3.23.2012

What's up with this rumor about "Sony Slide Show Syndrome" with the SLT Cameras?

Just seconds after I bought my new Sony stuff and threw away the warranty cards and tore up the receipts I started hearing about the dreaded, "Sony SLT Slide Show Syndrome."  Scared the crap out of me.  It goes something like this:  "When you try to shoot sports or pan the camera for any reason the finder is so primitive that it's always ages behind the actual action.  You'll get confused and you'll always point your camera in the wrong place.  In fact, you'll be flying blind as the finder slowly projects previous image after previous image."  That would make the camera unusable for....anything that moves.  Oh dear God! What have I done.  Now I have a camera that's unusable for sports.  I was beside myself with terror and doubt.  Nothing this severe had occurred in my cozy little world since.........the Olympus EPL2 "Red Dot Scare !!!!!"

So I blindly believed all the pundits on the web and trucked the gear out to the city dump and.....Now wait a minute.  Why don't I test this for myself before I throw it all away and see what really happens?  Wouldn't that be a novel way to test your camera equipment?

My boss gave me most of the day off today.  Well, after shooting some portraits in the studio and promising to write some blogs in the early evening...  

So I did what good fathers all over the country do all the time.  I went to my child's athletic event.  In this case an invitational track meet.  Ben is the kid in the red shirt that says, "Westlake" across the front. He ran in the junior varsity 3200 meter race.  I think he did well because of two things:  First, I'm his dad and I'm supposed to think he's great (cause he is).  And secondly, because there's no way I could run two miles back to back as fast as he can.  No way at all.

And as I was sitting there getting ready for the race to start I suddenly remembered that I'd brought along a camera.  And a lens.  Sadly, I'd mistakenly brought the Sony a77 along so I started to put it away.  I'd been warned about "SSSS" from many quarters.  But then, in a moment of plucky intellectual independence,  I stepped outside the box and decided that fate had dropped into my lap the perfect opportunity to try the whole Shebang for myself.  So I put on a cheap kit lens (the 55-200mm) and set the camera to no review,  ISO 400, Manual Exposure, C-AF, and Zone AF.  Then I prepared myself for abject disappointment.  I could see myself on Monday at the water cooler hanging my head in shame as the meaner photographers from the Nikon and Canon camp taunted me and said hurtful things about my camera choice.

But then a miracle happened.  I started shooting the fast moving track guys as they whipped by.  The finder  was a little contrasty but it had none of the horrifying effects that I expected to see.  The camera and cheap lens dutifully locked onto Ben and held on while I shot frame after frame at 8fps.

And I can prove it.  See below.

                          






It was a miracle.  I had the one Sony a77 body that could shoot sports.  And if I could shoot runners with a kit lens and get every frame comped correctly and in focus I knew that a slower sport, like swimming would be a breeze.  But now I'm in a quandary.  Why were all those people on the forums spreading these disquieting suggestions about the a77?  What did they possible have to gain by misleading me?

The moral of the story?  Convention wisdom is conventional.  If you can't vet the source it isn't a fact.  If you want to know what YOU can do with a camera you need to test it yourself. Two pluses for the Sony today.  And a good race for Ben.  Well done, both.

More Notes On The Sony a77. MFNR. Good?

The interesting thing about modern cameras is the wealth of hidden features.  Most you think you'll never be interested in.  I remember when Nikon stuck video in the D90.  All the stodgy photographers groused about having "to pay extra for a feature no one will ever use."  Fast forward to today and now contemporary photographers are switching back and forth between video and still imaging with reckless abandon.  People laughed about "eye-selection" auto focus in the Olympus EP3 until they experienced perfect portrait focus with their 45mm 1.8 lenses.  The most recent burst of exuberant extras came to me in the form of a Sony a77 camera.  It has lots and lots of "extras." 

I played with one of them today.  It's called Multi-Frame Noise Reduction.  It does something that Kodak introduced in their SLR/n full frame digital camera in 2004 (go Kodak !!!).  You switch the ISO to MFNR, set the ISO you want to use, and then hold the camera still and point it at a non-moving subject. The camera shoots a fast burst of images and then electronically stacks and merges them to kick out anomalous noise.  Being an old fashion, conservative, stuck in the mud, photographer I presumed that I'd need a tripod to make this work which would confine the feature to studio shoots or low light landscapes, with the camera held rigid on a heavy perch.

But I was feeling all saucy and Hipsteramic and I set the camera's ISO menu to MFNB @ 3200 and I pointed it at my friend, Will, and blazed away. Handheld.  The camera banged through a bunch of frames in a fraction of a second and then went into "processing" mode.  When it finished I pressed the review button expecting to see a mess of frames (I had been drinking strong coffee...) but what I got was a perfect exposure of Will's face with no grain or noise.  None.  I converted the image to black and white in Lightroom, just for fun.

Now, here's the kicker:  I shot the image with an 80mm 2.8 Zeiss Planar.  I took it off the front of my Hasselblad. I used an adapter to put it on the Sony.  I like the focal length and the way it renders stuff so much I might have it spot welded to one of the a77 bodies (hyperbole alert for those with Asperger's Syndrome.  I won't have it spot welded to the camera.  I was using an extreme statement for emphasis about my positive feelings for the lens in question ).  

Where the image is in focus the sharpness on Will's image is high and the contrast is good.

And that led me on a shooting frenzy so the close by coffee cup and wine glass were easy targets....

 The sample of the two glasses above was done at ISO 250 with no MFNR.
The sample directly above was shot with the camera set to MFNR @ ISO 3200.  Works for me!

The neat thing about "extras" on cameras is that they are mostly just firmware that someone in the camera company has come up with.  The manufacturers don't need to add complexity in production or add more parts.  It doesn't really add cost the product but for some people it adds a valuable tool.  You can even use MFNR at low ISO's for potential absolutely noise free still life work.  How nice.
But if you fall profoundly into the gear curmudgeon, "you'll pry my eye from the optical viewfinder when I'm cold and dead" camp you can just ignore the feature and pretend that it doesn't exist.

I like it and it rocks.  I also like putting those MF lenses on the a77's.  They are cool to look at and they make a cool look.

There's more stuff to try.  Bye.