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Thread: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

  1. #1
    Super Duper
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    Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Okay, I've donned my Nomex suit and am ready for a severe flaming

    Complacency never leads anywhere, so ...

    My question is ... are we really exploring the outer boundaries of what this fantastic camera can do? I ask this after spending the better part of an hour looking through the entire "fun with Sony" thread.

    Frankly, I'm a tad bit unimpressed. And admit to no better results myself either ... so far.

    For the most part the B&Ws are all flat looking and lack the deep velvet blacks that still show detail ... and over-all a lack of sparkle that is the Zeiss trademark. In general there seems a lack of depth and/or POP! Obviously, there are some exceptions, so I'm speaking in general and strictly as a matter of opinion. Yet, I look through some other "fun with" threads and it makes me wonder if we really are getting to the real abilities of this camera?

    Now, separate content from the discussion since each of us have different approaches and subject matter we engage in shooting. However, to my eye some of the landscape shots lack dimensional dynamics that I've seen of the same subjects from other cameras, and is almost a default result from even the smallest MF Digital back. (Shots like "Ocean Beach" have preserved the atmosphere, etc., so not everything falls under the same category.) HDR shots look fake to me ... again, clinically clean but no dynamic depth that just sucks you into the scene. Jewelry shots look clinically informative but somewhat flat and uninspiring ... maybe that was the intent, but this is personal adornment folks not an engineering illustration or a lens test. I admit that my own efforts primarily in wedding photography are lacking ... so far. Lacking that special something I already get with other camera's with less lofty specs. It's getting better, so I know the camera can do it ... so it's me ... and how I'm using the A900. Perhaps a result of treating the files like they were other cameras not specifically THIS camera.

    Have we really zeroed in on the settings, and how to use software with this specific camera? I remember how intense it was when people explored custom profiles and such with the Leica DMR and M8 ... it was a ferocious learning curve that led to incredible results not readily apparent when the cameras were first launched.

    Also, it may be we haven't pushed ourselves with the A900 yet ... some of the shots seem taken at inopportune times when the lighting itself is flat as a pancake. Are we A900ers a lazy lot?

    Are we patting each other on the back at every turn rather than challenging ourselves at this stage of the learning curve with a relatively new camera?

    Well, there's the challenge to all of us ... flame away.

    Your thoughts?

    -Marc

    (no, my name is not shyt head, or dork, or a-hole )

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    No flames but this actually is a great question or response. Like to hear what folks have to say. Is this the DMR leica look beater or the M8 look beater or the MF I don't want to spend the money answer. I think the question Marc is driving for is where is the beef. This sounds all about image to me.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Senior Member Lars's Avatar
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    I think what dork, I mean Marc is missing isn't really a problem with the camera but rather that the pre-cooked curves aren't as good as the could/should be. So yes, more work needs to be done with custom profiles and transfer curves.

    I remember when we first added profiles for raw support in Lightzone. We tried to profile all supported cameras at all ISOs, so that after linearization all cameras would have a neutral, linear response. The problem was that images didn't look like they did on the in-camera display or in jpegs. So we had to toss the profiling out the window and do custom curve tweaking by hand to make the results look approximately like the manufacturer's jpegs.

    Nikon has addressed this issue to some degree by supporting custom curves in the camera "Picture Control". There are a handful predefined settings, but it's also possible to load a tailored curve set designed in a computer.
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Hmm.
    Well, it's an interesting point. Personally I'm really pleased with the results I've been getting, especially with respect to colour subtlety and tone in landscapes and nature shots.

    Added to that the prints are coming out pretty well.

    But maybe I'm simply not that critical?

    Just this guy you know

  5. #5
    Shelby Lewis
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    i see your points, marc. I'm definitely NOT getting out of this cam that it's capable of yet (after two days of use). BUT... the difference in the files as compared to my canon stuff is amazing WHEN I shoot for the camera. Is it MF? I don't think so at all. But for people shooting, I think it may eventually be found to be better (subjectively). The color subtlety, the "naturalness" of the files, the resolution in combination with just a tad less "Edge". I find that the files do, indeed "pop" and that even quick grayscale conversions are much nicer than one would usually think given that "pop".

    But I agree... I don't think we, as a community, are getting all we can out of the cam. I think 12-bit is going to be the ultimate limiting factor on this camera as well. I already wonder how much nicer the files would be at 14 bits. Who knows?

    In my very limited experience so far, I find the a900 in the gray zone, as far as "look", between MF and 35mm. I like that, actually.

  6. #6
    Shelby Lewis
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    again... as a people camera, i think it's going to be a classic... and I'm already seeing that this camera was not designed for the shadow end of the histogram. It's the highlights and midtones where it excels. I think you need mf or a d3x for truly amazing shadow performance.

    not near as "poppy" as mf, but the look of the shot below from yesterday has something special IMO... a dimensionality if sorts that I never saw with any previous cams. At web-res, most any cam can get something similar. I could have really pushed the sharpness and contrast much further (and the files would take it) but chose to keep some softness as per the subject matter. Nothing award winning, but something subtly special is in the file. I stress "subtly". Again... just two days into this cam (and ignore the processing if possible)

    For me, it's not about uber-sharpness and contrast... even those have something to do with it... it's about how smoothness of tone transitions into sharpness such that the plane of greatest sharpness is readily apparent but not glaring (digital?)... and also color accuracy, and enough microcontrast to draw you into the picture. I'm seeing that and can't wait to get some more time in with this camera to really tweak the results.

    For landscape work... it is, of course, somewhat different.

    I've got some others with more "pop" I might get up here later...

    Last edited by Shelby Lewis; 27th April 2009 at 08:43.

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    Senior Member Eoin's Avatar
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Marc, I must confess to being quite lazy. Out of the box the a900 was supported in Apple Aperture and generally I'm quite happy with the default settings. More of a problem for me is trying to master the built in camera metering pattern or compensation required using spot when metering off anything other than 18% grey. It's become slightly more complicated when reading Douglas's posts about tweaking the creative style to effect the histogram display to more accurately reflect the raw file rather than the calculation based on the in camera Jpeg.

    But using his settings and a linear response curve in C1 does indeed give quite pleasing results except that in any other converter requires severe recovery of the exposure & highlights. I haven't really looked into or followed the Iliah Borg methodology again due to my own time constraints but I'm sure there is plenty of worthwhile information to be found.

    But by in large I'm quite satisfied with the image quality of this camera. I'm a little underwhelmed by the 16-35 and 24-70 ZA's, but perhaps that's my problem after shooting Leica M prime glass for the past 2 years. The 85 is nice, I need to try master it more to get better results but the 135 1.8 is simply stunning, I don't care what anyones ability is I defy anyone to not fall in love with the punch and 3D effect this lens imparts.

    I'll bow to your superior knowledge about the Zeiss look, it took me a while before my eye could see the Leica look and meter slightly differently for each lens I was using . I'm sure it will take me a little more time with the a900 and my ZA's before I begin to partially or fully understand what's going on.

    But Marc, and I mean this with the greatest of respect, have you calibrated your monitor lately?. There are some stunning images in that thread that I'd be proud to have taken. You are of course right, we need to push the envelope and a little prod helps every now and again.
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    Senior Member douglasf13's Avatar
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eoin View Post
    Marc, I must confess to being quite lazy. Out of the box the a900 was supported in Apple Aperture and generally I'm quite happy with the default settings. More of a problem for me is trying to master the built in camera metering pattern or compensation required using spot when metering off anything other than 18% grey. It's become slightly more complicated when reading Douglas's posts about tweaking the creative style to effect the histogram display to more accurately reflect the raw file rather than the calculation based on the in camera Jpeg.

    But using his settings and a linear response curve in C1 does indeed give quite pleasing results except that in any other converter requires severe recovery of the exposure & highlights. I haven't really looked into or followed the Iliah Borg methodology again due to my own time constraints but I'm sure there is plenty of worthwhile information to be found.

    But by in large I'm quite satisfied with the image quality of this camera. I'm a little underwhelmed by the 16-35 and 24-70 ZA's, but perhaps that's my problem after shooting Leica M prime glass for the past 2 years. The 85 is nice, I need to try master it more to get better results but the 135 1.8 is simply stunning, I don't care what anyones ability is I defy anyone to not fall in love with the punch and 3D effect this lens imparts.

    I'll bow to your superior knowledge about the Zeiss look, it took me a while before my eye could see the Leica look and meter slightly differently for each lens I was using . I'm sure it will take me a little more time with the a900 and my ZA's before I begin to partially or fully understand what's going on.

    But Marc, and I mean this with the greatest of respect, have you calibrated your monitor lately?. There are some stunning images in that thread that I'd be proud to have taken. You are of course right, we need to push the envelope and a little prod helps every now and again.
    I just replied at the tail end of a TEN page thread over on the Raw Therapee forums regarding why everyone is needing to boost their exposure in RT by a stop when they import. I'm beginning to realize that this underexposure thing is a bit of an epidemic, and it's partially the fault of the RAW software companies, because they are trying to match camera profiles to our already inaccurate camera jpeg histograms. A lot of programs like ACR use a baseline exposure of around ~+1 EV for the A900, so if you set everything in ACR to zero, use a linear curve, and use -1 EV exp comp, you should get somewhat similar results to C1. Or you could try RT. Like I said in that forum, It's no wonder everyone raves about the highlight recovery of LR/ACR.... in actuality, they are just recovering highlights that were there to begin with!

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    Senior Member dhsimmonds's Avatar
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    We don't "flame" on this forum Marc. In fact this is a very good and deep discussion.

    There are many Pro photographers on this site who have no allegiance to Sony, Nikon, Canon, Leica or anyone else so long as the tool does the job for their clients. I doubt many clients would be dazzled by names on gear anyway...it is the results that bring in the money.

    Others of us are just keen photographers wanting the best bang for our buck! In many ways not too dissimilar to the pro's then!

    In my case I was all ready to go medium format until I saw some of the images on this site (and a few magazine images too). It was not until I actually used the a900 and then saw the full sized images on screen and printed that I realised that this camera with a good lens can produce so very nearly the same sort of colour and detail that MF of similar resolution can offer...but quicker to operate and at higher ISO's if needed.

    Add to this the pleasure of just using this camera with it's great viewfinder and ergonomic layout and relatively lightweight and bulk compared to MF meant that this cam is a keeper for me and any plans I had to go MF are now forgotten.

    The pleasure I get from just using this camera means that it comes with me more often (this used to be the preserve of my Leica D2/LC1, another pleasurable cam to use). As a full frame cam it also means that I get maximum creative opportunities from each of the four lenses that I have.

    At the end of the day, although I am a keen camera club member, competitor and exhibitor....I just have to make pictures that please me alone.....if exhibition and competition judges also like the images that I make then that is an added bonus. I do not need to please clients that pay my bills!

    Back to the thread...I enjoy most of the images on this Sony section of the Forum and I am unable to see any lack of overall "Pop" compared with other brands or types.

    I do not go for HDR images myself....whenever I try it my images always look flat and uninteresting. So long as shadow areas show detail and highlights are not blown then I don't see too much need for HDR. The a900 is quite capable of producing more than adequate dynamic range to prevent blown highlights or blocked up shadows if exposed correctly or if really necessary, some fill in flash is used.

    It would be interesting to look at which images made by other cameras are considered having the "Pop" referred to in this thread as shown elsewhere on this forum....include anything from 4/3rds or smaller and MF or even LF. It is the image that we are discussing, not the gear! We must compare on this forum though as others often have different viewing backgrounds, resoloution etc.
    Cheers, Dave
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    Senior Subscriber Member Steen's Avatar
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    (...) Your thoughts? -Marc
    A brave and interesting thread, Marc
    "My thoughts" are that I have been very tempted to join the Alpha party for the following reasons.

    First of all the auto focus Zeiss designed lenses, rare as a white Starling.
    I always choose system based on the glass because glass can last a lifetime while digital cameras come and go. And being an amateur I have always time to wait for an improved camera model at some point in the future. The camera doesn't need to be the perfect machine here and now. The top end glass has to be the right choice from the beginning in order to last for decades.

    In addition A900 owners claim that the cameras image character is the closest thing to Leica DMR so far (which for years was my favourite but unfortunately far too expensive for my purpose). And besides A900 has the in-camera SSI image stabilization (SteadyShot Inside) as a bonus, making every single lens an image stabilized lens when needed.

    In my opinion the combination of The Optics + SSI + The Resolution + The Price (+ and maybe the sensor&processors "crisp"/"sparkling" rendition ?) makes it a winner for lower ISO work. At least on paper.
    The main reason why I have not made the jump is that I think I have noticed some preferable results from Nikon D3/D700 + Zeiss ZF lenses to what I have seen from Sony A900 + Sony/Zeiss ZA lenses. And here I'm specifically thinking of Andree's (deepdiver's) girl pictures ! The first ones taken with D3 + ZF 1.4/85 and other ZF lenses were the most three dimensional ("3D") pictures I remember having seen in my entire life from any system. Later he bought A900 + ZA lenses and I never found that those images had quite the same high level of "3D" quality as the Nikon/ZF system. For me the "3D" effect ranks even higher than e.g. Dynamic Range, Tonality, or Noise Reduction / High ISO Performance, but that's just my preference.

    Of course small websized jpegs don't prove anything and it might just be a mere coincidence. Andree's girl pictures were captured at different times and places, under different light and shadow circumstances, far from being controlled comparisons of systems. They were real life captures, which btw. is what I happen to judge the most. Still they were sufficiently similar so that I could not resist comparing my impressions of them. And accidentally these impressions somewhat coincide with what Marc has said here in his original post about a tad of "flat look", a certain "lack of depth and/or POP" - and let me stress: imo. only compared to the very very best D3+ZF samples I've seen, in general I do think the Sony pics look great !

    I now find myself wondering if the "oldfashioned manual focus" ZF lenses might have a tad more mojo optically than the more "modern auto focus" ZA lenses ? Or, could it be the renowned "magic of the 9 micron pixel pitch" in the 12 million pixels FX sensor ... ? I can think of two persons who have owned and used D3/ZF and A900/ZA systems at the same time: Marc and Andree. I hope you will both chime in on these thoughts and questions.

    So, where does all this lead me:

    (1) Right now I dare not sell off my ZF lenses despite they are manual focus and my eyes are old. The ZF lenses on D300 work quite well for me, for the first time in the digital age of photography I somewhat get the results I'm after. Still, auto focus would make my photography life easier, at least in some (fast) situations. Another possibility is upgrading to D700 for the larger and brighter viewfinder.

    (2) My conclusion is that I need to read more, and especially see more, in full resolution, even printed.
    Question A: So how can we join the efforts and make a systematic database of full size sample pictures from e.g. Canon 5DII/1DsIII - Nikon D700/D3/D3X - Sony A900 ? Of course we can just post them here, but then they would be spread all over the place in a non-systematic way I guess, or do you see a solution to this ?

    (3) Question B: Are there anyone else but me who would prefer a ~9 micron pixel pitch based 12 million pixels 24x36mm Sony Exmor sensor in a Sony "A800" ? 24 million pixels on a 24x36mm sensor seems to be kind of a specialized studio and landscape (tripod ?) machine, or what ?

    (4) Actually, what I really ought to do is to just sit on my hands and await what the Leica R10 will be like before deciding anything

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    Senior Member Lars's Avatar
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Steen,
    Sounds like a future decision is lingering, without any specific deadline. What is your timeframe for upgrading? I'd be happy to post a D700 raw file for you, though no Zeiss glass here. My sharpest glass for Nikon is probably AF-Nikkor 180/2.8D. Likewise, out of curiosity I'd like to get my hands on an A900 raw file.
    Lars
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    Senior Member Lars's Avatar
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by douglasf13 View Post
    in actuality, they are just recovering highlights that were there to begin with!
    You want the same exposure for jpeg and raw in the camera, and you want some latitude in jpegs so highlights are not clipped hard but folded nicely into channel saturation. Logic follows that there is some latitude in raw files.
    Monochrome: http://mochro.com

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    Senior Member douglasf13's Avatar
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Bondo, there is little reason for a 12mp Exmor FF, unless high fps is the goal. Exmor is a unique design that has very low read noise at low ISO, but not at high ISO. Essentially, directly opposite of Canon. A 12mp megapixel Exmor will have no less noise than a 24mp Exmor downsized to 12MP. Even MFDB backs have similar pixel pitches to the A900 at this point, and they perform beautifully.

    Lars, I completely disagree. RAW and JPEG exposures are two entirely different things, and having a basic idea of what your raw histogram looks like is desirable. Allowing the camera to underexpose so that it can allow for jpeg manipulation leads to noisier results. Knowing what my raw histogram vaguely looks like, and experimenting with uniWB has helped my photography quite a bit, and I haven't even delved into the magenta filters yet!

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    Senior Member Lars's Avatar
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by douglasf13 View Post
    Lars, I completely disagree. RAW and JPEG exposures are two entirely different things, and having a basic idea of what your raw histogram looks like is desirable. Allowing the camera to underexpose so that it can allow for jpeg manipulation leads to noisier results. Knowing what my raw histogram vaguely looks like, and experimenting with uniWB has helped my photography quite a bit, and I haven't even delved into the magenta filters yet!
    Douglas, it's not my opinion it's what camera makers do, across the board it seems. I agree with you that a raw histogram would be useful though, all we get today is a histo based on the in-camera jpeg interpretation of raw data.
    Monochrome: http://mochro.com

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    Super Duper
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by bondo View Post
    A brave and interesting thread, Marc
    "My thoughts" are that I have been very tempted to join the Alpha party for the following reasons.

    First of all the auto focus Zeiss designed lenses, rare as a white Starling.
    I always choose system based on the glass because glass can last a lifetime while digital cameras come and go. And being an amateur I have always time to wait for an improved camera model at some point in the future. The camera doesn't need to be the perfect machine here and now. The top end glass has to be the right choice from the beginning in order to last for decades.

    In addition A900 owners claim that the cameras image character is the closest thing to Leica DMR so far (which for years was my favourite but unfortunately far too expensive for my purpose). And besides A900 has the in-camera SSI image stabilization (SteadyShot Inside) as a bonus, making every single lens an image stabilized lens when needed.

    In my opinion the combination of The Optics + SSI + The Resolution + The Price (+ and maybe the sensor&processors "crisp"/"sparkling" rendition ?) makes it a winner for lower ISO work. At least on paper.
    The main reason why I have not made the jump is that I think I have noticed some preferable results from Nikon D3/D700 + Zeiss ZF lenses to what I have seen from Sony A900 + Sony/Zeiss ZA lenses. And here I'm specifically thinking of Andree's (deepdiver's) girl pictures ! The first ones taken with D3 + ZF 1.4/85 and other ZF lenses were the most three dimensional ("3D") pictures I remember having seen in my entire life from any system. Later he bought A900 + ZA lenses and I never found that those images had quite the same high level of "3D" quality as the Nikon/ZF system. For me the "3D" effect ranks even higher than e.g. Dynamic Range, Tonality, or Noise Reduction / High ISO Performance, but that's just my preference.

    Of course small websized jpegs don't prove anything and it might just be a mere coincidence. Andree's girl pictures were captured at different times and places, under different light and shadow circumstances, far from being controlled comparisons of systems. They were real life captures, which btw. is what I happen to judge the most. Still they were sufficiently similar so that I could not resist comparing my impressions of them. And accidentally these impressions somewhat coincide with what Marc has said here in his original post about a tad of "flat look", a certain "lack of depth and/or POP" - and let me stress: imo. only compared to the very very best D3+ZF samples I've seen, in general I do think the Sony pics look great !

    I now find myself wondering if the "oldfashioned manual focus" ZF lenses might have a tad more mojo optically than the more "modern auto focus" ZA lenses ? Or, could it be the renowned "magic of the 9 micron pixel pitch" in the 12 million pixels FX sensor ... ? I can think of two persons who have owned and used D3/ZF and A900/ZA systems at the same time: Marc and Andree. I hope you will both chime in on these thoughts and questions.

    So, where does all this lead me:

    (1) Right now I dare not sell off my ZF lenses despite they are manual focus and my eyes are old. The ZF lenses on D300 work quite well for me, for the first time in the digital age of photography I somewhat get the results I'm after. Still, auto focus would make my photography life easier, at least in some (fast) situations. Another possibility is upgrading to D700 for the larger and brighter viewfinder.

    (2) My conclusion is that I need to read more, and especially see more, in full resolution, even printed.
    Question A: So how can we join the efforts and make a systematic database of full size sample pictures from e.g. Canon 5DII/1DsIII - Nikon D700/D3/D3X - Sony A900 ? Of course we can just post them here, but then they would be spread all over the place in a non-systematic way I guess, or do you see a solution to this ?

    (3) Question B: Are there anyone else but me who would prefer a ~9 micron pixel pitch based 12 million pixels 24x36mm Sony Exmor sensor in a Sony "A800" ? 24 million pixels on a 24x36mm sensor seems to be kind of a specialized studio and landscape (tripod ?) machine, or what ?

    (4) Actually, what I really ought to do is to just sit on my hands and await what the Leica R10 will be like before deciding anything


    I personally agree, optics are the main driver for me also. In the case of this A900 camera the in-camera IS is part of that optical decision.

    So far I am seeing the 3D look from the ZAs ... but I haven't done a side-by-side to compare the two sets of lenses. I have the ZF 85/1.4 and the ZA 85/1.4, so in theory I could test them in the same conditions. One test I cannot do is compare the ZA135/1.8 since there is no ZF135 ... wish there was.

    1) Me too, I'm keeping my ZFs for work with the D700 in low ambient light. Recently added a Bright Screen diagonal split rangefinder with a huge microprism ring which has made a big difference. If you can focus the ZFs on a D300 your eyes are waaaaaaay better than mine

    2) I don't see a solution ... I'm not interested anyway because I already made the decision what to use. I think Nikon sold more Sony A900s than Sony has.

    3) No, not me. I got the A900 because the Nikon D3X was over $5,000. more. I already have the fat pixel camera for low light. The A900 was a good excuse to indulge in the Zeiss optics. So I may just keep the ZFs and a few select Nikon AF lenses and sell off the redundant Nikon glass now that the A900 has proven itself.

    4) I don't have time to wait ... and even if it were here soon, I won't be a beta tester for Leica ever again. Besides, I especially do not want to invest the kind of money Leica will charge for a new DSLR and new AF lenses. Frankly, it would be an extravagance spent on myself since my clients could care less ... 35mm type DSLRs are work horses for me, and the A900 fills the need for larger display prints ... If I didn't shoot weddings I probably wouldn't even have one.
    My Leica extravagance is a M system.

  16. #16
    Senior Member douglasf13's Avatar
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lars Vinberg View Post
    Douglas, it's not my opinion it's what camera makers do, across the board it seems. I agree with you that a raw histogram would be useful though, all we get today is a histo based on the in-camera jpeg interpretation of raw data.
    Oh, I completely agree with you there. Camera makers to slant their exposure towards jpeg output. However, you can tweak jpeg settings and use uniWB** to get a more accurate portrayal of the RAW data. By doing that, and by using one of the many RAW converters with a good highlight compression function, like RPP or Raw Therapee*, I am able to easily expose at least a stop higher than if I use the camera's recommended metering. With digital, the more light you get to the sensor, the better, and this does wonders to my noise performance. Granted, many cameras meter differently from one another, and results may very. I've been using Raw Therapee a lot lately, and I've seen tons of complaints from shooters who say their exposures are too dark at import with that program, but RT doesn't add all of the special boosts under the hood that a lot of programs do, and represents a much more accurate portrayal of the RAW data. With the methods I mentioned above, my RAWs open up in RT dead on. I'd really be interested for some of the guys/gals on here that shoot both Nikon and Sony to shoot the same scene in M mode and compare how the two cameras meter.

    note:
    *C1 does well to if you use "linear curve" instead of "film like"

    **when using uniWB, it's obvious how the green channel blows way before red or blue. this allows the use of magenta filters in daylight, like the cc40m, to really boost one's DR by evening out the channel saturation. very cool

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lars Vinberg View Post
    Steen,
    Sounds like a future decision is lingering, without any specific deadline. What is your timeframe for upgrading? I'd be happy to post a D700 raw file for you, though no Zeiss glass here. My sharpest glass for Nikon is probably AF-Nikkor 180/2.8D. Likewise, out of curiosity I'd like to get my hands on an A900 raw file.
    Lars
    If you send me your email address, I'll send you one! (it will be cRaw for size reasons but still 24 megs and while my ISP will accept a file that big in an email, I don't know if yours will.)

    Bill

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lars Vinberg View Post
    Steen,
    Sounds like a future decision is lingering, without any specific deadline. What is your timeframe for upgrading? I'd be happy to post a D700 raw file for you, though no Zeiss glass here. My sharpest glass for Nikon is probably AF-Nikkor 180/2.8D. Likewise, out of curiosity I'd like to get my hands on an A900 raw file.
    Lars
    HI Lars
    There are lots here:
    A900 raw files

    they're converted to dng files for size reasons, but it doesn't seem to spoil them.

    all taken with the 24-70 or the Sony 70-300

    help yourself.

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Jono, thanks a lot mate, downloaded all of them and have spent an instructive hour or so messing with them in ACR. Now I know it's probably the worst converter for the A900 but it's the only one I intend to use for my workflow so my findings there were relevant to myself.

    Firstly, I hadn't realised just how noticeable the focus fall off is with such a high resolution sensor. It really shows up the fact that with digital the CoC is far smaller than with film of the same size and that were you to be able to stop down far enough, diffraction would kill you. I notice this a lot when stitching with a 100mm lens, only the focal plane is ever really truly sharp even at f16/22 and it's just the amount of blur introducted to the fall off that is governed by the aperture. I'm seeing it with these images very noticeably even with the wide focal lengths and what would seem to be hyperfocal or better. Although it is there, it's far less noticable with my 5D due to the lesser resolution. Didn't like how the A900 files turned mushy when focus fell off with stopped down apertures, just seemed an very noticable and sudden detail resolution fall off. No doubt anything of that resolution would be exactly the same. Also didn't like the apparent noise in skies even at base iso, didn't see any '3D' or any special colour characteristics that would particularly push me into the system. The 24-70 looks pretty similar to my 24-105L for sharpness and contrast (that given I have a pretty incredible copy of the lens, beats the one I had before or three copies of the 24-70L). Lens colour looks like that I'm used to from my L lenses and I wish I had with my 50/85 non L primes.

    Again, probably a lot of the problem is the RAW converter but it's what I use and intend to carry on using so, for me at least, this has been very informative.

    I'm sticking with my original 5D's that give such sharp images out of the box, have such a huge pixel pitch, perfect amount of resolution from wedding work to a (real world) non diffraction limited f16+ for my stitching work. Now with the colour mapped onto the RAW files from the D700 for a nikon look to the skin tones, I'm just happy staying where I am.
    Last edited by Ben Rubinstein; 1st May 2009 at 01:49.
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
    Again, probably a lot of the problem is the RAW converter but it's what I use and intend to carry on using so, for me at least, this has been very informative.
    Hi Ben
    Pleased to be of service.
    I hear you about the RAW converter. I use Aperture, and have exactly the same feeling. If it isn't good enough with a particular camera . . . then I won't use the camera!

    Noise, especially in the sky, is an obvious characteristic of ACR conversions. It's certainly not an issue with Aperture.

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    Hi Ben
    Pleased to be of service.
    I hear you about the RAW converter. I use Aperture, and have exactly the same feeling. If it isn't good enough with a particular camera . . . then I won't use the camera!

    Noise, especially in the sky, is an obvious characteristic of ACR conversions. It's certainly not an issue with Aperture.
    Sorry, but it's not an issue with Lightroom or ACR either. I use Lightroom workflow for all my different cameras including the A900.

    Here's a cull shot as demonstration. 24-70 @ 55mm ISO 100 ... directly from an untouched A900 RAW file no PS anything ... not even sharpening for web. then a crop of the sky ... plus a solid color using thr color picker to match as a control when looking for noise ... of which there is none.

    3D is there also. See the dance shot attached: 85/1.4 @ f/1.7 640 ISO on the A900 which I see with all the lenses depending on settings, etc. A function of the micro contrast separation of tones and rendering of detail ... without the AA smeared pixels from my former Canon gear.

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    I'm not making up what I saw either in ACR or C1, if you apply zero sharpening then of course you won't see the noise but I don't process with zero sharpening neither do I want to process it out when sharpening either. It could be that there is none with iso 100, all Jono's files were iso 200 which I understand is the native iso setting of the camera.

    Thing is that I'm not trying to pursuade anyone other than myself, I've seen what's an issue for me with my way of processing. Finito, I've no one else to pursuade
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
    I'm not making up what I saw either in ACR or C1, if you apply zero sharpening then of course you won't see the noise but I don't process with zero sharpening neither do I want to process it out when sharpening either. It could be that there is none with iso 100, all Jono's files were iso 200 which I understand is the native iso setting of the camera.

    Thing is that I'm not trying to pursuade anyone other than myself, I've seen what's an issue for me with my way of processing. Finito, I've no one else to pursuade
    Hi Ben
    Well, Marc seems persuasive. I really haven't tried it with ACR - I've just heard others complaining. But I use almost no sharpening. The very light AA filter makes it unnecessary (IMHO of course).

    Certainly, I have no noise in the sky.

    I would have thought that your sharpening would actually account for most of what you don't like.

    As you say - no need to convince anyone else. The difference between the A900 and 5D files would seem to me to be a very big thing, and taste is going to be pretty relevant here (perhaps more important than anything else).

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    A900 has the lowest read noise at low iso of just about any camera outside of the D3x (because it has a weaker color filter and performs multiple reads.) If you're noticing noise at ISO 200, it may have to do with either the sharpening used or underexposure at capture. Sony uses a strong CFA, so underexposure is particularly detrimental. Also, you may just not be used to looking at a 24mp picture at 100%, which is quite a difference from 12mp.

    Regardless, at least your findings will save you a ton of money. I wasn't so lucky, and Id have a hard time moving away from the A900 at this point

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Watch these hoops I'm not going to bother jumping through...

    Seriously guys, I'm happy with what I have, I found the AA filter on the D700 far worse than I'm used to and the high iso to have an almost comical noise reduction (much like what they tried to do with ACR 4.0 before the huge fuss). I'll stick to what I know and like and go back to thinking about technique and asthetics of using off camera flash for the upcoming wedding season, my busiest ever. Also thinking of how to bring in more edgier PJ style posing on my ultra conservative clientele.

    I've reached the point where all my gear works - perfectly. It's now more than just subconscious for all the incredible intricacies of modern DSLR's and wireless TTL lighting. All my lenses and cameras focus perfectly even wide open (finally). I have a season coming up where I will have 6 days at home out of 6 weeks and little time to post process. I want everything just to work, to work well, to work without thought. For all that now I could afford to switch systems eventhough since November it's been an economic no go, I think I'm better using what I know and am supremely comfortable with, using workflows that work fast, seamlessly and most of all stress free.

    What I am waiting incredibly impatiently for is either Radiopopper or Pocket Wizard to get a move on with EU compatible units for my wireless work.
    I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing. - Alfred Stieglitz

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Hey, makes sense to me, Ben. It sounds like you're in a good place, gear wise, so why ruin a good thing? Have a good wedding season.

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
    I'm not making up what I saw either in ACR or C1, if you apply zero sharpening then of course you won't see the noise but I don't process with zero sharpening neither do I want to process it out when sharpening either. It could be that there is none with iso 100, all Jono's files were iso 200 which I understand is the native iso setting of the camera.

    Thing is that I'm not trying to pursuade anyone other than myself, I've seen what's an issue for me with my way of processing. Finito, I've no one else to pursuade
    You mean "disuade" don't you?

    I have no doubt you saw what you saw Ben. I can see that in any camera at any low ISO processed certain ways. First thing I noticed with the A900 was that I had to ease up on my sharpening presets ... don't need it. Don't need to screw with color as much either ... pretty good out of the can. Work flow has speeded up while image integrity is less compromised in post.

    To me, the idea that you have a set way of processing, and the camera better meet it, is discounting new ways the manufacturers are improving the response and the flexability of the processing programs to be set up for that camera system.

    The thing is, I make the decisions the same way you do, and this camera was more of what I want than I got from my $8,000 Canon ... in terms of IQ based on MY critera, The 1DMKIII and 1DsMKIII were the last straw for me ... my heart sunk when I saw the first files and the smeary, homoginized look I had bust a hump to fix. And I'm relieved that I don't have to bolt on some other lens system to get decent WA shots (mostly manual focus lenses at that.) ... and haven't had to wade through countless "copies" of the A900 lenses to get a good one like I did with Canon ... but maybe I got lucky for once.

    I also continue to contend that a lot of folks using this camera don't know all it can do or how to do it ... Yet! We have no benchmark of previous Sony experience to use as a guage or a guide. My files have gotten better after just two weddings with it. But I sure can't process them like I did my Canon files ... that is for sure.

    Here's another "cull shot" basically untouched shot at ISO 400 ... not 100, not 200 ... 400. ... with a corner crop that delivers what I want at the edges ... but I sharpened the crap out of it to see if I could make noise a problem. I printed the good version of the set up at 17" X 22" and suffered no noise nor pixel smear.
    Last edited by fotografz; 1st May 2009 at 08:13.

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
    Watch these hoops I'm not going to bother jumping through...

    Seriously guys, I'm happy with what I have, I found the AA filter on the D700 far worse than I'm used to and the high iso to have an almost comical noise reduction (much like what they tried to do with ACR 4.0 before the huge fuss). I'll stick to what I know and like and go back to thinking about technique and asthetics of using off camera flash for the upcoming wedding season, my busiest ever. Also thinking of how to bring in more edgier PJ style posing on my ultra conservative clientele.

    I've reached the point where all my gear works - perfectly. It's now more than just subconscious for all the incredible intricacies of modern DSLR's and wireless TTL lighting. All my lenses and cameras focus perfectly even wide open (finally). I have a season coming up where I will have 6 days at home out of 6 weeks and little time to post process. I want everything just to work, to work well, to work without thought. For all that now I could afford to switch systems eventhough since November it's been an economic no go, I think I'm better using what I know and am supremely comfortable with, using workflows that work fast, seamlessly and most of all stress free.

    What I am waiting incredibly impatiently for is either Radiopopper or Pocket Wizard to get a move on with EU compatible units for my wireless work.
    No Ben, you had US jumping through the hoops ... which you now have pursauded me to cease doing even when asked ... no good "hoop jumping" goes unpunished

    You are satisified ... and really, that's all that counts. I wasn't. Doesn't make either of us wrong ... it just means that we like what we like. You like your 5ds, where it was on the top of the list of cameras I hated to use. You think the D700 isn't as good, where it's one of the best high ISO cameras I've ever used ... never the twain shall meet. Let's leave it at that.

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    (...) Me too, I'm keeping my ZFs for work with the D700 in low ambient light. Recently added a Bright Screen diagonal split rangefinder with a huge microprism ring which has made a big difference. (...)
    Thank you for your elaborated reply to my questions, Marc. Isn't it a bit tricky to swap screens on the D700, I mean it's not something you do on the fly, you need to do some surgery with tools, right ?

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lars Vinberg View Post
    Steen, Sounds like a future decision is lingering, without any specific deadline. What is your timeframe for upgrading? (...)
    Lars
    Lars, in fact what I have now works quite well for me so I will try not to do anything before I have seen samples (and prices) from the coming R10 and new R autofocus lenses hopefully within the next couple of years.
    But I honestly do see the Sony Alpha system with auto focus Zeiss lenses as the closest competitor to Leica so far. And if Leica doesn't wake up and realize they have to use segmentation as a strategy, i.e. that they have to invent affordable entry level cameras to get more customers buying into their expensive high end interchangeable lens systems, then to me the Alpha system looks like a very strong winner candidate in the DSLR arena.

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by douglasf13 View Post
    Bondo, there is little reason for a 12mp Exmor FF, unless high fps is the goal. Exmor is a unique design that has very low read noise at low ISO, but not at high ISO. Essentially, directly opposite of Canon. A 12mp megapixel Exmor will have no less noise than a 24mp Exmor downsized to 12MP. Even MFDB backs have similar pixel pitches to the A900 at this point, and they perform beautifully. (...)
    Very interesting, Douglas, and also very surprising to me. I've always thought that bigger was better with regards to pixel pitch ? (e.g. see Jacks thread about "The 9 micron sensor: Magic or Myth ?" - I am aware that the MFDBs use CCD sensors, but still ... ?)

    Isn't Ben Rubinstein somewhat right about "how noticeable the focus fall off is with such a high resolution sensor" - see post # 19 in this thread ? Or has it got nothing to do with resolution ... ?
    I've often wondered why the focus fall off seemed to be rather abrupt in some of the A900 samples posted on this board, but I am aware I should be cautious judging just from such small websized samples.

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by bondo View Post
    ...then to me the Alpha system looks like a very strong winner candidate in the DSLR arena.
    At least for now. It would be great for all consumers if that happened, as it would pressure others (I'm thinking Nikon) to focus more on revving its glass range.
    Monochrome: http://mochro.com

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Caulfeild-Browne View Post
    If you send me your email address, I'll send you one! (it will be cRaw for size reasons but still 24 megs and while my ISP will accept a file that big in an email, I don't know if yours will.)

    Bill
    Thanks Billl Steen and Jono beat you too it - I now have too many A900 raw files to look at.
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lars Vinberg View Post
    At least for now. It would be great for all consumers if that happened, as it would pressure others (I'm thinking Nikon) to focus more on revving its glass range.
    From your lips to God's ears. Zooms have gotten better as well as the 100 macro to some degree ... but it's hard to believe that the same company that can make the 200/2 VR can't make a Killer 35/1.4 ASPH and a new 85/1.4 APO. Please?

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by bondo View Post
    Thank you for your elaborated reply to my questions, Marc. Isn't it a bit tricky to swap screens on the D700, I mean it's not something you do on the fly, you need to do some surgery with tools, right ?
    Well, no 35mm SLR screen swap can be done on the fly ... that's the domain of modular Medium Format cameras.

    For once I actually downloaded the installation instructions and followed them exactly. Took about 5 minutes. Don't know why I'd want to swap screens on the fly anyway. The camera still auto focuses with this screen in the D700.

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Takes all of 10 seconds to do using only a thumbnail on my 5D's. I have the grid screen with penciled in 8X10 markings, much cheaper than the 8x10 screen made for the job!
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by bondo View Post
    Very interesting, Douglas, and also very surprising to me. I've always thought that bigger was better with regards to pixel pitch ? (e.g. see Jacks thread about "The 9 micron sensor: Magic or Myth ?" - I am aware that the MFDBs use CCD sensors, but still ... ?)

    Isn't Ben Rubinstein somewhat right about "how noticeable the focus fall off is with such a high resolution sensor" - see post # 19 in this thread ? Or has it got nothing to do with resolution ... ?
    I've often wondered why the focus fall off seemed to be rather abrupt in some of the A900 samples posted on this board, but I am aware I should be cautious judging just from such small websized samples.
    Yeah, it's a common misunderstanding that many of the tech guys on various forums have a hard time explaining. Sensor technology and size ends up playing more of a role than pixel size, although there has been a massive wave of "small pixel=bad" in the last few years. What people always forget is that comparisons should be made at like viewing size. Pixel size is going to continue to get smaller and smaller, as technology allows more info to pass through the camera quickly, and our image quality will continue to improve. Assuming my computer can handle it, and the fps of the camera are enough for me, I'll always choose more pixels.

    Ben is probably right about focus falloff and sharpness in general. High megapixel cameras don't do this worse than lower MP cameras....it's just that we are able to see it with these cameras. I know of some that don't even use AF at all with the D3x, because the results are too spotty. Diffraction works the same way. D3x/A900 doesn't have more diffraction than the old 5D, but rather you can see it better because of the higher resolution.

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
    Takes all of 10 seconds to do using only a thumbnail on my 5D's. I have the grid screen with penciled in 8X10 markings, much cheaper than the 8x10 screen made for the job!

    Cool! That's excellent, as long as your mirror doesn't fall out

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
    Takes all of 10 seconds to do using only a thumbnail on my 5D's. I have the grid screen with penciled in 8X10 markings, much cheaper than the 8x10 screen made for the job!
    Cool idea. As a side note, I got the gridded screen for the A900, and it is really great.

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Douglas, is the gridded screen as bright as the standard one?
    Bill

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    yeah, I see no difference in brightness, and others have confirmed this. It seems odd that there's a special setting for this screen, so there must be some kind of difference??

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by douglasf13 View Post
    yeah, I see no difference in brightness, and others have confirmed this. It seems odd that there's a special setting for this screen, so there must be some kind of difference??
    It's probably for the meter to take into account the grid lines. Also differences within 1/2 stop shouldn't be visible by eye.
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by edwardkaraa View Post
    It's probably for the meter to take into account the grid lines. Also differences within 1/2 stop shouldn't be visible by eye.
    There could also be differences in how the screen projects the light passing through.
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    Senior Member douglasf13's Avatar
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    I'll test it later on, but I've heard from some that say they notice no exposure difference when they change the screen setting from regular to gridded in the options. Regardless, there is little noticeable difference between the two in brightness.

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by douglasf13 View Post
    Yeah, it's a common misunderstanding that many of the tech guys on various forums have a hard time explaining. Sensor technology and size ends up playing more of a role than pixel size, although there has been a massive wave of "small pixel=bad" in the last few years. What people always forget is that comparisons should be made at like viewing size. Pixel size is going to continue to get smaller and smaller, as technology allows more info to pass through the camera quickly, and our image quality will continue to improve. Assuming my computer can handle it, and the fps of the camera are enough for me, I'll always choose more pixels.
    What an excellent point. More sampling kind of HAS to be better (as long as the processing is up to the task).
    I've never really thought of it this way around (and certainly never seen it put quite this way), although I've always felt that more pixels on a same size sensor were going to convey a benefit.

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by edwardkaraa View Post
    It's probably for the meter to take into account the grid lines. Also differences within 1/2 stop shouldn't be visible by eye.
    I did a little testing just sitting here at my desk, and changing the focus screen setting in the menu back and forth between type "G" and "L" doesn't seem to affect the metering at all. Of course, type "M" does. This leads me to believe that the L screen is more or less identical in brightness to the stock G screen. The lines are very light, and this doesn't surprise me too much.

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    What an excellent point. More sampling kind of HAS to be better (as long as the processing is up to the task).
    I've never really thought of it this way around (and certainly never seen it put quite this way), although I've always felt that more pixels on a same size sensor were going to convey a benefit.
    Absolutely. One of the benefits is that beyond a certain pixel density, the AA filter won't be required. Actually the higher the pixel number, the weaker the AA filter is. The draw back is that for people who check images at 100% (such as stock agencies) you have more chances to be rejected
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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by edwardkaraa View Post
    .... The draw back is that for people who check images at 100% (such as stock agencies) you have more chances to be rejected

    Good point, although you could probably just downsize your tiff before sending it to the stock agency, right?

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Quote Originally Posted by douglasf13 View Post
    I did a little testing just sitting here at my desk, and changing the focus screen setting in the menu back and forth between type "G" and "L" doesn't seem to affect the metering at all. Of course, type "M" does. This leads me to believe that the L screen is more or less identical in brightness to the stock G screen. The lines are very light, and this doesn't surprise me too much.
    Thanks for all the input. I've ordered the grid screen.

    Bill

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    Re: Are we getting all we can out of the A900?

    Grid screen arrived yesterday and was installed today. My horizons are already more level!
    Bill

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