Tricksy Cardinalses! And other news…

One of my photography goals for 2013 is to get a photograph of a cardinal which fills a sufficient amount of the frame. This is quite a challenge as they bolt as soon as they suspect something and I have a lot of somethings; kids, a dog, cats, squirrels, and my clumsiness. Once the weather gets a little better I will be able to hide a little more, right now I am constrained to the back door window and my kitchen window, which adds another layer of potentially dirty glass in the way. This shot comprises about 1/12 of the total frame.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 200, 1/80s

As does this shot.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 800, 1/250s

And then one of my cats walked up to the door and made a noise and this guy was gone…

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 800, 1/250s

I’ve had a little bit of luck behind closed doors, but I feel like I can do better and get closer.

I am home briefly from Seattle, Washington and I have to return next week. Last week I had the privilege of visiting Ron Martinsen of ronmartblog.com and shoot his book case with the A77, A900, and A99 – sort of. I didn’t get what I thought from the A900. I put the A900 in Mirror Lock-up and I guess Nikons wait a bit and then take the shot after the shutter button is pressed. Not the A900. It just puts the mirror back if you don’t press the shutter button again. So I got dozens of samples from the A99 and A77 with my 85mm f/1.4 ZA lens and only three from the A900, two of which were test frames. Not all was lost, however as I did get the A77 and A99 shots AND as a bonus I shot a set with the A99 with the Minolta 200mm f/2.8 High Speed APO G lens. So I will be able to compare the A99 and A77 short term as well as the 85mm and 200mm lenses. As you can see, I also got some shots of the Seattle skyline and Mount Rainier on the one day the weather cooperated. I also shot with a circular polarizer on my 85mm lens.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 200, 1/500s

I had one huge issue with trying to get shots from this side of downtown Seattle. There weren’t many places without power lines in the way without trespassing. I had to shoot over a fence in a driveway to get these. Here is one with my A77.

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SLT-A77V, 24mm f/2 ZA @ f/7.1, ISO 100, 1/200s.

I’m back there next week. Hopefully I get the chance to re-shoot the book case with the A900 but if I don’t, at least I got what I got.

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A little news and upcoming posts…

My last few days have been very busy. I found out I am back on the road next week. I am going to the Puget Sound area near Seattle, Washington. It will be my first solo trip since getting the A99 and A900 and my first trip with the Minolta 200mm f/2.8 High Speed APO G lens. Here is one of my favorite shots from a previous trip to the area:

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SLT-A77V, DT 35mm f/1.8 SAM@ f.8, ISO 100, 30s

When I am on the road I am usually excused from my normal life to a certain extent. I don’t have to do the dishes or take out the garbage. My poor wife and kids have to pick up the slack while I am away. This also affords me the time to shoot and experiment with my camera equipment. This is a shot I took while preparing an A100 to be sent to my grandmother:

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DSLR-A100, DT 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 @f/8, ISO 400, 1/2000s

I plan on doing an all-up review of the Minolta 200mm lens once I can get some shooting time on my A77 with it and I also want to get one final A99-A900-A77 post finished and this trip may afford me the time to shoot to complete one of those two posts. And hopefully I will be able to get some shots of something other than Downtown Seattle.

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SLT-A77V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA@ f/6.3, ISO 50, 1/800s

And hopefully the sky will be clear enough to get a shot of Mount Rainier from the city, and not from an airplane like this shot.

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SLT-A77V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/8, ISO 100, 1/800s

Kids! Kids! and More Kids!

I was able to have a couple of sunny days to work with this weekend. I took my kids outside yesterday, the Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G lens still mounted on my A99. I actually experimented with two settings. Direct Manual Focus and Auto ISO. I shot with Auto ISO at 100-400 for most of the afternoon and then ratcheted it up to 100-800 when the shadows got a bit longer and I used Shutter Priority at 1/500s during the fully sunlit parts of the day and toggled between 1/250s or 1/200s when shadows were present. I hope to nail down precisely how the Auto ISO works in terms of selecting an aperture versus selecting a shutter speed. For the most part, the lens stayed at f/4, and a vast majority of the shots were between f/2.8 and f/4.

This shot may end up being one of my all-time favorites.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/2.8, ISO 400, 1/250s

Direct Manual Focus is a different beast altogether and one I may resort to more often. In Direct Manual Focus, when you press the shutter button halfway, the lens is engaged and autofocus gets the first focus point to light up and then disengages the lens. At that point, focus peaking kicks in and you can make minor adjustments. If you are confident in the autofocus, you can press the shutter down immediately. If I need to adjust, you can adjust.

The kids are at the top of the driveway and there is about a 6 foot drop to the bottom. I had to stop the race before it started but I didn’t want to miss my opportunity to frame all three of them.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/2.8, ISO 400, 1/500s

Overall, I can now say I don’t regret my purchase of the Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G lens at all. I feel like there is much to learn about the lens. I mean, there is a screw on the left side next to the distance meter and I don’t know why, but with what I do know I am thrilled with the IQ and color reproduction. Here is a throw away, but it is a beautiful throw away. I am probably 40 feet away from my son, about to run after him to get him to not go in the street.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 125, 1/200s

Same shot, cropped to show full resolution.

 

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You can see the Tonka Dump Truck has seen better days. It has been decorated by my oldest son, and has been passed down to my youngest son. At 1/200s, I could have been a tad faster as I had some ISO to give, and the subject was moving.  For a throw-away, I can still learn from the shot.

This shot intrigued me as it was 200’s across the board except for aperture. My son could have had a better expression on his face after I asked him why he had one of my bungee cords in his hand and wasn’t wearing a bicycle helmet, but as a math guy, I like situations where things are simple.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 200, 1/200s

I’ll leave you with this final shot, as the oldest of two growing up I have a bit of appreciation for it. Though I will say I may not have been the best big brother on the planet I certainly can, and will take credit for some of my little brother’s toughness.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 400, 1/500s

Liking what I see so far…

I’ve forced myself to shoot exclusively with the Minolta 200mm f/2.8 High Speed APO G lens this year and I haven’t been able to get enough sunny days to really allow the lens to do what it does.

Today, it was sunny so I took my dog out to see if I could walk and chew gum at the same time… or throw a frisbee and then try to shoot the dog trying to catch it. I found it to be very difficult. I managed to get one shot of the frisbee in the air and the dog in the frame.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/5, ISO 100, 1/500s

Then I drove around and found this subject.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 160, 1/250s

And when I got home, this little one was having lunch out my back window. I cropped the shot down a bit.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/5.6, ISO 800, 1/80s

I am pretty happy with my purchase so far. I’ve noticed a couple of things about the lens. First of all, it has a very heavy vignette at f/2.8 and it is present through f/4. The built-in lens hood doesn’t hurt or help the vignette. It is fixable post-processing, but I’d rather shoot with the knowledge the vignette is present and frame accordingly. At f/2.8 the lens is very good and at f/4 and above the lens is spectacular. As you can tell from the backgrounds from the shots above, the bokeh is very nice. The lens acquires just a hair slower than the 70-300 G did, but definitely faster than the 85mm f/1.4 ZA does and I have been able to use the AF Range functionality successfully with the lens to get faster acquisition. I’d be thrilled if a future firmware update allowed AF-D on the lens, but I am not holding my breath. Finally, this lens suffers from Chromatic Aberration wide open and to f/4 in high contrast situations. I am OK with CA as long as Lightroom can fix it. 

I have a feeling there’s more to this lens than meets the eye… I just haven’t found it’s true purpose quite yet.