A black and white walk. Why I think the Sony Nex 7 is a great black and white camera.

When I first started taking photographs all I could afford was black and white film and black and white prints. They were much cheaper than color at the time. We grew up in photography convinced that nicely done black and white prints represented the apotheosis of artful photography and that color was something people did for work. It's hard to bust up long time habits of thought.

I'd come off a long week of working photography and post processing so the last thing I wanted to do today was walk around and shoot color images. I really did want to walk around and shoot black and white images and channel my first romps with Tri-X and its brothers.  My first thought was to shove the Hasselblad in the car and go to it but I've decided to reserve that puppy for making portraits. Methodical and well thought out portraits. Instead I grabbed the Sony Nex 7 and the 50mm 1.8 OSS lens, a Hoodman 16gb SD card and some cash and I headed out the door for a brisk walk in the first afternoon of Austin's first brisk weather of the Fall.

I've worked with the Nex 7 long enough so that it falls to hand transparently and operates on an almost subconscious level. The focal length is perfect for most of the things I see and now I find that its black and white rendition suits my tastes as well. I usually end up brightening the image (but not much) and adding a little gob of contrast. No more monkeying around with the laborious black and white controls in PhotoShop "Adjustments."

When I shoot with black and white in mind I don't worry or even think about noise at higher ISO settings. I just shoot. I had my camera set up as aperture control (generally at f3.2) and the ISO set to auto. I used my EVF and I could see instantly, via pre-chimping, if the image was going to need a slightly increased exposure or not.  After the settings were locked in I just enjoyed the looking and the shooting.

Working in close with the sparkly 50mm 1.8 Nex lens means having fun with limited depth of field and high sharpness. I was handholding these shots at the bar in Caffe Medici at around 1/20th of a second so I'm going to suggest that the OSS (optical super steady) works pretty well.

I spent a good amount of time just walking out the kinks from the recent structural failure of my back. (concerned parties may be interested to know that I was able to swim about an hour or around 3,000 yards this morning, without incident.  Thanks to all who recommended ice packs and Advil....).  I was also breaking in a new pair of shoes.

As a result of tests done with the Sony Nex 7, the 50mm 1.8 and lots of pixel peaking I'm ready to announce that the Nex 7 is one of the finest IQ and handling digital cameras I've ever had the pleasure to use. The files are far better, overall, than the files from my recently discarded Canon 1dsmk2 and even a bit better (dynamic range and low ISO tonality and sharpness) than my even more recently discarded Canon 5D mk2. Not at all bad for a camera that's roughly 1/7th of the 1DS mk2's original selling price and about 1/3rd the original selling price of the Canon 5D mk2.

We can argue lens choice all you want but with an ever increasing range of Zeiss and now Schneider lenses becoming available for the Sony Nex system I think the Canons are currently fighting a losing battle.

There is a caveat. The Nex 7 is not for action photographers. The contrast detection AF is really good but it is not up to the level of focus tracking and quick lock on that many amateur will expect. Not much of a bother for those that used to focus under dark cloths with 4x5 and 8x10 view cameras.  I'm willing to give up a few milliseconds for the kind of imaging performance I am able to get from such a small, inexpensive yet powerful package.  And I suspect that if you shoot the way I do you may too.


Eric said...

I like those shoes. What kind are they? Nice shots by the way.

Anonymous said...

My 5n has a 21 (Orange) filer on the lens. Works just like it does on film 8-) For that trendy bowling-ball sized grain ISO 3200 and up does the trick 8-0

Kodak killed P3200, so it's time to sell my film cameras.

BTW Fuji is ceasing production of motion picture film, March 2013.


Anonymous said...

Love the shots (not sure about the shoes, though). I did B&W for many years as an impoverished youth and I still find that many shots that speak most strongly to me are best in B&W. I am shooting the E-P3, with a fine stable of lenses including some from my ancient Pen-FT. No plans to move over to Sony, but I totally get the lure of a good EVF. Kirk had the Sony uber-bridge camera, while I had the extraordinary Oly C8080-WZ (incredible optics, way slow focusing, buttons for everything, tank-like E-1 build) which also had an EVF that I made good use of. I was hooked, but there was no decent EVF upgrade path until the mirrorless cameras came out.

I have to try that Orange filter for B&W. Not used to "seeing" that way anymore, but it is something that I need to re-learn.


Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Chuck, +1 for the filters! The 8080 was a camera I always wanted to use but never got around to owning and yes, YES. The EVF rules.

Ken said...

Kirk - In no particular order:
1. I've always preferred your coffee shop photos over your skyscraper shots in the walkabout category.
2. With few exceptions I've always preferred your B&W to your color photography.
3. I really like this particular series of B&W shots!
4. I've learned to smile amusedly as you wax amorously about your current camera love interest, knowing your marriage to the 'Blad will remain but all others will be cycled through like cheap one night stands. ;)

Gingerbaker said...

"No more monkeying around with the laborious black and white controls in PhotoShop "Adjustments.""

Oh, those laborious sliders! Reminded me of an article I saw recently on the 50th anniversary of "The Jetsons" (http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/paleofuture/2012/09/50-years-of-the-jetsons-why-the-show-still-matters/) where button-pressing syndrome was a work-related injury. :D

Turns out B&W vs color was an issue for the program also - the cartoon was in color while most networks were not.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Don't forget that computers ushered in carpal tunnel syndrome....

JerseyT said...

Did you ever look at the residue in those coffee/tea/whatever cups and wonder what's in your stomach??
I echo the thoughts about your coffee shop photos. Really unique stuff.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

No more so than I wonder what's in my bloodstream. I think the stomach clears out pretty darn quickly....

cidereye said...

Not for action photographers? Correct of course when talking about AF but I'm finding MF a whole different ball game.

Shot my NEX-7 for the first time at a classic car race meeting today using an old el cheapo Vivitar 70-210mm lens, Pentax mount on a £9 adapter and barely got one single shot out of focus. Even I was impressed, the rendering & sharpness from this old lens was superb too on the NEX-7 which quite surprised me I must say.

Unknown said...

Love the first shot and the cream being poured. Simply beautiful. Thank you for sharing them.

hugo said...

really great B&W pictures ! Some of the photos in this series (like the one with stacks of plates) have a strong abstract touch to them.

Kirk, how do you feel about the EVF which allows you to already see the B&W rendering ? Doesn't it feel a little like cheating compared to "color" OVF with B&W films or B&W raw processing ?

I have been using the nex-7 for 6 months now, after having used the A900, and before a Canon APS-C DSLR, and I can testify that the nex-7's IQ is really impressive. Maybe you can confirm that, as I have never used directly the A77, but my understanding was that the nex-7 has a weaker AA filter which seems to help quite a lot. Anyway IMHO, Canon's IQ is totally overrated in the first place.