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Author Topic: In praise of the Sony a900  (Read 3716 times)

Rand47

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In praise of the Sony a900
« on: September 03, 2014, 07:17:13 pm »

For the past year or so I've been watching the spectacular developments in digital cameras.  I've been wowed by the Nikon D800e, the Fuji XT-1, Oly EM-1, and most recently the Sony a7r.

When Michael published his Sigma DP2 Merrill review, I could not believe what I was seeing.  Then, people like Quentin Bargate started posting phenomenal images made w/ the DP2 and DP3 Merrills.  I bought both of them and have been blown away by the sheer image quality available (w/ all the warts and poor handling acknowledged, and its limited range of usefulness).

I also own a Sony a900 and some nice Sony Zeiss and G glass from 16mm to 400mm.  I bought it the first year they were out.  LOVE the OVF.  Love the handling.  Love the image quality below ISO 1600.

Where am I going with this?  Well, in the last month I've rented a Fuji XT-1, and now have a Sony a7r here to try.
Are they more versatile?  YES.  Do they kick the a900's rear end at high ISO?  YES.  Is the image quality (absolute resolution notwithstanding) superior to my a900 up to ISO 1600?  NO.  The more I've tried these new wonder-cams the more I appreciate my a900.  

I have tried to get used to the EVF.  I know that I "need to" since that is probably where the whole industry is headed.  But, I HATE it.  Absolutely hate it.  Today I shot the a7r side by side w/ my a900.  No contest.  Outside in any kind of daylight, the EVF is just plain inferior.  I know there's a ton of info available on the display, etc., etc., but frankly the visual "clutter" interferes w/ my "seeing."  The EVF is too contrasty, shadows black, image "grainy looking."  The a900, clear, "real," huge view, no clutter.  I guess I just don't get it.  

Image files compared side by side in LR5x clearly show the additional resolution of the a7r, but have "nothing" on the DP Merrills (again acknowldeging the limitations of the Merrills compared to the vast flexibility of the Sony a7r), and frankly, except for the resolution difference, my a900 files compare very well indeed.  I don't see anything in the a7r files that is "so much better" that it would make me want to buy one (again, at the normal ISO range that I typically use).  

I'm a guy who shoots 90% of the time at base ISO, and rarely above 800.  I use a tripod a lot of the time.  The a900 suits me well.  I don't chase kids around the yard, I don't shoot sports or other fast moving subjects, and I most often have a contemplative approach to my shooting.

I know I'm appearing to be somewhere between Luddite and troll!  Am I alone?  Up to the purchase of the a900, I'd been "chasing the technology" and really enjoying the huge leaps forward we saw in the late 90's and onward.

So, feeling a lot like a lone voice wailing in the wilderness, I sing the praises of the simplicity, usability, ergonomics, image quality, and that HUGE and lovely OVF in my a900.   ;D
« Last Edit: September 03, 2014, 10:14:36 pm by Rand47 »
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Rand Scott Adams

Rand47

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Re: In praise of the Sony a900
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2014, 06:21:54 pm »

Proves nothing, of course... being jpegs and all, but the files on my monitor comport well with the differences I see in these posted images.



Sony a7r:



Sigma DP3 Merrill



Sony a900:



All at base ISO
All manual focused on the pen's clip
Each image was given minor tweaks in LR5.x to get as good a match as I could.
Tripod mounted (RRS w/BH-55)
All with timer delay
f/ stops adjusted to approximate DOF between the Merrill & the Sonys
All exported from LR as 100% quality jpeg, sRGB, Sharpen for screen
« Last Edit: September 04, 2014, 09:12:00 pm by Rand47 »
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Rand Scott Adams

indusphoto

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Re: In praise of the Sony a900
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2014, 08:34:03 pm »

Most people who are serious about photography agree that we reached a plateau in terms of IQ a couple generations ago. At base ISOs, and at normal DR, these cameras are about as good as it gets. This is what you are seeing and I have no doubt that your assessment is correct.

BTW, of the pictures that you posted, if I had to pick one, I would pick the one from DP3.

Rand47

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Re: In praise of the Sony a900
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2014, 10:21:25 pm »

Quote
BTW, of the pictures that you posted, if I had to pick one, I would pick the one from DP3.

As would I.  Pretty amazing.  For any sort of volume work, the Merrills would be a real pain in the butt, but for low volume, deliberate work, the work-flow really isn't all that bad.  Quentin Bargate found and passed on that absolute minimum processing, "minus" sharpening, etc. in the Sigma converter, just to get them "unmolested" into 16 bit tiffs, allows considerable room for fine tuning in LR.  

There certainly is a "presence" with the Merrill files that is something to behold.  

And, as I opined in my OP, I "love" my a900.  Weird as it may sound, it was easier to manual focus w/ the a900 than it was w/ the a7r and it's peeking and whatnot in the lousy EVF.  It just "snaps" into focus on the viewfinder screen in that huge OVF.  One "shot" with the Intelligent Preview function on the a900 and I dialed in the exposure.  It sure ain't "live view" but for the "slow and steady" kind of shooting I do, it serves the purpose.

Rand
« Last Edit: September 04, 2014, 10:48:17 pm by Rand47 »
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Rand Scott Adams

Malina DZ

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Re: In praise of the Sony a900
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2014, 10:29:34 pm »

 Am I alone?

Rand, you are not alone. Your shooting experience and priorities as well as thoughts about gear and tech advancement resemble mine very closely.
I also rely on Sony a850 and DP2M for all my photography needs most of which are shot handheld. New toys popping up on camera market won't improve my images or add anything special like DP2M did when I only had a100 & a850.
My recent quest for a new look and experience brought me to Pentax67... Three different approaches to stills recording that compliment each other thoroughly.

I'd like to join to your praise of the simplicity, usability, bright huge OVF, and ergonomics of Sony 850/900 & VG-C90AM - an exquisite high quality tool I enjoy shooting with and thankful to Sony for bringing it to the market.
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deejjjaaaa

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Re: In praise of the Sony a900
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2014, 10:37:26 pm »

Most people who are serious about photography agree that we reached a plateau in terms of IQ a couple generations ago.

it depends on the system - let us see 2 examples:

1) Sigma - current generation is DP* Quattro, couple of generations ago it was 4.7 x 3 mp DP - skipping 1 generation ago Merrils ...
2) Olympus - current generation is E-M1 (Panasonic 16mp sensor), couple of generations ago it was 12mp Panasonic sensor (with 2+ stops less DR vs what is current) - skipping 1 generation ago 16mp Sony sensor (E-M5)

now users of these 2 systems will hardly agree w/ you about the plateau  ;D
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indusphoto

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Re: In praise of the Sony a900
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2014, 12:09:21 am »

it depends on the system - let us see 2 examples:

1) Sigma - current generation is DP* Quattro, couple of generations ago it was 4.7 x 3 mp DP - skipping 1 generation ago Merrils ...
2) Olympus - current generation is E-M1 (Panasonic 16mp sensor), couple of generations ago it was 12mp Panasonic sensor (with 2+ stops less DR vs what is current) - skipping 1 generation ago 16mp Sony sensor (E-M5)

now users of these 2 systems will hardly agree w/ you about the plateau  ;D


First of all, it goes without saying that there are exceptions to any rule, and I did specify those in my statement (base ISO and normal DR).

Secondly, I had Oly E-PL1, and E-PL2 and I was quite satisfied with the IQ for most situations.

LKaven

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Re: In praise of the Sony a900
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2014, 02:42:15 am »

I actually think that the colors from the D3x (with sensor derived from the A900 sensor) were some of the best colors I ever saw.  I haven't gotten that from the D800, or the D4, both of which are very nice.  There was something special about that one sensor that I haven't seen since.  The skin tones were fantastic.

ynp

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Re: In praise of the Sony a900
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2014, 04:12:35 am »

I share the studio with a Pro, and she shoots the Sony a900.

Wonderful camera for a portrait work, very nice skintones direct from the camera and access to those autofocus Zeiss 50/1.4 SAL50F14Z, 85/1.4 SAL85F14Z and Sonnar 135/1.8 SAL 135F18Z.
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Telecaster

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Re: In praise of the Sony a900
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2014, 04:00:59 pm »

Different strokes. I love EVFs and have been using 'em (on video cams) since the 1990s. I got over the need to see a reflected optical image in the VF long ago. The EVF in Sony's A7r isn't the best around in terms of image clarity—it's plenty sharp but tends to wash out in bright light—but its overexposure warning display (zebras) easily makes up for it. Taking b&w pics with a b&w image displayed in the EVF…can't beat it. Ultra-accurate manual focusing via EVF magnification…can't beat it. For me there's no going back.

-Dave-
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eronald

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Re: In praise of the Sony a900
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2014, 05:12:33 pm »

I like my DP3M, which is an exceptional device, but actually starting with the Canon 1Ds, I think any of the fullframe cameras of the past 10 years was decent.

What I don't understand is why people who are serious about images didn't gobble up the Merrills, and why their customers didn't explain to them that they just wanted a different and better box, better integration, not a new core.

Edmund
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