Sunday, 30 December 2018

how I'm feeling about my Sony A7 experiment


In a word: Good.


From the day that I first read impressions various of the A7 and its use with legacy FD lenses (and wasn't it handy that E-Mount adapters from the APS-C cameras just worked, kudos Sony) I was attracted to it. However I didn't feel it would be as suitable camera for travel compared to my well proven over years m43 rig and perhaps would not provide anything valuable compared to my scanning of 35mm film taken with my OM1 camera {which could survive days out in -20C in Finland on ski sled trips}.

In the intervening time things happened (I sold my Nikon Film scanner for one) and the A7 camera system has improved and the prices dropped. So I bought one back in October (as documented on my blog here).

I've been writing my thoughts about the A7 since they came out, one such post is from 2014 (here) where I wrote in anticipation of using my FD lenses:
My $20 Canon FD 50mm f1.4 (a beautiful lens) married up with this body would be superb. It would give the wonderful Bokeh I know it does and give better shallow DoF than the (commonly dribbled about by King Wangs subjects) Nocticron lens for micro43 (which costs nearly as much as just this body is likely to).
and of course it has exactly delivered that ... (actually that post is interesting in other ways)

So as a "Shallow Normal" I've got exactly what I was always seeking in that Field of View and Depth of Field.

Normals are good for a variety of things, but really for head and shoulder portraits a 100mm provides a bettter "working distance" in some ways.  So since buying the A7 I've decided to add a 100mm lens (again, I sold my OM100f2.8) and this shot taken with my FD 100mm f2.8 shows how good it can be as a portrait lens

Having already had a collection of FD lenses (from use in my early days of micro43 because no native prime lenses existed in 2009) I was able to pretty much bring them to bear with no extra expenditure than an adapter.

Since then I've added two more to my collection, a 24 and a 100 (mentioned above).

As I mentioned earlier, I had been procrastinating (since like 2014) about buying the A7 because I was using still using 35mm film, I anticipated that the A7 would give me fairly equal tonal range to Colour Negative, and nearly all the benefits of an almost perfect Nikon LS-4000 film scanner scan, The Nikon returned 5546 x 3784 pixels while the Sony 6000 x 4000. An image from this post on my full frame camera is film.

I say nearly because of course Digital Cameras suffer from dust and the Nikon ICE system essentially removed that. Of course one gains all the other benefits of digital (like speed of access for those who just can't wait).

None the less, I'm very happy to again have a a "35mm Full Frame" back in my hands as its nice to be able to get images which I just can't with smaller formats for such reasons as:

  • shallow depth of field issues when seeking that)
  • higher ISO (when needing that)
  • better contrast (with legacy lenses where natives don't exist or out out of my price range)
Indeed I'd go one more and say that exactly due to the profound differences in lens rendering at differing aperture setting combined with the greater possibility to use higher ISO I now have more control over my 35mm lenses as imaging tools than I ever could have had with film (but sort of did because I used a tripod far more) in choosing to open up for a "look", rather than for a needed shutter speed.

GAS Traps

Speaking for myself (and observing what I read) there is a tendency to want to "standardize" ones system and have "One Camera System", perhaps its because it makes the decision of what to "take" when you walk out the door easier, perhaps its because one doesn't like to have gear sitting around "going stale" and deprecating.

The reality is for me however that neither of my digital camera systems are going to significantly further depreciate (like I paid $800 for my GH-1, $70 for my GF-1, recently got given another GF-1 body) and indeed with respect to micro43 I'm now (after 10 years of horse trading lenses) comfortable with exactly what I have and why ... so much so that nothing newly released looks even interesting to me (usually because its too big).

Its important that to avoid falling into this trap that I need to keep focus (pun) on the fact that I wanted to add the A7 not to have a Full Frame Camera which is more amenable to travel, but simply to have one when I wish to explore aspects of photography to which it provides some actual real benefits (and trust me, they are fewer than you might think).  

This is a concept which I enumerated in my 2014 blog post Gearing towards a Photographic Vision, which still underscores my view.


Saturday, 22 December 2018

The Unexpected (and yet) Expectable Changes

It becomes obvious if you say "going through changes changes you", yet this is exactly the "unexpected outcome" that we find when we view our lives in hindsight.

Obviously (when viewed like this) the bigger the change that occurs (and its duration), the bigger the change that you'll find in yourself.

In the movie Blade Runner one of the main characters Roy Batty has a scene where he expresses how the things he's seen (and done) would be incomprehensible to those in the society in which he lived. In one of Cinema's epic monologues Roy says that "he's seen things you people wouldn't believe" as well as "done questionable things" (in his discussion with Tyrell). He is advised to simply revel in his time by Tyrell. All of this has to leave a mark (as we say today) ... changed him probably.

However by the time we get to the scene with Deckard Roy has already gone though more changes, witnessed the deaths of some more of his friends, the grief in the loss of his partner (Pris) and Roy is reflecting as well as reacting.

Movies are melodrama, they attempt to compress time to a span which is comprehensible to a persons thought processes. Our own lives are much longer than the hour or two to watch a movie (or the day or so to read a book), so its difficult to see that what we go through changes us. Its usually only on reflection (often driven by some significant circumstances) which we take the time to reflect on who we are and how our reactions and feelings are different to what they were when we were younger.

Few people actually make significant changes in their lives, and by significant I mean something like become a migrant, move to another country, learn another language and attempt to become a member of that different society.

Doing things like that leaves changes ... indelible ones usually. If you remain in that place (that you've migrated to) you will always carry with you that which has made you before you got there, that which will always clearly mark you (for better or worse) as a migrant. These can be anything from simply an accent, to a different world view. What you may not see immediately is the changes in yourself.

Returning back to your "home" can make these clear to you. Sure when you get home its great to re-unite with Family and Friends. They may all be interested in your stories (or indeed maybe not), and you can all laugh and cry about stuff.

Its in the settling back into life "at home" that you can discover (as many migrants do) that being abroad has given you a different perspective, a different view, and indeed changed how you are not only how you see things.

This is where things are challenging. Indeed you may find that you struggle to fit back in entirely to your cradle.  Things won't feel right for inevitably you'll have found things (new things) that are done in that "other land" that you like, that you came to appreciate. The longer you stayed there, the more likely this will be and the more likely it will be a difficulty for you.

Grasping this may make it clear to you that you've changed, not them (although the society does always change as society is a dynamic thing and you may yearn for the "place you left"), but you see ... its not there. The others around you (having all been in that river of change floating with the current) won't actually see the changes in the same way you do which can be frustrating and possibly alienating.

Other times you can undergo changes without going anywhere, simply life itself can bring changes upon you that make you see things differently, perhaps challenge your (socially) accepted view of reality. This could be something like becoming an Ambulance, Police or Fire Officer, or it could be the death of someone you loved.

If that person was your wife or husband then you'll really have your world rocked because not only did you both change together, but now you don't have them with you anymore. Then there is no one who understands things as you did (assuming you had a good communicative supportive relationship and grew together), as well as no one to support you (even emotionally just by their presence). Its worth observing however that the divorce and break rates (and causes) for Emergency Services Personnel is probably due to those exact changes that their environment wrought upon them and the gradual distancing from their partners which resulted (PhD topic hint there).

For most people this happens (all things being equal) much later in life. The common response is that the changes are too great to deal with and people give up, probably dying. However if one is resilient enough (and with youth often comes resilience) one can make it through this "cathartic change" and emerge on the other side with strength and ability to keep on making a life.

There will however be profound changes, which may not be visible to your friends, and which may make you feel unable to relate to them as well as you once did. If you're lucky and have good friends you'll all get by. However you will always feel that "difference" which is because of the changes which happened due to the events you underwent.

I can't tell you what to do about that, because 1) we're all different and 2) I'm still trying to sort that out myself.

So, as the old European saying goes: Merry Christmas; peace and good will to all men (meaning humans, but English lacks in that area, in other languages it would be clearer that its not sexist).

Best Wishes

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Evening Visitors

Had this Cicada attempt to fly into the house last night (the screen on the back door stopped it). A quick turn off of the lights (ceasing the attraction) and a quick tap on the screen (from my side) and she flew into the stuff on the top of the back steps. A quick check this morning revealed she was still there, but sluggish. Looks to have laid its eggs (lifecycle briefly described here).

end to end its about 5cm long

I understand in this "phase" of their life cycle they don't feed, so they're just in the mate and lay eggs phase of life. Meaning that they're living on stored energy reserves (fats) at this point.

you can see the ovipositor here (at least it looks that way to me, clarifications sought from any better entemologists than I)

I assume that big mouthpiece is actually just for detecting pheromones.

Hope you enjoyed looking as much as I did ... Nature is fantastic stuff isn't it

Sunday, 16 December 2018

(Political) Climate Science

I was having a conversation with an old friend of mine today about Australian politics and the difficulty of predicting outcomes and it led to the ideas which I've now put together in this blog post (thanks Tina). We were attempting to understand the political climate in Australia and Tina proposed we needed an index to look for Indicators of Change.

I put forward that in the "sea of bullshit" which comprises Australian Politics and the recent common vernacular to call politicians "Muppets" (for the obvious reasons) that we needed to develop something akin to the Southern Oscillation Index which allows Climate Scientists to make better predictions of transitions of weather types.

So I proposed the MOI or Muppet Oscillation Index.

In the following short essay I will attempt to clarify the MOI and identify key elements that vary the MOI over time. In this essay I will restrict analysis to the larger milestones in the Political Climate and in good academic style leave work for future research to clarify the effects of some of the indicators which are clearly at work in our Political Climate here in Australia.

A typical SOI would appear like this:

... with occasional transitions of "state" from red to blue. Even in this data we have some attempt to quell noise in the data by averaging over 3 months. A brief movement into the RED does not indicate a change of State from Red into Blue (and vice versa). However its clear when there is a change that we have the classic El Nino or La Nina State years.

My most basic view of the indicator of political change is not in the nebulous polls (which are so often inadequate predictors of outcomes), but in the actual election results. This below is the data showing when our State changed from Red to Blue.

It becomes clear that (looking at the above MOI chart) that the once clear distinction between Muppet Group 1 years and Muppet Group 2 years is becoming less clear. I don't think this can be wholly attributed to the Also-Ran group numbers, and so I feel there is some sort of Climate Swing is at work in the Political Climate here.

I have decided to call the change of State the Statler Waldorf Swing, and so during Statler Years one bunch of muppet hecklers are in opposition and in Waldorf Years the other muppets are in opposition. Its important to observe that as neither group of Muppets ever provides actual Leadership, the primary distinction is on which Muppet Group is in opposition. For it seems that Australians no longer vote governments in, but vote them out.

Unlike the SOI the MOI is compounded by the addition of (initially) a thrid influence Muppet Group 3 and later a fourth group of Muppets who I'll call "Also-Rans" (note: this is not to be confused with the Pauline Effect)

Methane is well known as a potent Greenhouse Gas and a well known source of this gas is Bullshit (see figure below)

I propose that further research is needed to identify if Bullshit is the main cause of this cyclic change in the MOI and that if so then the source of this Bullshit must be identified and cleaned up. I postulate that as the levels of Bullshit increase that it creates agitation molecules (probably Administratium) of the political climate causing a loss of clarity due to an increase in background heat and thus Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) quality reduction.

As King Wang knows all to clearly, "in the land of the blind the one eyed is king" and perhaps the MOI has an influence from the Wanger Circulation (as indeed the Walker Circulation is well understood in the SOI).

As I identified in a later post (about the Zombies of Moronity and their role in disrupting the distribution of truth) the problem is also the ZoM, can upset the Sheep (who in the MOI are perhaps the greatest source of electorate noise).

I'm not sure (again further research is needed) but feel that the daily distribution of Bullshit by the various media outlets (Social Media such Farcebook for example) is indeed increasing the agitation of the Sheep leading to a masking of the influence of the Major Muppet Groups and allowing Minor Muppet Groups (on the graph as Also-Rans). It is this that I believe to be representative of the Hanson Effect (or perhaps like the Dunning Kruger Effect it should be rightly named the Hansen Katter Effect).

I hope that once we can clarify some of these Political Climate Indicators we may be able to move away from Muppet Government and towards Sensible Government. In the mean time I'm distributing a kit to assist in coping with the difficulties of the Political Climate and the influence of the Muppets

I encourage you to print this and have it on the table between you and the daily news paper...

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Social Media Success

I'm often intrigued as to how things circulate on Social Media (and how fast they seem to do so). Yesterday I had the opportunity to see this more directly with a post I made on Facebook to attempt to find the owner of a digital camera media card I found on the side of the road (walking taking sunset pictures). To me SD cards from cameras filled with memories of trips and partners and family are more valuable than the camera itself.

As the world has presented me enough encouraging stories of people working together in a "team" who don't know each other I decided that perhaps Facebook would give me my best shot of finding the owner (and I was right).

I within minutes some of my friends had shared this, and then it went (as they say) viral. By the end of that evening we had found the owner (I'm going to post it off to them this morning) and the share count was amazing

So the magnification of my friends x their friends x their friends, (as not all of my friends shared I'm assuming a similar portion for others) resulted in 3,565 shares by the evening.


To me it was simply amazing to see how many other members of the general public felt as I did that it would be good to re-unite the owner with their memories.

The only down side to the story was that the owner grumbled to me about not being on facebook and not wanting his pictures up there, so could I take them down? (thanks would have been a good starter). Of the over 2000 pictures (spanning 3 years) I put up a small selection to allow anyone to make identification, and nothing with compromising data like vehicles or rego.

Respecting his wishes, I complied and have also taken the faces off the images on my blog.

So basically everyone who took part in re-uniting the lady on the right in the above picture with her card take a bow for your roles in this great social media experiment and success story (... but the fella on the right made me wish I'd erased it and kept it).

So sadly you don't always reap what you sew

Monday, 10 December 2018

fence post

I was out wandering with the A7 and found this to be interesting.

As it happens its also a good example of why I like the A7 and my legacy FD series lenses (in this case the FD50mm f1.4). This is not to say that other lenses are not as good, it just happens I've gathered a selection of FD from when I got into micro43 back 10 years ago.

The A7 gives me a dynamic range that I would be unable to get with my m43 cameras (even if I had newer ones) and the larger capture sensor gives me a much more exaggerated DoF experience than I can get with m43 (something I've known since I first started with APS-C, which is almost the same sensor size, some 20 years ago).

35mm used to be the first size (the smaller end) of films which I considered useful for anything other than snapshots (or macro, a place where small digital sensors have been great from my first experiences)

Friday, 7 December 2018

Creative Desctruction (or how to move towards business evolution)

No, not the video game, but the philosophy of the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter.

I often wonder how (if?) we can move beyond a competition based economy into something which can robustly absorb change without causing harm to people. We do need change after all.

Myself I sit on the side of Ecological Modernisation (meaning that we need to move into technology to solve our problems caused by population growth and our desire for more modern stuff). You know, stuff like this electric bicycle which would really effectively answer many of the commuting needs of people in big cities, while at the same time drastically reducing the need for power.

It has occurred to me that one of the failures (for humanity) of the competitive system is that if any industrial innovation which makes old technology obsolete (or drastically reduced in effectiveness) will be seen as a destructive force (bad) by those invested in the old (because it is going to be devalued or obsoleted by the new).

However if we were not engaged in "competition" (with one business as being a winner or loser) then we could more easily adapt and adopt newer technologies, thus making innovation in the business cycle a bonus to society (rather than a horror story for investors and employees).

The Machine is like a social ladder, some climb it, some fall down it, and most fail to see its existence.

Knowing the Machine is there (in the form of corporations) is the first step, understanding that it was made by us and can be therefore redesigned by us to better suit us (not better suit it) is the second step.

Now, all I need is an epiphany on how to move towards step 2...

Thursday, 22 November 2018

dealing with heat

Its not just people who get hot, gear gets hot too.

Just the other day we had over 35C in my area (and my house insides too) and I observed that my phone had not charged much when I had put it on the charger (I know how fast it usually charges).

A bit of investigation revealed that the internal temperature (reported by an App that reads the temperature off the sensors inside the phone) showed that it was very close to 50C inside the phone, so I whacked it onto a "cold pack" until I could come up with a better solution.

This wasn't an ideal solution as while it chilled the phone it took it too cold and moisture condensed on the phone (known to technically apt as a "bad idea") and so I sought a proper solution at my earliest convenience. Indeed I expect that as battery damage occurs when temps are over 50C and would logically block or seriously slow charging (if you're an American reading this and don't know what 50C means then I expect the rest is technically over your head too, so don't worry).

From battery university:

Solution: get rid of heat

This is a heat sink.

its made out of aluminium to enable it to rapidly conduct heat (from the source) and disappate it via the fins (which being black also allow for good radiation too).

So with my phone sat on this it was only a few degrees above "ambient" air temp.

which is great.

Somehow it happens that I didn't blog about my "home made phone stand" (from old wood) which I also made a few of for office colleagues:

I sit it like this when not charging:

but as the charging port is on the side, I turn it sideways (notifications harder to read that way as orientation sensor does not do everything everywhere) when charging. As it happens my "home made stand" also works to allow heat dissipation through the screen in this orientation..

I've always disliked phone covers (which will act to also trap in the heat) and so this only works well because the phone is in good thermal contact (it has an aluminium back even) with the heat sink.

Sorta looks funky too dunnit.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Camera Mentat

being a Dune fan I don't know why its taken me this long to come up with this:

Camera Mentat

It is by will alone I set my lens in motion.
It is by the choice of ISO that sensors acquire speed, 
the files acquire noise,
the noise becomes a warning. 

It is by will alone I set my lens in motion.

So its unsurprising that I choose to use manual focus and manual aperture control lenses ;-)

Sunday, 11 November 2018

the EV "Fest" at the convention center

being intersted in (despit appearances) EVs and EV development  (I have no doubt that it is the future for many vehicles, just "when" remains uncertain to me) I went along to the Brisbane Convention center with a mate and had a look around. It was nice to see some offerings from mid priced manufacturers:

such as Hyundai as well as a bunch of home brew stuff (which I always love to see done well). This little Suzuki 4WD was excellent:

 and showed how much space can be made in the engine bay without as much engine there

I didn't find out about the engine on that, but instead got chatting with the owner of the orange beetle behind it (visible in the above photo).

The guy was probably the most down to earth (realist) in the whole place and he seemed to enjoy chatting to my mate and I about his vehicle (perhaps because we're both interested in older cars too). His view was that the EV conversion made his (mid 60s?) beetle a great daily driver and increased its reliability.

This is the "engine" he had in the beetle:

which was quite compact (as can be sen from the automotive clutch and ring gear here to fit the VW). Details on the makers website here, but a very tidy little conversion. The owner has said he's modified the original gear box to have only 2nd and top ... works well with the torque range of the motor.

Naturally there were some EV bicycles which I also have an interest in (being in my view the most desirable city EV to have). I liked this one the most, and it happens to be a folding type so you could easily bring it into your apartment:

love that single sided front and rear swingarm:

A little pricy for my taste (just under AU$5000) but if I lived in the center and wanted to get about it would be a very tidy choice ... (although myself I still lean towards an actual 200cc motor scooter like the Honda dio), but with rego costs and access to bike ways it may eventually balance out as the ideal. Just make sure you don't forget to keep it charged because you can't really just "go to the servo and fill up" if its flat.

All in all a great morning (thanks Dom)

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Pretty Scenery

I went for a ride down to the Coast yesterday and took my new Sony A7 camera with me, there was opportunity on the way home to snap a couple of things (one planned, one impromptu) which I thought I'd share here not least because they're (to me) images of beautiful countryside.

On the way home I passed this "wetland" area (which is flooded because of a water dam).

I wanted to explore this area in a little more detail so I switched out the wide angle for a mild telephoto (100mm). First the silo

I was just stunned with the image quality which the a7 gave me, so lets look at a segment of that image closer:

well ... wow ... great handling of highlights and shadows (photographed in RAW and processed on my tablet) with very little noise and even at 100% ... The details in the rusted tin roof, the birds on the fence and rock. All this with a 1979 Canon FD lens (which was purchased used for $130)

Another shot of the "wetland" over near the dead trees (with the 100mm)

myself I would have wanted to wait for more like sundown to get the reds, but still, this was a "test run"

On the way home I was glad I didn't linger, because I had opportunity to see a magnificent sunset with rim-lit clouds and smoke in the skies (from some small fires). I saw the sun going down from further away and around that ridge.

 If I'd had any other camera the above picture would have been inky, and attempts to resurrect it in post processing would result in horrible noise in the shadows with many cameras.

So ... WOW

Moving further along the valley (towards that ridge on the left, which I needed to ride up) I was greeted by this wondrous scene just as the sun had set (which I again snapped).

And again was able to get the brilliant beauty of the clouds and (to my eye) the right level of "evening" in the valley.

Loving this camera ... and the well priced, optically excellent lenses from nearly 40 years ago that it enables me to use (for the first time on Full Frame, as no other DSLR can).

Friday, 19 October 2018

Ciecio7 E mount FD adapter

Readers of my blog (the old ones) will know that I've regularly used FD lenses on my m43 camera; these require an adapter to allow the FD lens to fit onto the m43 mount.

The same is true for a Sony A7 (E mount).

So as I have a small collection of FD lenses already it made sense to get a adapter; naturally I chose my favorite maker.

Now I'm a bit perplexed that this guy (from Poland) who makes without doubt the best "non electronic" adapters is somehow not yet "famous" on the internet, given that he's been making FD adapters (and many others) since at least 2009.

So without further preamble here's a quick look at my new Ciecio7 FD adapter

As always the workmanship is first rate, and being machined from a single billet of Aluminum its not only solid, but accurate. Indeed I believe there is more "play" in the nFD mount (with its screws) than there is in this adapter.

Myself I've found these to be far more satisfying and robust than any of the other makes I've ever used.

With the adapter on the camera the front of the camera becomes the same as the front of an FD camera and the lens is easily attached (well if you're used to nFD lenses)

It fits nicely and to be frank, "fits like it was made for it" ... which is more than I can say about some other adapters I've tried (even on E mount).

dismounting it you can see that its just a beautifully made bit of gear and looks great.

From this angle you can see there are two red dots which makes the process of mounting any FD lens easier ....basically you bring the lens to the adapter with the lens Red Dot matching the left (in this picture) red dot. Then you (keeping them together) rotate the lens around to match the second red dot (on the right) and the lens "falls onto" the adapter (as it goes into that groove).

You then rotate the lens to "lock it" in the normal way (Leftie Loosie - Righite Tightie) till it clicks.

In the shot above you can see the "tangs" which engage the aperture control (on the back of the lens), they too are machined ... its just beautiful work (no screws through the side here).

So now I can fit my FD 50f1.4, 100f2.8, 200f4 and 300f4 to my Sony A7 body.

Every time I buy another one of this guys adapters he's put effort into iterative improvement and development. He deserves better recognition than he gets IMO (and no he and I have no relationship, indeed we barely communicate except for me ordering adapters off his eBay store now and then.

I strongly suggest if you're in the market for an adapter to go sus his site out on eBay (link).

A link to all my other articles about this guys adapters is here.


Monday, 15 October 2018

Full Frame (Sony A7) Adventures

For quite some years I shot 35mm film (which nowdays gets called Full Frame (FF)), and there was no digital. Then when the first D-SLR's came out I was abjectly disappointed to find that they were APS-C and none of my EOS lenses (and I had a few) worked well on them (or so I felt), so perhaps its better to say "worked the same".. my beloved 24mm became a sort of slightly wide normal (at effectively 38mm) and was neither wide (like 28mm or less) or "normal" (like 50mm) and wasn't even "fast" being f2.8

Eventually the 5D came out but by then I'd accepted the APS size and by 2009 had sold my EOS system and moved solidly into the Four Thirds (or specifically micro43) sensors with my G1 (and later GH1 and GF1). I have of course written *much* about that on this blog.

Back in 2014 I was looking with interest at the Sony A7 as being perhaps the perfect platform to use legacy 35mm lenses because "they were designed for that coverage" and in particular in "wide" and "normal" prime lenses were well priced (in a day when everyone wants a 24-105 f4 zoom), and (as the famous Ken Rockwell's discussion on wide angle lenses between digital cameras here observes, primes can be quite the advantage in some ways:


Both the above lenses are 28mm (the two zooms variously wider and less wide).

I know some people like to suffer for their art, but that's not me, I'd pick the middle one. Thus I've always preferred a selection of compact primes to a couple of huge zooms ... it brings other advantages with it too ... like DoF control. With a 28 - 70 f3.5~5.6 zoom you don't ever get "shallow DoF" ... thus you have abdicated control.

So knowing that I like shallow normals (which has been a kind of quest for me since I've been into m43) where the absence (at first, then dearth) them in m43 has been a problem. Over time this was solved with both the 20f1.7 and 25f1.7 (and yes I know I can spend big and buy the 25f1.4 or 24f.12 even) which were good and I was glad of but still somehow something was missing for me - low light performance of m43. Sure, f1.7 helped give better shutter speeds, but not enough, not if you wanted higher quality detail (IE: more than facebook or other social media image making demands).

Now just the other day I compared the Panasonic 25f1.7 on my GH1 with the Pentax SMC thread mount 50f1.4 on my A7 (photographing a packet of noodles) but found that test both "wanting" (I'm not really into noodle packets) and limiting. Not least because photographing at that distance isn't quite what I'm into with "normals". Plus I've wanted to use my Canon FD50f1.4 which I have used and tested before on my G1 (which of course using only the center portion) turns it into a crisp and sharp 100mm. Yet it was designed as a normal and I wanted to see how it "looked" ...

Today FD adapter arrived (from my favorite maker of FD adapters, I strongly recommend his products) so I could put my FD50f1.4 onto the Sony and have a look at photographing a person in a "normal" context. I took two shots, one at f1.4 (cos like why not) and the other at f2.8 (or maybe f2?) and they looked like this:


and at f2.8

Which to me look (unsurprisingly) exactly like what I'm after, in contrast the P25f1.7 gave this wide open at f1.7

Its not as distinct from the background as the 2.8 (and indeed it should be closer if we assume the 2stops that exists between FF and m43). Its also a bit "wider aspect ratio because its 4:3 not 3:2 .. none the less its nice, but still, the books behind John are clearer and attract (unwanted) attention.

Overall (especially at this size) there is little rendering difference between this and a phone (less if you've got one of those that does the background Out Of Focus (OOF) in software now.

So what else is different?

Well for a starter I wanted to keep "shutter speed" above a minimum to reduce the possibility of subject blur (and yes I know IBIS will help with that, but won't help it if the subject moves ... as people are prone to). I also wanted to compare noise (which I also expected to show a 2 stop advantage to the bigger sensor, so I put the GH1 at 1600 ISO and the A7 at 6400 ISO (2 stops). This resulted in

  • the GH1 giving 1/250th at f1.7 (so yes its a dim room on a rainy day)
  • the A7 1/400th at f2.8 (and just over 1/1000th at f1.4 which really will freeze motion)
I don't want to pixel peep the shitter out of this because quite frankly it doesn't need that to show the differences, nor is anything more than 50% needed to replicate what a print looks like.  However the sheer amount of extra pixels captured by the A7 (6000 vs 4000 high) makes it hard to present them similarly. So I've chosen to present half size images for the A7 and full size GH1.
So lets dive in...

Straight away, just like with the noodle packet (in the earlier above mentioned post usig the Pentax lens on the A7) we see that the amount of detail available in the A7 just outright exceeds that of the GH1, and also contrast is better. What surprised me was how much more the noise was intrusive in the dark areas and even on the sides of Johns glasses. To me I'd expected that 2 Stops would see them on more equal footing than this. That the noise is larger in size (because its pixels are effectively bigger in the picture) makes it harder to apply Noise Reduction to without destroying detail.

To make the noise clearer (and highlight why colour channel noise is the big culprit here), lets look at just the Red channel.

The A7 noise looks more like "random noise" and the GH1 shows that its on the ragged edge of electrical read (sensor) noise.

This has a very detrimental effect on fine detail, which becomes clear when we look at the shot below.

So you can see the stripes clearly in the cushion, but the pattern in the covering of the chair is simply missing in the GH1 image (buried in noise). Click that image (indeed you should all of them) and look at the larger size ... the details vanished because the "feature size" of the image was about the same as the size of the noise ... so... gone.

Conclusions / discussion

Throughout this discussion I've used the names of the two cameras (the A7 and the GH1) however what really is significant is that one is FF (the A7) and one is m43 (the GH1). This is really the most significant point. All of the observations I've made are consistent with the expectations of the understanding of what is different between these two systems.

Big ticket items first, the FF camera gives better handling of noise and (via lower magnification) better contrast if not higher details. While its true that m43 can resolve as much as FF can its also true that things can erode that in practice, which we see here.

This experiment has shown to me that FF does indeed have benefits that extend beyond megapixel count, that even scaling the FF image down to a smaller than what the m43 camera still has greater details.

The smaller pixel size (relative to detail) allows greater use of post processing NR without destroying what RAW file posses.

So if you (like me) don't mind using manual focus (which requires a better skill set as a photographer) then you can take advantage of some great optics and get great images. Looking at the "native lens" options (meaning with AF and electronic control) available in a "normal" I see:
  • Sigma 50mm f1.4 for US$950
  • Sony E 50mm f1.8 with OSS (an advantage) US$300
  • Sony FE 50mm f1.4 US$1500
  • Panasonic 25mm f1.7 $150 
  • Olympus 25mm f1.8 $350
  • Panasonic 25mm f1.4 $600
Given that the FD50f1.4 costs about $100 it means that for a photographer, you have access to quality optics (but without the "bells and whistles") for a lot less. Yet still it on this camera the system outperforms the m43 option in terms of image quality and noise when in challenging light. Even if the P25f1.4 above could resolve more it would be eroded by the sensor noise. Perhaps its possible that some of the newer sensors (like the G80/85 I wrote about recently would come close to improving that situation, but  I doubt it would equal it let alone improve it.

So in conclusion (as I've expected) the m43 system will in good light give results in sharpness and detail that are well and truly "good enough". FF only pulls ahead when low light shooting is called for.

I'm in no way intending as a result of these findings to move away from m43 ... it offers so many things that FF does not (especially without having AF lenses). I will however be (now that I have a FF system {or at least not a film one}) rationalising my m43 lenses to be more in keeping to what I believe that basis of m43 has been right from the get go ... a compact and light weight flexible and system capable of excellent results as long as you don't have to contend with low light / high ISO.

Some random examples