Neptune Photo Newsletter
May 2017 Volume 64
by Steve Zimic
Probably the biggest news this month, and perhaps in quite a while, is this new mirrorless pro camera which appears to be targeting the professional sports/action photographer. In addition to shooting at 20 FPS, with zero blackout, you've got 693 phase detection AF points for some really serious AF tracking potential. The electronic shutter has greatly reduced rolling shutter issues which has already been confirmed as extremely effective to the point of no longer being an issue. There is a mechanical shutter also but your maximum frame rate is limited to 5 FPS. Other pro features are dual SD card slots, IBIS (in body image stabilization), a larger battery (than the a7) and a wired Lan connection for high speed uploading to a server. Interesting that the 24 MP CMOS stacked sensor is reportedly of the same design as the one found on the new Olympus E-M1 MKII which shoots at 60 FPS using the electronic shutter. I'm a little surprised that there's such a disparity in speed considering the Sony only has 4 more mega pixels, but perhaps there's more to it than that. Sony has plans to have pro service, initially in NY and LA, with one day repair turnaround and loaner cameras. The camera should be available next month for $4500. In the meantime, you can read more about it on Sony's website.
It certainly appears that Sony is trying to create some serious competition for both Canon and Nikon. I think it's a bold and encouraging first step for the advance of mirrorless cameras, with perhaps the most significant feature for pros being the zero black out EVF, even at top speed. Another enticement is that the AF tracking performance is receiving very positive reviews. However the lack of any fast long prime telephoto lenses may be a real problem. Also, the camera is not much bigger than the a7 and way smaller than pro DSLR cameras, so ergonomically pros may take issue. There is however an optional battery grip which may solve that problem. I'm thinking that this is merely a first step for Sony, so keeping the body small, I think perhaps they're hedging their bets by also appealing to the enthusiast market. In any event, it'll be interesting to see how well sales go.
Sony 100-400 4.5-5.6 GM OSS
Announced along with the a9 is Sony's first entry into long lenses for the full frame alpha mirrorless cameras. Spec wise the lens is impressive and will more than likely deliver comparable performance at the very least to the latest offerings from other manufacturers. Although the aperture is a bit on the slow side compared to what most pros reach for, on the full frame a9 camera the depth of field may be shallow enough for certain sporting events and wildlife. The 9 circular aperture blades should also help to make those out of focus highlights a bit more acceptable. The zoom ring has a variable friction adjustment, a nice feature for sure. Fluorine coating on the front elements reduces dust and fingerprints, while multiple sealing points provide weather resistance. Even the lens hood (not shown) has received special attention by providing a lock button for the release and a port for accessing a polarizing filter. For those wanting a bit more reach, 1.4x and 2.0X teleconverters are available. You should see this lens available next month for $2500. More details on Sony's website.
User report on the Olympus E-M1 MK II
I used the word 'report' in the title because this is not a complete review by any means, but rather just some of the things I like and couple I don't after using the camera for a couple of months. The LCD screen is now fully articulated rather than just flipping up or down as on the original E-M1. Granted it is more versatile, but most of the time I just want to flip it up for use on a tripod which requires a bit more fiddling. The camera is a tad larger than its predecessor which for me is not an issue. They've also made the grip much deeper so the camera feels more secure with my slightly larger than average hands. Despite these improvements, using the camera without the optional grip, it still feels a bit small with some of the heavier pro lenses, especially the 40-150/2.8 and the 300/4.0. The big improvement for the MK II is the CAF with tracking. Although it's a quantum leap forward, it's still no where near as good as the pro DSLR cameras from Canon or Nikon, which is what I was hoping for. Nevertheless, on a recent outing I did manage to get some in flight bird shots (about 20%) that were in focus. Note that part of the problem might be me being not up to speed on proper technique and/or camera settings. There are now 2 card slots, but only the top slot is compatible with UHS II. Read and write times with a 300 MBPS card in the top slot are blazingly fast. You can save files to both cards with a few options, but saving RAW files to one card and JPEGs to the other cannot be done in the menu but requires a trip to the Super Control Panel - very awkward. Probably the most welcome change for me is the way saved custom settings are handled. The menu nomenclature is greatly improved and quite clear, plus you can now access any of those saved settings by turning the mode dial to C1, C2 or C3. For example I have C1 set for my landscapes, C2 set for wildlife and C3 set for birds in flight. It may take a while to explore all the parameters you want to use for different situations, but once done and assigned to each of the three custom settings, it's a real time saver. Plus you can save the settings to your PC with the Olympus Camera Updater - nice. Another nice feature is something called Pro Capture. When engaged, pressing the shutter halfway will allow the capture of up to 14 frames prior to fully pressing the shutter - great if you're waiting for that special moment to happen. Fortunately for me I've had several previous models of Olympus micro 4/3 cameras so learning what's new was akin to learning what's new in the next version of Photoshop - not bad. However if you're planning on moving to Olympus from another brand, be prepared to be overwhelmed at the number of options and the numerous menus needed to access them.
Nikon J5 - version 1.1 - Fixes a bug that prevented deleting of single images after a group of images were deleted.
Pentax K1 version 1.41 and 645Z - verison 1.23 - Adds compatibility to the IMAGE transmitter 2 software package, version 2.3
Canon 7D MK II - version 1.1.1 - Various bugs fixes as well as enhanced reliability when connecting with the Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E7 (A/B/C/D/E).