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Thread: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

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    Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    Hello all, new member here though I've been lurking for a bit. This is an edited re-post from another forum that some of the people here may browse on occasion; those of you that have seen most of this info before please bear with me. I figured I would introduce myself and then move on to some questions I have despite the extensive reading I have done here. Sorry if this is off-topic -- I DO have Sony DSLR-related questions in this post, and will start new threads in the appropriate places for those questions that don't have quick, easy answers or that do not get answered here.

    I'm a 5th-generation Californian. I have had the photography bug from a very early age. The first camera I ever took a picture with was my dad's Zeiss-Ikon Contaflex 35mm that he bought new in the late 50's, and while I was completely baffled by the controls he set the camera in "snapshot mode" and I managed to take a couple of passable pictures. I was hooked immediately. Dad was VERY protective of his Zeiss, I basically couldn't use it unless he was standing right there so in short order I picked up a Kodak Instamatic 44 for $0.50 at a garage sale. I was in 4th grade at the time. Money was very tight for the whole family at the time, and I had to pay for film, processing, and flash cubes by mowing lawns and doing odd jobs.

    I later picked up a pristine Brownie Hawkeye with flash and managed to take some pretty nice pictures with that as well. Over the years I picked up many different cameras at garage sales, some of which worked and some of which did not. They range from a few different Brownies, a Weltaflex MF TLR, A number of Polaroids including a Land Camera, to some very fine 8mm movie cameras, a Russian Zenit 35mm and recently the old Zeiss was handed down to me, still working, along with a Zeiss-Ikon 8x30 monocular that is designed to attach to the camera and serves as a 400mm tele. A few years back an Uncle's Zeiss Contarex was handed down, not working.


    Breaking this into two posts due to character limit.
    α900+VG|F20|2xF58|16-35,24-70,135Z|STF|70-400G|50,85 1.4|16,20,28,100M,80-200APO f/2.8|28-135|500f/8|1x-3xMacro|2xMFC-1000|Tiltall+RRS, Bellows, etc.

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    Over the years I gained a lot of experience with film, what it would do and would not do. Fast-forward a couple decades from that first camera, and I managed to afford a Minolta 7000i with a couple of Sigma zooms (28-70 and 70-300) and a 3200i flash. That camera, a 5200i flash and a later 8000i (in white with a white 5200i flash and a short zoom, bought partly because it was a sscreamin' deal and I wanted to play with studio flash and eeded the 8000i PC sync) served me very well over the intervening 20+ years, and they are both still pristine and in perfect working order. I took the better part of a NYI photo course and many community college photography courses shortly after I bought the 7000i, but have otherwise mostly gone my own way.

    Over the years I expanded my lens assortment, eventually relegating the Sigma lenses to some forgotten corner of the closet as I obtained better glass. The following are the lenses that I keep handy, in no particular order(all Minolta):

    28-135 F4-4.5
    20 2.8
    28 2.8
    50 2.8
    85 1.4
    80-200 2.8 APO
    500 f8 Cat
    100mm Macro(with ring flash)

    I have a number of adapters and fittings to use my four flashes off-camera either singly or in combination, with an umbrella or lightbox as needed. I had a custom plate made up that mounts the 3200i flash low enough on a handle that I can aim the 5200i past it for ceiling bounce in portrait orientation, setting the 3200i for light direct fill. I will be looking to duplicate that setup with the a900, but will save details for another thread(I am poring over RRS and Wimberly stuff). I also have a selection of filters, though by far the most-used are the graduated ND filters.

    Here are some pics from back in the day when Kodak Photo CD was about the best way to digitize your photos. They have not been manipulated in any way other than conversion to jpeg(though they could surely benefit).









    Since about 2003 I have been doing most of my picture-taking with a Sony MVC-CD400, a 5mp camera that writes to mini-CD. The rationale at the time was, memory sticks were very expensive and I wanted a digicam that we could use to take virtually unlimited pics while on a long vacation without needing to have a laptop along to unload them. I have taken nearly 8,000 pics with it, mostly snapshots and technical photos to illustrate steps in automobile restoration -- though a few turned out really nice:



    The problem with this camera is, while it does have a relatively full set of manual controls, it just doesn't excite for creative photography. For example, there is no way to set the hyperfocal distance, it is not conducive to use of filters, it can be veeeerrry slooow to power up, take pics, and write them out to disk, the resolution is relatively low, sensor response bears little resemblance to film, etc.

    So, on to the Alpha 900 part of the story. My wife has noticed how much fun I have been having with my mini HD video camera(Aiptek GVS), shooting and editing video. We were sitting over the dinner table and she announced that she wanted to get me a special birthday gift as a thank you for putting up with her all these years. Noticing my enthusiasm for video, she then told me she was thinking about getting me a prosumer video camera. I asked her how much she thought that might cost, and she said she was thinking in the low $2,000's. I had seen a short article about the a900 on Wired.com a couple of weeks previously, and I immediately told her that I would rather have a DSLR if I could find one that would use my existing gear; the GVS is about as deep as I ever want to go into video, though if a video camera comes along that uses my A-mount lenses I may change my mind.

    Reading up a bit on the KM takeover by Sony, the broad compatibility with Minolta lenses and flashes, and the point about the a900 that it has a full-frame sensor, I decided that the a900 was the way to go. Some of the features that I sorely missed on the 7-8000i were MLU and DOF preview and I had resolved to never buy another SLR that didn't have those features. It is my opinion that whatever compatibility issues I may encounter, it's very likely that backward compatibility will never get any better than what is offered in the a900.

    So,we pulled the trigger. I found one new with a US warranty, shipped for a tad more than $2,550. I also ordered(separately) an LCD protector from SonyStyle. Since then I have played a bit with CF cards and for now I hav settled on a Lexar 300x and a SanDisk Extreme IV, both 16GB.

    Computer-wise I am prepared, I have a Quad-Core 3GHz/4GB with a 2TB RAID and a 24" 1080p screen that I put together with video editing in mind. I have Photoshop 7, and from what I've been reading I am leaning toward DxO for RAW conversion, even though they don't yet have any correction profiles for any of my lenses(yes, I put in a request). BTW have they worked out their stability issues? While I can run Linux on this system(Knoppix) It's inconvenient since I need Windows for working remotely on occasion(my day job). So any converters I would consider would have to run on a PC, though in a pinch I have a couple of Sun machines, an Ultra 2 and an ultra 5. Any tools that would run on a flavor of Linux that can be loaded on the Ultra 2 might be worth considering -- We have a wide variety of Linux machines at work I could use for initial evaluations, or better yet I may post some RAWs so people can show me what's possible with the different offerings. Since I originally wrote the above paragraph I hav started playing with Raw Therapee -- more below.

    As Walt Knapp pointed out in my first such thread elsewhere, it's a big adjustment moving into a DSLR of this caliber. I had become lazy with my P&S: no matter what I did I ran into a wall with IQ so I tended to just leave it on automatic most of the time. I've had many small wake-up calls already, for example going from available-light indoor shooting with tungsten WB then slapping a flash on the camera without resetting WB gave me a case of the blues.

    I quickly experienced disappointment with IDC, and have been playing with Raw Therapee for now. I have a long-unanswered email in to DXO asking about the "green shadows" issue. I think I can live with RT for now, I intend to wait for DXO to fix the green issue then I will put that software head-to-head against C1 & LR(Not expecting a lot from LR, but want to investigate mixing & matching workflow options). I want all of my trial versions to be active at the same time and can afford to be patient. After I've had a bit more time to play with RT I will post a thread looking for input on workflows.

    The vast majority of my a900 pics so far are pretty worthless from an artistic viewpoint, mostly because I have been experimenting to familiarize myself with the camera. IMHO I still have a lot more work to do before I can focus(heh) on being creative with it. For example I have a rented LensAlign that I will play with this weekend to correct any FF/BF issues. I'm also planning to spend some time capturing some calibration images to send to the author of PTLens; he currently does not have profiles for any of these lenses on an a900.

    Also, I have found that quite a bit of the rubber, both on the older camera grips and on some of the lenses has dried out somewhat, creating a white patina that goes away with light rubbing due to the oil on my skin. I was considering spraying a fine mist of WD-40 on a rag and using it to refresh these rubber pieces -- this works very well on classic car parts but I thought I would see what people here think of the idea of using this approach on camera gear before attempting it. Obviously I am not planning to spray any WD directly on the lenses, rather rubbing in the minimum amount necessary to condition the rubber then leaving the lenses standing in a warm place overnight to let the solvents evaporate off. If there is a better solution for conditioning the rubber I'm all ears.

    Anyway, I thought I would share the following a900 shot. I have these images in a special gallery that is not automatically watermarked. I'm still grappling with exactly how to watermark my other images -- I think I've overdone it a bit for now but will eventually find a balance. Comments on this issue are welcome -- I have a couple of different approaches represented in my other galleries -- you are welcome to link any of those here for general C&C.

    this image was taken near sunset, ISO 200, 500 f8 @ 1/80 handheld. Image converted from RAW using RT defaults. I'm sure I could do better with a tripod; these guys are probably hard to catch with MLU but I may give it a whirl with the tripod. I've played with RT vignetting adjustments a bit and I'm sure that once I get going in earnest I'll be able to produce some very nice images with this lens/body combo and with other lenses.



    Full size image here

    Here is a 100% crop:



    These images are not posted with the intent of looking for C&C since I was only playing, but C&C is welcome so long as you keep that in mind.

    I'll start new threads for some of the questions above if I don't get answers here; for now I just wanted to say Hi and introduce myself.
    α900+VG|F20|2xF58|16-35,24-70,135Z|STF|70-400G|50,85 1.4|16,20,28,100M,80-200APO f/2.8|28-135|500f/8|1x-3xMacro|2xMFC-1000|Tiltall+RRS, Bellows, etc.

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    Welcome.

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    Thanks for the welcome.

    I've been playing a bit more with Raw Therapee to see what I could bring out of the hummingbird pics. I spent most of my time on the image that I like the most(above) then saved that as a profile and applied it to the other 4 images that were worth keeping. As these were handheld at a low ISO and a shutter speed of 6/(focal length) or worse I ended up tossing far more than I kept... but that's wildlife photography. I was very impressed that these shots cam out as well as they did. Obviously they are not a good demonstration of the ultimate sharpness of this setup, but they are IMHO a decent demonstration of what is possible with a little help from Steady Shot. I think some of these would print well.

    I will put future photos elsewhere, in new threads as appropriate but I wanted to sort of close the loop on this and show that I'm well on my way.

    Here is the hummingbird photo from above with some basic tweaks in RT -- WB, vignetting, luminance NR, gentle sharpening, very slight tweaks near the bottom of the tone curve and top of the luminance curve, and a very light touch of the tint slider.



    Here again is the link to the full frame, full resolution

    Here is a 100% crop of same:



    Here are some more crops -- the first was at 1/60, the rest were at 1/80:







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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    Welcome. You are clearly enthused and seemingly well on your way to Digital SLR nirvana. I wish you success.

    Best,
    Tim

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    Thanks Tim. Yes, I am definitely enthused. It's a bit like getting back on a bicycle after a long hiatus -- I'm starting to feel the wind in my hair again, and I like it. Got to enjoy it while I still have hair.
    α900+VG|F20|2xF58|16-35,24-70,135Z|STF|70-400G|50,85 1.4|16,20,28,100M,80-200APO f/2.8|28-135|500f/8|1x-3xMacro|2xMFC-1000|Tiltall+RRS, Bellows, etc.

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    Hi Dave and welcome here! I haven't had the time to really read your introduction yet however I like the images. I'll post more as time permits.

    Don
    Don Libby
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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    Thanks for the welcome, Don.
    α900+VG|F20|2xF58|16-35,24-70,135Z|STF|70-400G|50,85 1.4|16,20,28,100M,80-200APO f/2.8|28-135|500f/8|1x-3xMacro|2xMFC-1000|Tiltall+RRS, Bellows, etc.

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    So, I spent several quality hours with a Lensalign today, going through all of my lenses and setting the micro AF. Half were fine, there were a couple of -1 and -2 settings needed and a -3. The 80-200 APO was remarkably consistent throughout its range, the other zooms I picked a compromise since they varied over their ranges.

    I also cleaned everything up, some info regarding how I de-gunked my camera grips here.

    I have three zooms not pictured because I really don't intend to use them:

    Sigma "Pro Spec" 28-70 f4-4.5
    Sigma "Pro Spec" 75-300 f4.5-5.6
    Minolta 35-105 f3.5-4.5

    The first two were the kit lenses that came with the 7000i from JCPenney. I haven't used them in a long time and it was interesting to compare them side-by side with the better glass that I've obtained since then. I'm surprised I was able to get the pictures that I did from them! The 35-105 is just decent; much sharper than the Sigmas but nothing like the 28-135 or especially the APO.

    Also I realized that my 50 is a 1.4 I fixed my sig but didn't bother to update the post above. It's not as sharp as I seem to recall; I'll have to look into that. Maybe time for an upgrade there.

    Anyway, here is what I think will be the final update that fits in an "Introduction" topic -- a couple of shots of the gear.

    First, all of the gear that I consider "Active":



    Next, the subset of gear that goes in the big bag. Basically, as above but minus the 7000i, 1200AF, 3200i and one of the 5200is:



    The 8000i stays in the bag so I can do some film vs digital shooting.

    Now, I need to quit farkin' around with things and go shoot.
    α900+VG|F20|2xF58|16-35,24-70,135Z|STF|70-400G|50,85 1.4|16,20,28,100M,80-200APO f/2.8|28-135|500f/8|1x-3xMacro|2xMFC-1000|Tiltall+RRS, Bellows, etc.

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    you sure have a lot of gear!! i only have 3 lenses...well another south bay shooter joins!!

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    Quote Originally Posted by fultonpics View Post
    you sure have a lot of gear!! i only have 3 lenses...well another south bay shooter joins!!
    Cool, I was wondering if there were any locals on this board.

    It's mostly the fact that I didn't want to have to replace all of this gear that I've been waiting for an A-mount FF DSLR. It still takes good pictures, but I found out this morning why my 50 1.4 & 28 2.8 are not as sharp through the range as I remember... both have oil on the aperture blades!

    So, when I was stopping them down and wondering why they were not sharpening up as I expected, it was because of the oil. The overexposed pictures that resulted raised a question mark in my mind, but I figured that I was just suffering from having too many buttons to choose from and goofed something up. Now I know what's really going on. I'm going to try cleaning them up before I have to return the rented LensAlign, so I can re-check FF/BF after reassembly.

    Anyway, I don't always carry all of this gear. Listen to George Carlin's diatribe on "stuff" and you will understand. I bring the big bag and leave it in the car or hotel room; select a couple/few lenses for each outing from there, etc. While I could use the exercise, I generally prefer to have a lighter load most of the time.
    α900+VG|F20|2xF58|16-35,24-70,135Z|STF|70-400G|50,85 1.4|16,20,28,100M,80-200APO f/2.8|28-135|500f/8|1x-3xMacro|2xMFC-1000|Tiltall+RRS, Bellows, etc.

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    Hi Dave,

    Welcome to GetDPI! (and there are several locals here!)
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    Hey, another local. Hi, Jack! I noticed your location last time we had an exchange but forgot in the interim.
    α900+VG|F20|2xF58|16-35,24-70,135Z|STF|70-400G|50,85 1.4|16,20,28,100M,80-200APO f/2.8|28-135|500f/8|1x-3xMacro|2xMFC-1000|Tiltall+RRS, Bellows, etc.

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    well its great to have a bunch of gear. i find if i take more than 2-3 lenses i get confused on what to use. so i usually take only two. however, like tonight, i just took one. less is more

    anyway, maybe we'll all run into each other in the bay area someday.

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    Well, the gear list has grown over two decades. I am not a pro photographer like many in this forum, so my gear budget is, shall we say, of a different scale.

    Basically I started off with a couple of slow kit zooms, and managed well enough for quite some time. I started filling in with faster primes over time, starting with the most-used 28mm, then the 50 1.4, and finally I saved and saved for the 85 1.4 in the mid-90s which is a gem for portrait work IMHO. Current thinking seems to be that 135 is preferred for portraits but at the same time it seems that the preferred composition is more of a headshot than what I have typically gone after. Maybe this is due to the increasing prevalence of super-size meals and 60-oz sodas, maybe it's a more fundamental shift in the zeitgeist -- I don't know. The 500 followed soon after, followed by the APO, the macro and the 28-135 over the next 5 years or so. My most recent purchase was the 20 2.8 in about 2002.

    Most of the time that I have worked with AF 35mm gear, I learned to work with what little I had, and before my hiatus I enjoyed the challenge of just going out with one fast prime to see what I could do with it.

    To draw a metaphor, my style has typically been sort of like the folks who have a jeep with a bicycle rack on it, towed behind their motorhome. The motorhome is the bag pictured above. I would take it along on a trip, then leave it in the hotel room or car and take 2-3 lenses in a smaller bag to a mini-destination(jeep) then perhaps put the smaller bag in a locker and walk around with one lens for a while(bicycle).

    As you say, less is more.

    BTW, since you're local, I have a question. I normally don't pay much attention to buildings, but I'm thinking San Jose is a good place to find what I'm looking for. I want to shoot calibration images to help out the developer of PTLens and the buildings near where I work have few very large windows, not suitable for what I need. Take a look at http://epaperpress.com/ptlens/index.html -> Calibration -> Target. Any thoughts as to places I should scout, perhaps downtown? I need suitable targets for the range of 20mm-500mm, 13-330mm if you generally think in terms of APS-C. I'd like to try the software but he has none of my lenses in his database -- at least not in FF.
    α900+VG|F20|2xF58|16-35,24-70,135Z|STF|70-400G|50,85 1.4|16,20,28,100M,80-200APO f/2.8|28-135|500f/8|1x-3xMacro|2xMFC-1000|Tiltall+RRS, Bellows, etc.

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    you're way beyond me. i just point and shoot and hope for the best. no clue on buildings in SJ--I try to stay away from downtown at all cost. plus i don't know what an APS-C is.

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    I try to stay away from SJ too, that's why I was asking. No worries, we're all here because we love photograpy.
    α900+VG|F20|2xF58|16-35,24-70,135Z|STF|70-400G|50,85 1.4|16,20,28,100M,80-200APO f/2.8|28-135|500f/8|1x-3xMacro|2xMFC-1000|Tiltall+RRS, Bellows, etc.

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    yeah, i cover the sharks and used to do AFL (now out of business--but at least I did the last AFL EA PlayStation cover before they went belly up)...anyway, i try to laser my way to HP Pavilion and laser my way out. that is my only SJ experience other than a few mandatory biz dinners and and events at the fairmont.

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    Re: Introduction - New Member, new to DSLRs

    Last time I went to HP Pavilion was with the wife for an absolutely awful Bruce Springsteen concert. She was livid when they made her toss her water bottle at the door -- she ALWAYS has one in-hand. Worse yet, the sound was simply awful. I doubt I/we will ever go back.
    α900+VG|F20|2xF58|16-35,24-70,135Z|STF|70-400G|50,85 1.4|16,20,28,100M,80-200APO f/2.8|28-135|500f/8|1x-3xMacro|2xMFC-1000|Tiltall+RRS, Bellows, etc.

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