Better late than never they say. It has been some time since I uploaded some sensor results to the Sensor Database. Results for the A7 Mark 4 are good, not as good as the Mark 3, but that is to be expected with more Megapixels.
Results at 1 second places the camera in the top rankings, but performance drops off with longer exposures compared to some other models. Still overall very impressive.
Check out the results for yourself in the Sensor DB.
Recently while in the US I had the opportunity to shoot the Upper Antelope Canyon. I was with my wife, who did not have s DSLR at the time, so this ruled out a ‘photography’ tour, as a DSLR + Tripod were required by all those who took the tour. Ditching my wife was not really an option 😉
But to be honest I think the general tour worked out well, sure it was rushed, and you needed to be on your ‘A’ game with a good low light camera to shoot with no tripod, but I think I pulled it off. I managed to snap lots of great shots. I almost felt sorry for the photography group forced to line up their cameras to all catch the exact same shot, often recreating ‘famous’ shots. I was also glad my gear was not sitting on a tripod as the fine sand fell.
The tour guides had a well oiled machine, pushing as many people through the canyon they could. Knowing that I would be moving quite fast with no tripod I had to get the settings roughly right, as there would be little time to play around.
I decided to just let the camera deal with the ISO so I could at least ensure sharp shots without a tripod. Some of the shots were as high as 12800 ISO and 1/30th @ f4. I had decided that the f4 16-35mm would be the best choice from my kit not having an f2.8 equivalent. The 16-35 was also the best option as I wanted to also use a polariser, as the rock is known to be highly reflective, and this would have been a problem with some of the more wider lenses. Of course the polariser added to the problem, subtracting from what little precious light there was.
Back button focus was a must for quick focus and framing, there was simply not enough time to move the AF point a lot of the time. Occasional exposure compensation adjustment up to -3EV was also used at times. I wanted to retain a lot of the highlights, so underexposure was more important than over, I trusted the D750 and it’s low light power. It also helped to keep the shutter speed to acceptable hand held levels.
Overall the I think the outcome was very good, I was a little dubious when looking at the shots on the camera, but once I pushed the RAW images into Lightroom and corrected to daylight colour they really started to pop.
Maybe, just maybe there is another million dollar shot in the mix. Then again it’s hard to take a bad picture of the Canyon.
If you would like to see more of the shots I have uploaded them to flickr.
When the first sample shots from the 6D mark II started showing up in the usual places, I must admit I was not all that impressed. It looked like Canon had taken a step backward and failed to advance their sensor in terms of noise. Having now had the chance to test the 6D mark II, I’m happy to report it’s an OK result for the price of the camera. I personally think you can still get better value for the money, but it’s an OK upgrade for those in the Canon camp looking at long exposure work while gaining some much need features and AF improvements.
Most long exposure Aurora work is around the 30 second mark, so as shown from the results below the new model is only slightly worse at 30 seconds than the original, which when combined with the megapixel upgrade and no doubt better noise reduction options in camera, would most likely put the new model in front. Results for the 5 minute exposures are also slightly down, but with slightly better standard deviation, again making the two cameras very similar.
However, looking at 1 second results, they seems to be more in line with what others are reporting, which is maybe a step backwards in noise, especially if your looking at sports photography.
So if your looking to upgrade from the 6D to the 6D Mark 2 I don’t expect the pictures are going to look any worse, maybe a slight improvement for long exposure work. Is it worth the upgrade? I will leave that up to you to decide.
If you would like to look at the results in more detail, you can do so here.
I’ve had a few requests now to have the X-T2 added to the Sensor Database. Well without further adieu here it is. It’s worth noting that I still personally believe Fuji are heavily processing noise in camera, and again we see the noise mean reduce as the exposure time goes up (eh). Considering the X-T2 is using a crop 24MP sensor the results are pretty good, but again there is some processing going on.
For some time now I have been building and maintaining not only the biggest archive of Aurora observational data and realtime forecasting (The Aurora Forecast Service), but I have also been building a database of sensor profiles for long exposure / high ISO.
Recently I performed an update to the The Sensor Noise DB, allowing you to compare camera models more easily. I hope you find this update useful. I also plan to have the Nikon D5, Pentax K1 and Canon 1D mark II test shots available soon, so stay tuned.
I’d also like to thank Walch Optics for there support, and recommend them as your first point of call for photographic equipment in Hobart.
I run a local buy/sell page for photography equipment here in Hobart on FaceBook, and I’m also a member of many other similar pages across Australia. Photography equipment can be expensive. So I’m as keen as the next photographer to grab a bargain.
But what is a good price?
Price is very subjective and what people are willing to pay can depend on many factors such as urgency, availability, age and condition. So I thought I’d give a few points to consider when buying your next body. Since the specifications, age, availability and the like are all subjective I will focus mainly on condition.
Even if a body has issues, it’s not necessarily a reason to pass, but it could help you to determine if the price is right. If you are buying on the internet some of these checks many be impractical to do, but never the less, here is my check list:
How does it look externally? To be honest most photographers will baby their equipment, so this is not a good factor to look at. Dust and dirt can be easily removed, but it is worth looking in the hard to get spots to get an idea on how well it has been looked after.
Check for obvious dings and the like, even if it still working external marks could indicate internal damage.
How worn do the buttons appear? Are there any wear marks, text worn off or shiny buttons?, Glue? Do they all work?
Does anything feel worn? (Lens mount, thumb sticks, selection wheels etc)
How worn does the tripod mount look, marks around the mount point?
How worn are the anchor points and strap?
Are there any screws missing? Do they appear to be tight, check lens mount particularly.
Are there any parts missing? (Battery cover clip, rubber weather seal boots, view finder surrounds, viewfinder cover for long exposure etc).
Check articulated displays have full movement, and display has no issues while moving.
Is there any damage to LCD screens caused by excessive sunlight / heat.
Is the inside of the mirror housing clean?
Is there any dust in the viewfinder?
Is the sensor clean?
Is the battery compartment clean?
How worn is the USB port and jacks? Do they work?
Are the card slots clean, do the cards click in and out as they should?
Is there any corrosion or residue to indicate it’s been used around salt water a lot?
What is the shutter count?
Problems & Testing:
Does this body have any recalls? have they or can they be fixed? cost?
Classic examples here include 5D mirror falling off, 5D light leaks, D750 AF light banding issues / shutter issues, D800/D600 oil spots on sensor etc.
Are there known issues with this model? Google, know the body, not just the specs on paper, Test for them….
Classic examples not covered under recall, D800 asymmetric AF issues, 7D bent CF pins etc.
After you are happy the body and it’s condition, obviously you should test it further if you can, run it through it’s paces, and preferably review the shots before buying.
Most good modern DSLR’s have a good amount of Dynamic Range (DR), DR is the measurement from the brightest to the darkest a sensor can capture in one image, beyond this range highlights will be blown and dark shadows will yield no detail. It is normally measured in Exposue Values (EV). A Good sensor will be at least 12, and maybe as high as 16.
But what do you do if the image you are trying to capture has more DR than my sensor can capture? Well there are a number of ways to deal with this, these are the most common:
Take multiple exposures to combine into one image, either as a composite merge or a high dynamic range shot (HDR), later models can do HDR in camera.
Add additional light to the scene.
Use filtering effects to modify the light being exposed.
HDR and adding light are fairly common, but using filters is not very common for night sky photography and Aurora’s. The reason it is not popular is that adding filters reduces the amount of light entering the camera, resulting in either having to use higher ISO settings or longer exposures.
However given the right circumstances using a filter can have great results. I like to use them for shooting Aurora’s provided the Aurora is very bright and it has minimal movement. If the Aurora is bright I don’t need to increase my ISO, and minimal movement like beams in the Aurora will mean I can increase the exposure time a little without blurring any details.
I have found that using a 0.9 (3 stop filter) helps significantly with exposure compensation, balancing out the light Aurora in the sky to darker foregrounds. Not only does it help with the balance and bringing out blacks, but it effectively gives your sensor a 3 stop advantage.
A sensor that can shoot 14 stops of DR is suddenly equivalent to 17.
Suddenly I’m no longer dealing with those horrible black dark areas where the noise hides.
It’s taken me a while but last night the weather was favorable and I managed to finally get a reasonable Aurora over the ‘Pans’ at Eaglehawk neck. As an added bonus I also scored a little airglow as well, seen here as the green glow to the left of the picture 🙂
For these shots I used an ND Grad filter to darken the sky allowing more exposure in the foreground without overexposing the glow of the Aurora.
“The most well known example of a tessellated pavement is the Tessellated Pavement that is found at Lufra, Eaglehawk Neck on the Tasman Peninsula of Tasmania. This tessellated pavement consists of a marine platform on the shore of Pirates Bay, Tasmania. This example consists of two types of formations: a pan formation and a loaf formation.
The pan formation is a series of concave depressions in the rock that typically forms beyond the edge of the seashore. This part of the pavement dries out more at low tide than the portion abutting the seashore, allowing salt crystals to develop further; the surface of the “pans” therefore erodes more quickly than the joints, resulting in increasing concavity.
The loaf formations occur on the parts of the pavement closer to the seashore, which are immersed in water for longer periods of time. These parts of the pavement do not dry out so much, reducing the level of salt crystallization. Water, carrying abrasive sand, is typically channeled through the joints, causing them to erode faster than the rest of the pavement, leaving loaf-like structures protruding.”
Had one of those nights last night where I could just not sleep, so I decided to head out and see if I could get a nice shot on a beach where I recalled someone had built a makeshift stick “hut”.
The beach faced north, so I knew if the Aurora Australis was active I’d have to do at least a 200 degree panorama to get it all in. In the end it was only four shots with my 16-35 lens.
I have titled it “Someones up late”.
Shot shows the Iron Pot lighthouse at the mouth of the Derwent River in Storm Bay with Bruny Island to the right (Tasmania). Pictured to the left is a single shot from the same location a little further down the beach.
When your out shooting late at night you have a lot of time for thinking during exposures and between shots, especially if your by yourself. I often think of all those people at home, watching TV, or asleep in their beds, oblivious to what is going on around then, and the silent lights that weave across the night sky above them.
I think the mood in this shot sums up how I often think of those people. They are inside, working away or watching some program on TV. Meanwhile outside the lights are dancing in the sky and the stars are shining brightly on a perfectly clear and moonless night.
The picture was taken in Mortimer Bay (Tasmania). The photograph to the right was taken only a stones throw from the boat shed when the Aurora was a little more active.