Welcome Back to the Visual Science Lab Blog. I Missed My Daily Keyboard Exercise. My Mind Got Flabby Too.

Selfie in a mirrored window. 

I wish I could say I got a lot done during my almost month long Summer vacation but the truth is that I spent most of it swimming, running, hanging with my (incredible) kid and going out to our family's favorite restaurants. I read four or five novels, watched movies and even spent some time meditating. I'd like to say that I am now relaxed and mellow but the truth is I'm no more or less cynical and opinionated than when I last hit the keyboard. And not much more relaxed than at any other time. Only now I am a month behind...

To get everyone up to speed I have to say that I did not buy any new cameras or lenses during my hiatus. I'm still working with the Sony cameras and I'm still finding the various strengths from model to model. Current favorite combinations include using the a6300 with the older Olympus 60mm f1.5 lens. Mix in focus peaking and focus magnification and the lens just becomes twenty years better and sharper. It's as good as anything I can buy new today. If you find one of these lenses in good shape be sure to grab it. Better still if it's cheap!

I am having fun shooting the A7ii as though it was a 1970's SLR. I toss a manual focus 50mm lens on the front and I am more or less transported back to 1978, only with an EVF and a bunch of information in the finder. Oh, and no film to buy and soup. It's like the cameras we all used to wear to school every day, just in case we ended up meeting a very, very cute woman on the way to or from class and she needed to have her portrait made. It's small, discrete and mellow. Kinda like a Nikon FM. Or an Olympus OM-1.

The camera that gets most of my attention is still the Sony RX10iii. It's so fantastic that I try to use it for everything. If I ever perfect a PhotoShop methodology for getting a narrow depth of field look with that camera then everything else goes off to the consignment shelf at the store and we pick up an extra RX10iii as a back up. With that one exception (shallow depth of field) it is the ultimate working camera for me. Too bad the A7ii is more fun (ergonomically) to carry around, and comes stock with the kind of depth of field control that is in fashion and addictive. 

The odd man out of the whole collection seems to be that poor A7Rii which sits alone in a drawer, in a neoprene pouch, waiting for the next, big paying job to roll around. Don't get me wrong, the camera is pretty amazing. Files are beautiful whether you are shooting stills or video, but unless you're working on a massive print project, or need very clean high ISOs, the A7ii works just fine, is less dear to lose or damage, and gives me a good compromise between file size and "ultimate" image quality. 

Of the three subsets of Sony that I own the a6300 and a6000 are the least necessary to me. I like using the old Olympus lenses, or the new Sigma 30mm f1.4 DN, on them and pretending I'm shooting with an old Leica but my brain always reaches for the RX10iii or the A7ii well before any of the APS-C, mirrorless Sonys. 

In other news: My world class assistant for the Summer (Ben) is packing up and heading back to school in New York this week. He hits the Austin airport early Saturday morning and I already miss him. So much so that I've already got airline tickets and hotel reservations so his mom and I can head up and visit in October. The member of the family who will be most devastated by his leaving will be Studio Dog. She'll mope around for weeks. She loves to torture me in the times after Ben goes back to school by walking down the hall in front of me, as we head out for a walk, and stopping in front of Ben's room and looking it over. Then she turns her head towards me and makes the world's saddest dog eyes. It's just pathetic. And no matter what I have scheduled I stop and play with her for the next half hour. 

During the break I've spent some quality time learning more and more about microphones, their placement and their pre-amps. I've picked up some extra microphones and now, officially, have more than I need for anything short of a TV quiz show production. I'll talk about them in the near future...

Finally, my goal for the Fall is to start every blog post with a new portrait. If no one is around to collaborate with you'll either get a new self portrait or another stunning image of Studio Dog. Since I have no immediate interest in adding to my camera inventory we may just have to go crazy and talk about actual photographs. Welcome back! Happy coffee. 

Dog cooling butt on a hot afternoon.

My favorite view from Town Lake

Dog piloting boat while human enters self-induced cellphone coma.

Preparing to dock. 

A quick tech note about the bottom four photographs in this blog: They were all done with the Sony RX10iii. The first one, of the sitting dog, was done at some intermediate focal length but the wide shot of the Lamar Bridge was done at the widest focal length (24mm equiv.) while the bottom two were done from hundreds of yards away with the fully extended 600mm focal length. I am consistently amazed at the performance of that lens and sensor combination. Just amazed. 


Peter Wright said...

Welcome back! (This is really a response to your earlier post, but never mind.) We've discussed in other places that the passion of photography is not found in photography itself, but the message bears repeating. For my part, when I was 59 and had had many years of profitable work in electronics/computer/software behind me, I politely told my boss that I was shortly not coming to work any more as I had other things I wanted to do. (In thinking of my career I think Rossini's comment on Wagner's music sums it up best: "It has it's moments, but it also has it's half-an-hours!". With three degrees in engineering, one of the first things I did was get a degree in Theology (for balance?). I also travelled the world with my wife, studied art, and quantum physics. And all the great photographers from last century. My photography has improved by leaps and bounds as I now only photography my passions. (I even have an execution locally at present – nothing for many of your readers, but I milestone for me.)

Daniel Walker said...

Great to have you back, the usefulness of the Internet just improved 100%. Question: I was under the impression Sigma 1.4 was a 6300 lens, why use it on a full frame?

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Daniel, I mentioned using it on the a6300 which is a cropped frame. It's a good lens. Nice and sharp, not too heavy. I like it.

Craig Yuill said...

Yes please. A nice post or two (or three) about microphones would be much welcome by this blog reader. I used my old mirrorless camera to take a lot of video this summer. For convenience/necessity sake I used the camera's built-in mic (which is generally okay, but has a few issues when uses in various circumstances). I also had the audio input set to the default auto gain control. As a result I had to spend a lot of time correcting and adjusting audio levels in FCPX to get reasonable sound in my finished video projects. Your take on microphones and how to use them would be much appreciated by yours truly.

Henk said...

Thank you for continuing the best Photography blog on the internet Kirk. I hope you enjoyed your vacation as much as I did enjoy mine.


Alex said...

I missed my daily reading experience :)

James Weekes said...

Thanks for coming back in full force. I have the a6000 and have yet to bond with it. The files are lovely and it seems to handle nicely, but no electricity.......yet. I have learned that these things sometimes take time. The RX100 has been an instant hit in my hands.

neopavlik said...

Microphones , yes !

I've been getting excited looking at all the different types but then having trouble thinking how often I'd use them; Rode Reporter (obvious interview), Sennheiser MKE 600 shotgun (outdoors with blimp), Audix SCX1-HC (indoors), and Sennheiser G3 Wireless Lav (infomercial/youtube/etc).

zobeleye said...

Hi Kirk,
good to have you back...
I have a question for you.
Do you notice a shutterlag with the longest FL on the RX100III compared to the 200mm setting on the II ?
I have been on the fence of buying one for a while, but experience with the NikonP900, that has a ridiculous lag when zoomed in.
So I am sure it isnt the fastest to aquire focus at 600, but is the picture taking without noticable delay then ?
thanks for your time

Dave said...

Hi Kirk -- and welcome back!

I was looking at the RX 10-III but found a great deal on the II and off we went on a family vacation. It was a smashing slice of wonderful, especially combined with my RX100. The III was nearly double the money, well actually it WAS double the money since I bought used.

Do you miss the built in ND filter? That little capability has become addictive for me when shooting video. The other unexpectedly addicting RX feature has been the HFR mode, which for me is the video equivalent of still life shooting.

PS - Feel free to talk about microphones and sound any time you want! I'm seriously contemplating the little Rode Videomicro kit with the carbon fiber boom pole. I have the Rode NTG2, which though superior just never gets pulled out of the bag.