Neptune Photo Newsletter
December 2019 Volume 95
by Steve Zimic
Holiday Buying Guide
The holiday deals are here, and as expected, every manufacturer has special pricing this time of year. That pricing usually comes in the form of an instant rebate thank goodness, so no more mail in rebates that often took months to receive, or worse yet, you got a rebate rejection notice due to something you forgot to include.
Getting a new camera to replace your older model is always a nice gift, however most new models haven’t been making huge leaps in image quality or megapixels as they did a few years ago. That said, these new models are including lots of computing power that can eliminate a lot of post processing, like art filters and focus bracketing to name a few. From a performance standpoint, AF speed and tracking have been getting significantly better, which in itself might be a good reason to upgrade. But unless one or more of the aforementioned improvements will help you make better images, you might be better off skipping it. Lenses on the other hand have a far greater potential of improving your photography, plus they’ll hold their value much better than a camera. A macro lens for example can open up a whole new world of possibilities where you can capture images that are not visible within your normal vision. Or think about how an ultra wide or even a fisheye lens will help to capture stunning vistas and skies on your next vacation.
The following text contains links to deals from Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Tamron where you can explore the savings available - most of which expire on December 31st. And remember to shop local where you find expert advice and have the ability to make other deals with a real person, which you can’t do when shopping online.
Sony a7R IV
Here’s one camera I somehow missed revealing back in July. Having 61 megapixels tells me the megapixel war is still alive, although I think many would debate how significant this is. In addition to the extraordinary resolution, Sony has included real time eye and animal AF, improved weather sealing and dual UHSII SD slots. There’s also a new 5.76 MP viewfinder which is nice but you’ll lose some of that great detail when autofocusing and in some of the video modes. Nevertheless for shooting stills and reviewing images or focus, it’s a real helpful feature. For even more image resolution - yes there’s more - you can engage Sony’s pixel shift which will take 16 images using the electronic shutter yielding a 240MP image. Note that you’ll have to use Sony software to combine those images in your computer, so there’s no way to check in camera for anything that moved during the 1/8 second it takes for the E-shutter to complete its scan for each of those 16 images. Maximum frame rate is 10 FPS but from what I’ve been reading the AF accuracy drops off considerably at those speeds, so not as good for action photography as the a7R III or IV.
Unless you’re shooting at base ISO, all that resolution comes at the expense of noise as you might expect. Nevertheless for landscape photographers who want a small package and make really, really big prints, this might be a very desirable camera.
What I find interesting among the Sony Alpha cameras though is that I’d have a hard time picking one camera to satisfy all my needs. There are so many different models and each one seems to concentrate on one style of photography, and indeed do it very well. However if you have many different types of photography that you enjoy, you’d really need at least two or maybe even three bodies to get the most performance for that particular genre. Unlike the Nikon D850 which can do just about anything really well, Sony has gone a different route, and from a marketing standpoint it seems to be working for them. The camera sells for $3500 and you can find more details on the Sony website.
New Olympus Lens Roadmap
In addition to the 150-400 f4.5 Pro lens announced earlier this year, Olympus has added two more lenses that will be released in 2020. The first is a 100-400 f5-6.3 which will be a smaller and more affordable alternative to the above Pro lens. The second is a compact 12-45 f4.0 Pro lens which will again most likely be smaller and more affordable than the current 12-40 f2.8 Pro. In light of the new smaller E-M5 MK III, I suspect with these two lenses Olympus is trying to compete in size and weight with other systems. Being an Olympus user I think they’ve already done that, but this takes it a bit further and I think it’s a good decision from a marketing perspective. Time will tell.
If you’re reasonably serious about your photography you probably have certain websites and blogs you like to follow. I thought I’d share the favorite people I follow. The first is Dan Bailey who I meet about 20 years ago on a photo trip led by the late Galen Rowell. Although Dan shoots exclusively with Fuji mirrorless cameras, his blog and books deal more with how to see photographically. I like his approach and hope you will too. You can find his website here.
The second is Bob Johnson who has “Photo Tips” that he publishes every week. He deals with everything from equipment to software and everything in between, and often sheds a very unique perspective in his writings. He seems to be as passionate about writing as he is about his photography. You can find his latest post here, where you can subscribe to get weekly notifications and no spam.
Canon EOS RP - version 1.4.0 - Adds 24fps video recording and support for the upcoming 85mm f1.2L USM DS lens.
Nikon Z6 - version 2.1.0 and Z7 version 2.1.0 - In addition to addressing a host of issues, this firmware adds support to utilize the optical VR and control ring on the 16-50mm f3.5-6.3 VR and the 50-250mm f4.5-6.3 VR.
Sony RX10 IV - version 2.0 - Improves operational stability and adds real time animal eye AF