T2 which is a bit strange and the rendering on Lightroom is noticeably faster.

Taken with the Nikon 105mm on the sony. I can see a beautiful transition from sharp to out of focus. Better than app-c here for me.

 

Where I stand to lose is on the size, weight and quality of the lenses. I now own the 35mm f2.8 and the 85mm f1.8 lenses. The 35mm is very compact and light. I bought it second-hand so it wasn’t too expensive. It lives on the camera body, it is a great lens, but if someone makes a compact. f1.8 or f2 lens, I’m on it straight away. Full frame is all about subject separation is it not ? The 85mm is sharp but has strange bokeh. In my mind the 56mm f/1.2 fuji lens is better quality. I think I could make a quick article on that later.