• Andy’s E-BOOK — Photography Travel Guides

  • PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS!!

    All Images and writing on this blog are copyrighted by Andy Richards. All rights are reserved. You may not, without my express, written permission, download, right click, or otherwise copy my images for any reason. Copying an image and putting it on your blog, website, or even as a screensaver on your computer is a breach of copyright, EVEN IF YOU ATTRIBUTE THE SOURCE! Please do not do so.
  • On This Blog:

  • Categories

  • Andy’s Photography Galleries

    Click Here To See My Gallery of Photographic Images

    LightCentric Photography

  • Andy's Flickr Photos

    Center Road Old Mission Peninsula; Traverse City, MI 10192014000019

    More Photos
  • Prior Posts

  • Posts By Date

    December 2014
    M T W T F S S
    « Nov    
    1234567
    891011121314
    15161718192021
    22232425262728
    293031  

A Comparison; DSLR / Mirrorless

What can I say? I am in a “gear” mode these days. I know this isn’t the first time someone has compared the two.  But mine might be more like a rambling muse :-)  (again, you might want to look at my page describing my gear reviews to see how I come at this. I leave the heavy lifting to the pros).

I have had some “back and forth” discussion with several of my friends over the past few weeks, about my switch from Nikon DSLR to Sony MIL gear (Sony also “plays” in the DSLR world, but in my view, doesn’t offer any reason for a “seasoned” non-Sony DSLR user/owner to consider a change from their current gear).

The seed was planted that maybe we could achieve “pro” results in a small, light package

The “world-changing” event came through Sony’s mirrorless interchangeable lens system (MILS) bodies. They were not the first to the table. Olympus has made a pretty big splash with its 4/3 system; well-made stuff and great glass. Nikon has its own proprietary size sensor MIL system (which has always left me scratching my head). Fuji has a nice system (using an APS sized sensor) and is probably the closest “apples/apples” competitor to the Sony System (Leica offers an APS sized MILS system, also, but its — well — Leica). My draw to Sony’s system was probably logical enough. Sony manufactured (perhaps still does) the sensors Nikon used in its DSLR lineup. Sony also offered the ability (primarily through 3rd-party adapters) to use my Nikkor lenses on the body (albeit as MF only lenses); and as I “grew” into the system, the availability of glass manufactured either directly by Zeiss Optical, or in a partnership between Sony and Zeiss, which created “Zeiss-quality” glass and more importantly look and feel (there is no doubt some debate about whether the partnered lenses — which are built by Sony — are as good as the pure Zeiss.  I owned and used both on my NEX-6 and I couldn’t see a difference).

2012.  Sony’s early offerings were their “NEX” line of cameras, using APS – size sensors (Sony has discontinued the name “NEX” in favor of what they deem their more consistent “Alpha” naming scheme.  The newest available iterations are basically the same body style, with some “improvements” – more later). Ironically, the Sony NEX-6 which I first acquired in 2012 (and still own and use regularly) had the same Sony-manufactured APS-size sensor as the very good Nikon D7000 DSLR I owned at the time as a backup.  I traded it and for a time, I carried the NEX-6 as an all purpose travel and walk-around camera and backup to my Nikon DSLR system. I kept the Nikon D800 and glass for my “more serious” shooting.

I fell in love with the Sony-Zeiss 24mm 1.8’s buttery bokeh

As I began to experiment with some of the fixed focal length glass offerings for the NEX, I fell in love with the Sony-Zeiss f1.8 24mm lens and its buttery bokeh.  The seed was planted that maybe one could achieve “pro” results in a small, light package like this (it is a thought almost “retro” to the old rangefinder cameras used by some pretty amazing pro photographers years ago).

2013. Along came the a7 “full frame” series. The a7 sports a 24mp 24 x 36 “full frame” sensor, and the a7R, features the same 36mp 24 x 36 “full frame” sensor (including the lack of AA filter) that resided in the top-of-the-world, Nikon D800e! All in a small (it turns out, “smallish”) mirrorless body which was reputed to be pro-like in build quality. How could we resist?

It Begs a number of Questions

And it begs the question.  It actually begs several of them. Some of them have been asked and answered. How many megapixels do we need? I have come to the conclusion that 36 is overkill for most of us. Do we need “full frame?” In my view, that may be the real question. And, the burning question: can we have a full frame, DSLR-equivalent shooting experience in a smaller, more portable (and possibly less expensive) package? Lets try to answer a couple of them — Not necessarily in the order asked.

1.  Can Mirrorless Full Frame Compete with DSLR Full Frame?

Lets start with the big one. Following the lead of a couple of my friends, I did some “quick and dirty” comparative research. This is not scientific. I used B&H pricing and the specifications published on their catalog site. I rounded. But I don’t think the rounding error will be significant enough to skew the result. I will use my “default” “kit” (as the Europeans like to call it). I carried (for the most part) a Nikon D800 body with a 24-70 f2.8 and a 70-200 f2.8, and a large enough tripod and head to support that gear. The camera and lenses will cost you $7,600. An equivalent A7r, 24-70 and 70-200 setup will cost you $6,800. That $700 would buy a pretty nice tripod, or another piece of glass.

It’s not apples/apples

However, its not apples/apples here. First, the “equivalent” lenses are maximum f4, against the f2.8 apertures of the pro DSLR lenses. Is the added bokeh worth $350 a lens? Maybe. It’s pretty important.  I have to say that I was “wowed” by the difference between f2.8 and f1.8 when I first shot the NEX lenses.  Also, I have compared the two 70-200 copies. They are not “equivalent.” The Nikkor IQ is palpably better, in my view in that lens. With the 24-70 (Zeiss quality glass), the two are virtually indistinguishable (again, not a pixel peeping, scientific comparison – just my “feel”), but the Nikkor can produce slightly nicer bokeh in many cases, with its maximum f2.8 aperture.

And there is a non-lens comparison issue that for some is huge (for me, not so much). According to Nikon, its digital camera engines produce a true 14 bit “lossless” raw file. The Sony cameras do not! The raw file from the Sony “engine” is apparently partially processed – presumably to save some size? It can, in some cases, produce artifacts which Nikon and Canon’s raw files are said not to have. At least at the pixel peeping level, for the serious bits and bytes squashers out there, this just might be a deal breaker. Seems like it is easily enough addressed by Sony, if they choose to (and in my view, they should).

There is a perhaps, more apt comparison. The newer Nikon D610 sports the same “full frame” 24 x 36 24mp sensor as the Sony a7. Trade out the D800 for the D610 and your total cost goes to $5,000 for the Nikon rig. Trade out the a7 for the a7r and your total Sony cost is $3900. Is the $1,100 difference worth it? Is it really $1,100 (what if you “live” with the 24mp D610 and the Nikkor glass and now have a less expensive setup than the “best” Sony?). Some of this goes back to my first question above. Do you need 36mp? I think that for the vast majority of us, the answer is no.

The Nikon rig weighs a total of about 7.5 lbs. The Sony rig: about 3 3/4 lbs

Here’s where it gets interesting. My “premiere” Nikon rig weighs a total of about 7.5 lbs. The Sony rig: about 3 3/4 lbs. And that does not take into consideration that you can probably go with a smaller, lighter tripod with the smaller, lighter gear. And there is also a difference in overall size. The body is smaller and the lens barrels shorter and slightly smaller in diameter. As I write this, the a7 and 24-700 sit next to me on the desk and I am struck by how similar in size it is to the old, familiar Nikkormat camera with a 50mm lens attached that I shot for many years.

So, does size really matter? I think the answer is no different than it has always been, when the issue has been about gear: It really depends on your intended use, and your travel parameters. I have noted on other blog posts that the Sony setup I use is very suitable for general purpose use; as I use it. Travel, stills, landscape and the like all lend themselves to this rig. For wildlife, sports, etc., I do not think it is there. If I were going to do bird or wildlife shooting, or sports shooting, I would probably lean in the direction of the D610 (or better) setup above. I do think that except for very exacting specification shooting, 24mp is more than adequate and for reasons I will discuss below, probably preferable to the 36mp sensors. But if you shoot like I do, and size and weight are a real factor, then less than 1/2 the weight, and noticeably smaller in size to make it very attractive.

2.  How many Megapixels Do You Need?

As the digital revolution has now passed us by, so, too probably have “Megapixel Wars.” My first DSLR (the D100) was a mere 6mp.  Yet, I have 24 x 36 prints that are pretty impressive, from shots taken with that “dinosaur.”  But as with all “bigger is better” kind of things, there comes a logical point of no return. I think the digicam industry has taken us there, and we are coming back to the field.

Before we can really address the “right” number of megapixels, I think we need to put “size” into perspective. Megapixels is just a number. In an oversimplified way, it is just a measure of the number of photosites on a given camera sensor. If I put 36 megapixels on a 24 x 36 chip, I am going to get a far different result than if I put 24 on there. In the latter case, if 36 sites fit on it, I will either have significant gaps with the 24 example, or I will have to make the 24mp photosites bigger themselves, to fit the space. Of course, it is the latter that is the case, and in terms of every measure except perhaps detail, these bigger photosites are actually going to yield a more pleasing result. This is because of physics and electronics way above my pay grade. But for these reasons, under most circumstances, I believe the 24mp will yield cleaner, more noise free results. The advantage: better low light imagery, and probably just overall cleaner images.

I think 36 megapixels is overkill

Even more important for general use; this will be a more “forgiving” sensor. Because the 36mp chip in the D800 and a7R is capable of resolving significant detail over “smaller” sensors, it will also show more of your “warts.” If your glass is not very high quality, the result is likely to be “highlighted” weaknesses of the glass. If your shooting technique is lazy or poor, your weaknesses will show up in a magnified way. In that sense, the 36mp sensor is really best suited for a painstaking professional with high quality lenses, painstaking and expert technique (read: locked down on a steady tripod, remote release, good technique and mechanics to avoid movement and vibration, etc.). For general purpose, it will probably not enhance – and could very well hinder – your photographic results.

And, of course, the files are huge. That means slower post-processing and more computer power and storage memory needed. So what would be the advantage? Will you be making gigantic prints which require minute detail? Will you be making significant crops out of the images? Do you demand the absolute very best that can be had (and that is, of course, a subjective judgment at best)? Otherwise, I think the 36mp model is overkill. Given that the a7R has some noted issues, if you do not already have one and insist on the 36mp model, I would wait a few months and see if Sony fixes the problems in its a7RII release.

For all of the same reasons, If you think you “need” full frame, I think most current Nikon users who are invested in decent or good glass could be really happy with the Nikon D610 and using the fabulous Nikkor glass?  Not sure if Canon has a like camera – but if they don’t, they will – seems to be a continuation of the “tastes great/less filling” argument between the “white hats” and the “black hats,” year in, year out.

“Full Frame” is a “fiction”

3.  Do You Really Need Full Frame?

What is “full frame,” anyway? It is a fiction. The “Full Frame” misnomer was created by DSLR users.  Long ago the SLR industry established a standard size of film for SLR cameras that had a diagonal dimension of 35mm (hence the 35mm SLR). But there have always been other formats, from sheet film in the back of a full view camera, to so-called “Medium Format,” (which had a couple different film rectangle sizes). All were rectangular (but lenses are round, leading comedian Stephen Wright, I believe, to wonder aloud why if lenses are round, why are photos rectangular? :-) ). But the lens size and length was generally designed as a function of the size of that rectangle of film.

In the early 2000’s, the manufacture of electronic sensors for cameras was a much more costly and limited process than it is today. In order to make a sensor that would perform in an SLR-like body using the lenses then available, the technology/cost matrix meant that an affordable DSLR would have the APS sized sensor (closer to the size of a standard U.S. postage stamp than to 35mm). This phenomena immediately created some issues with lens lineups. Because of the so-called “crop-factor,” the angle of view of lenses was decreased by about 1/2 (generally, multiply the 35mm-equivalent by 1.5). It varied slightly from camera to camera. But it immediately created a perceived issue for long time 35mm film shooters.  They began to wish for and even demand a sensor that was the 35mm rectangle their lenses were originally designed for, and began to refer to such a sensor as “full frame.” Eventually these sensors (probably already in the planning stages) were introduced and are generally referred to as “full frame.”  But try to convince a larger format camera user that 35mm is “full.” :-)

At the same time, camera makers (and third party lens makers) began to manufacture lenses to the APS specification and in a sense, the “distinction” has become academic. It is no more “full frame” than any other sensor-size/lens combination which is properly designed for one another.  For those reasons, I am not sure the “full frame” reference is really a significant factor in one’s choice of camera.  More importantly, larger sensors might yield higher image quality.  That goes back to the discussion above about the “correct” number of megapixels.  See, I can use circular reasoning with the best of them.  :-)

When Nikon announced the enthusiast level “full frame” DSLR, the D700, I purchased one. By then, I had been used 2 iterations of the APS sensor (D100, D200) and had acquired some APS-designed Nikkor lenses. With the change “back” I had to completely re-think this lineup. I was never one who “yearned” for “full frame.” For the above reason, I never thought of it as a particular advantage or disadvantage. In fact, one advantage is that it is cheaper and easier to design smaller lenses for these smaller sensors. This is particularly notable in the mirrorless arena.  Of course, another advantage is that they will be smaller and lighter.

Sensor size is probably one area where “bigger is better,” at least in terms of quality. Bigger physical sensor size means relatively bigger photosites and as noted above, better, cleaner images (especially at the edges of light). That drove my move to the D700 100%. I wanted the best IQ I could “buy.” That motivated me to go to and stay with the Sony a7 also. On paper, I should achieve top-notch IQ with the “full frame” 24mp sensor.

Sensor Sizes Compared

Sensor Sizes Compared

But I have to question my own thinking here. Do I really need it? At least one of my “pro” friends tells me that if you want to sell traditional stock (read, Getty Images), you probably do. It is a matter of the minimum file sizes they will accept. I would bet 99.9% of the readers here are not full time professional photographers and do not plan to try to make (even part of) a living from stock sales. So again, do we need it? What are you using your images for? Again, the 99% majority are posting them on Facebook, or their own blogs and websites. Some are making books and cards and calendars and just snapshots for memories. Not many are making large (24 x 36 or larger) art-quality prints. and even then, the need for 36mp is probably limited.  I have a 24 x 36 art-quality print framed, matted and hanging in my office behind my desk that looks pretty darn good (if I do say so, myself) :-). It was taken, traveling in Venice, Italy, with the APS sensor, 16mp Sony NEX-6. When I travel, I always have to decide whether I am going to carry anything more than the NEX, a very small travel tripod, and an array of very small lenses to use with it, or the “bigger” outfit (for me, that is the 3 3/4 lb. Sony a7 setup these days). So, when size and weight become a serious consideration, so should these diminuitive APS mirrorless offerings.

The current version of the NEX-6 is the Sony a6000. It is intriguing: New “engine;” Improved a7 menu system (the NEX menu structure was mind-boggling – the a7 is somewhat better); 24 megapixel APS sensor (question about whether the same “spacing” issue of the photosites applies here? The photosites have to be smaller than those on the prior 16mp NEX6. A matter of tradeoff); Faster, better AF. Brighter viewfinder. If I were not invested already, this would probably be my entry-level purchase and just might suffice to be the only one. At only $450 a copy, you could buy 2 a6000 bodies for less than the price of one a7/a7II. You could carry them with different lenses attached. There is no 70-200 lens for this sensor/mount combination, but the 70-200 f4 mounts, and works well with it. There is a Sony-Zeiss rough equivalent 24-70 (the 16-70 f4). It has IS. The cost for this 2-lens combo and the a6000 would be $3,850. The weight would be under 3 1/2 lbs. (and 2 lbs. of it would be the 70-200!).

When size and weight become a serious consideration, so should these diminuitive cameras

I will watch with interest what competitors, Nikon, Canon, and Fuji do this year. I think Olympus is pretty much married to their 4/3 system and I think the smallish sensor size is just too much of a compromise. Nikon’s mirrorless array has been a non-starter for me, primarily because of their insistence on their own, proprietary sensor size/lens design. I don’t get it, Nikon. You already have APS sensors that are tried and true, and lenses designed for them. Sony has proven you can put them in a small package. Marketing, Nikon? I have no idea where Canon is in this – or why.

The next time I post here, Christmas, 2014, as well as some other holidays will have passed us by (not meaning to be insensitive or display my ignorance – but having been raised in the Christian tradition, all I know is Christmas) :-).  I want to say Merry Christmas to all my friends and readers out there and for lack of a better term, the “PC” “Happy Holidays” to all who may celebrate other holidays this time of year!

The Sirui 3204X Carbon Fiber Tripod Legset

Last year, I made a momentous decision, after 30 plus years of “Nikon loyalty,” trading all of my Nikon gear for Sony’s new “full frame” mirrorless offering: the a7 and lenses, mostly from the Carl Zeiss/Sony partnership. Truth be told, it was primarily the Zeiss connection that pushed me over the line. But given that, the smaller, lighter, more compact form factor of mirrorless is a huge plus.

It was the Zeiss connection that pushed me over the line

Especially for travel, I have come to learn that “size matters” – small size, in particular. As technology inexorably advances, I expect that cameras will continue to get smaller and smaller. And that will continue to serve those of us who lug a fair amount of gear around.

Some years ago, I acquired an Induro C314 carbon fiber leg set along with the Induro BHD3 Ballhead. At that time, I did some unscientific comparison between the carbon fiber legs and my aluminum legs and concluded (as the advertising hype says) that carbon fiber is both lighter and more rigid – significantly so.

Carbon fiber is both lighter and more rigid

The Induro legs are very lightweight and very high quality manufacture. The BHD3 is a huge ball (and as such, heavier than the more popular, smaller diameter ball heads), and the combination created a rock-solid support for my Nikon D800 and 70-200 f2.8 lens combination. The C314 legs are great, particularly for a tall person. While this combination seemed “featherlight” compared to my old, reliable aluminum Bogen legs and head, it is still not totally convenient for airline travel. Barely packable, it requires removing the center column and head (not a huge inconvenience – but nonetheless, inconvenient). And it isn’t carry-on friendly. For serious photo trips and for car travel, this is a non-issue (for reasons expressed below, this very nice leg/ballhead combo is seeking a new home, for a reasonable price. If you are interested you can e-mail me).

I often travel under circumstances where I travel light, but would like to have a tripod (e.g., for night, or twilight photography). So, a year or so back, I began a search for a very small, ultralight tripod for travel. I knew it would be a compromise, but any support would be better than hand-holding for certain applications. My search turned up the Sirui T-025X. This little Carbon Fiber model is diminutive. Its folded length, intact with ballhead, is 11.5 inches! And it is ultralight. It is also pricey, for a unit of its size (smaller and lighter than the popular and very impressive MeFoto Traveler Tripods; it is also more expensive). So it is a rather costly convenience, especially for occasional use. I have found it best to use it only partially extended, as the lower leg sections are very small.  It is surprisingly rigid for its size.  However, the upper leg diameter is a mere .87 inches and the lower leg sections are reminiscent of “chopsticks.” Also, the fairly long center post is in a fixed raised position.   It works for its intended purpose – ultralight travel, but for the most part is not particularly useful when fully extended.  I found it challenging when perched on a windy ledge trying to capture the Point Bonita Light during my recent trip to Northern California.  I have found it useful to use it without the leg sections extended, propped up on a wall, ledge, etc.  I will definitely keep and use it for those circumstances when it is the only tripod available.  It is carry- on friendly, carry-around friendly, and unobtrusive. 

The other surprise, to me, was that this unknown newcomer was a quality-made unit. I am impressed with the fit and finish and attention to detail paid by Sirui. Sometime later, I decided to buy a relatively inexpensive ballhead for a backup tripod. Impressed with Sirui, I took a chance and purchased a Sirui G-20 ball head, to mount on my Bogen aluminum legs, now kept as a spare at my second home. Again, I have been impressed with the quality of construction and it will now become my “main” ballhead.

After my changeover to the Sony gear, the Induro equipment began to look a bit like overkill. I began to feel a bit silly mounting my small Sony gear on a tripod and head designed for a much larger equipment setup. But the small Sirui just wasn’t quite up to “everyday” tripod usage. So, once again, I began to look for a compromise; as large as possible without it being gigantic. And, after some searching and research, I once again arrived at Sirui!  I was looking for a slightly larger unit than the MeFoto, but smaller than the Induro. I decided on the Sirui 3204 Carbon Fiber 4-section tripod legs. When they arrived, I was surprised to see that the upper leg sections appeared to be the same diameter as the induro legs (larger diameter = stiffer). And, when extended, the tripod mounted camera reaches my eye-level, without an extended center column (again, insuring a more rigid, immovable base). But amazingly, when folded (with the center column and head intact) it fits my carry-on bag!  The upper leg sections of this tripod are 1.26 inches in diameter (Induro does not publish this information).  The folded length – with head attached — is still only 20.8 inches.  Still easily the shortest folded tripod of its class, which makes it imminently travel friendly! 

There are, of course, a lot of things that go into the design of a lightweight, rigid tripod set. One thing I notice about the Sirui is that the “spider” that connects the three legs, seems less massive than the one on the Induro legs. While that makes the legs lighter, it also is a point of rigidity. To quote my friend, Kerry, all photographic gear is a tradeoff.

All photographic gear involves a tradeoff

I used the legs recently in the field. Even with my largest, heaviest combination (the a7 with 70-200 Sony f4) attached, the legs seemed plenty rigid. I believe the tradeoff, for this gear, is worthwhile. While I did not try a DSLR and large lens rig on this setup, I believe it would hold up in most normal conditions.

This leg set is reasonably priced and at substantially lower than the competition, is a true bargain.

My Thoughts on the Newly Announced Sony a7II

Nobody would seriously argue that the last 10 years haven’t brought about quantum changes in the way we view photography. In 2004, we talked about “the digital revolution” and many serious photographers speculated about whether digital could ever someday equal and even surpass the large and even medium format film capture of the day.

That ship has definitively sailed. In the mid-late ’90’s I bought my first electronic, “automatic” SLR camera (does anybody remember the Nikon N6006?). It was, at the time, a modern marvel, which did some things electronically, that had previously been something mechanical camera body owners “wished” for. Indeed, while I never owned one, Minolta had an even more advanced “computer” electronic camera back then that could be “programmed” to do things. But they shot film. And the beauty and simplicity of it what that back in those days I was able to carry former (all mechanical) Nikon “flagship” model F and the N6006 and essentially shoot the same medium; interchange more or less the same lenses; and achieve more or less the same end-result. And, amazingly, the venerable old F held a value similar – if not in excess of – the N6006.

The Digital Revolution has passed

The revolution has passed us. And any of us who didn’t realize that are probably already in the grave. In the past 2 years, the question has been whether smaller, more compact outfits can play in the same sandbox with the king of the hill, the so-called “full-frame” DSLR. The DSLR crowd has the advantage of the pedigreed lens array that has – more or less – been being manufactured and improved upon during the entire period where digital has been clawing its way to the top.

B the primary difference between now and years back is that today things move much faster. New offerings and “innovation” comes yearly, instead of multiple-yearly; and obsolescence occurs much more rapidly. Just prior to 2010 Sony began to offer an APS sensor “point & shoot” style camera that featured interchangeable lenses. Competitors were also doing it, but not with the APS sensor, which made the Sony offerings — in my view – ground-breaking. In 2011, the Sony NEX-7 came out and was a “pro” (or at least very serious amateur) offering. Shortly following, in 2012, they introduced the more affordable and in some ways, more DSLR shooter friendly, NEX-6. And I “bit.” As an “ocassional” camera and a backup to my more “serious” Nikon D800 DSLR, it was a pretty fun and pretty impressive little tool (indeed, I still carry and shoot it regularly).

But the real “impresser” was the 2013 Full Frame a7 and a7r offerings. I now own an a7, and an assortment of lenses. And here we are, not even a full year from the advent of the a7 series, and Sony has now announced the a7II (available to be “pre-sold” on B&H’s website). New offerings always make us wonder. Should we be “upgrading”? Have we “missed the boat” by not waiting? What are we missing now?

I am not “feeling” it

I have had a theory about new offerings of any kind. You have to jump on somewhere, and then you have to ride what you jumped on to until you get your money’s worth out of it. I am not always a “practice what I preach kind of a guy, but generally, I believe that. So if you already have one of these mirrorless wonders, here are some thoughts.

The a7II announcement, of course, had me wondering what was new and better about it. So I made some comparisons. The a7 and a7r are essentially identical, except for the pixel density and the a7r’s lack of electronic front curtain shutter capability. What the a7II adds – for a still photography shooter – is a faster AF and 5-axis in-body image stabilization.

I am not “feeling it.” “But,” you say: “5-axis IS!” Wow. That sounds awfully cool. I have a 24-70 and a 70-200. Both are already “IS” (Sony’s version is OSS). I also have some shorter, faster glass. Do I need “IS” for that? I also own a tripod. So while the in-body “IS” sounds exciting on paper, I am wondering if it is truly and “advancement?”

Faster AF. Hmmn. I use this camera for primarily still subjects: Landscape, architecture, a fair amount of “travel” shooting. While the target occasionally moves a bit, lets face it, folks, these are generally very cooperative subjects. The AF on my a7 is pretty estimable and certainly sufficient for my needs. Knowledgeable and experienced shooters readily recognize that this is not a sports shooter’s tool.

I will admit that I have not embraced these still cameras as a video tool (I have friends who have an are totally smitten with them as videography tools). I understand that Sony has addressed some of the videographers’ “wish list” items in the a7II. But that still, in my view, makes this new “toy” a rather special purpose item.

And there are some negatives. First, this camera is selling at a price point $400 higher than the first iteration a7 (some might actually view this as a positive. The a7 debuted at the higher price point and has now been reduced – so much so that Sony will probably have to price-protect its retail sellers for the a7 sales going forward). The new version is also nearly 1/3 pound heavier and slightly larger than the original a7. While this won’t be a deal-breaker, it may actually be counter-intuitive.

There are opportunities and risks as a result

My sole reason for making the switch was to try to obtain a smaller, lighter, more portable “kit” for my photography. There was absolutely nothing wrong with my Nikon gear – except for its size and weight. And as prior blogs suggest, changing up to Sony involved a compromise. So why in the world would I make the shift to Sony, and then let them “creep” me back to my DSLR-sized roots? Almost seems like bait and switch to me. So, no – Sony, I think I’ll stay with the current model until you persuade me there is a real reason for change!

There are some opportunities – and risks – out there as a result of this.   I don’t really understand Sony’s marketing strategy here.  Since he says it better and more thoroughly than I could, I recommend a perusal of Thom Hogan’s “Sans Mirror” site for his take on this issue.  It will not surprise me to see the first-generation a7 series prices drop significantly in the used market. This will open up some opportunities for folks looking to get into the a7 “full frame” market at reasonable prices. At the same time, owner beware. The known issues besetting the a7r (shutter slap) is very likely to be addressed when the a7rII comes out. This might make your a7r a bit of a “brick” when it comes to resale. Just sayin’.

It will not surprise me to see the a7 series prices drop significantly on the used market

Sony E-mount 70-200 – Review

Day Lily Sony 70-200 @f4; 1/500 Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Day Lily
Sony 70-200 @f4; 1/500
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Since equipment reviews are infrequent here, you may wish to read my description of my equipment reviews. You can get there by clicking on the link under “On This Blog,” halfway down the left-hand column.

When Sony announced the A7 “full-frame” (so-called) bodies last year, some of us converts to the Sony NEX system started to look at whether this body  (and a series of lenses to be designed for it by the Zeiss-Sony partnership) would be a viable alternative to a fully matured, full frame, DSLR system (indeed, some of us were foolish enough – perhaps – to “bet the ranch” on it (see, My Early Impressions of the Sony A7r).

Sony, inexplicably, decided to make this lens White :-(

One of the “announced” lenses was a so-called, “pro” spec, 70-200 f4 lens. This one is not one of the Zeiss-partnered designs.  And perhaps that is unfortunate.  I do not profess to know the intricacies of either patent issues or engineering issues, but who knows? Perhaps Sony has borrowed from what they have learned from the Zeiss partnership.  If so, this lens does not stand in the same place in line as the Zeiss designed lenses.

Sony_70_200_lens_DSC6994

Sony FE4 70-200 f4 Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Gear Aspects

Before talking about images and the utility of the lens, I will make a couple of “gear” observations. As you can see from the illustration, Sony, (inexplicably) decided that this lens would be “white” (it is really more of an off-white), with lots of black accents. I don’t know if it’s a style statement, or an attempt to emulate “those other guys” (you know who I mean) :-), or maybe so we users can look “cool” on the sidelines of sporting events (in reality, that isn’t going to happen – but more on that later).  I am old school, and set in my ways.  To me, an elegant, professional and just good-looking setup is black — not white; not silver :-).  But that’s just me.

A Major Design Flaw, in my View

As you can also see, they provide a removable (note the knurled knob on the ring) tripod bracket/foot. I have learned over the years that this is essential for correct balance of the lens on the tripod and for a lower likelihood of shake and movement.  This is a nice “pro” feature (I still have a removable Kirk foot for a Tokina ATX zoom I used to own – when I sold the lens, purchasers were willing to give me only pennies for a part I paid upward of $100 for and so I kept it – of course it has never fit any other equipment I have owned).  But Sony fell short in their design spec. First, this collar does not fit snugly!  Perhaps their design was to be able to turn the lens for horizontal orientation, even when the knob is turned down.  FAIL, Sony.  It also allows the lens to rock up and down in its mount!  I will be looking into whether I can put some kind of shim in place.  But it is disappointing that you pay this kind of money for a so-called “pro” lens and already, we are making compromises!

How difficult would it be to mill the dovetails into the foot as part of the manufacturing process?

Now, lets add design insult to design injury.  Most people I know use an Arca-Swiss type, dovetail tripod mount.   I have tried other manufacturers mounts ( used the Bogen/Manfrotto QR system for years), and they just aren’t as sure and user friendly as the Arca Swiss design.  Nor are they as elegantly simple in their engineering.  Why don’t manufacturers just make these feet to that spec? How difficult would it be to mill the dovetail grooves into the foot as part of the manufacturing process? On my Nikon, they at least made the small mounting foot on the bottom removable, and then I was able to give Kirk some of my hard earned money to replace it with their after-market Arca-Swiss foot (seriously, I am not “dissing” Kirk here. They and competitor, Really Right Stuff, have made some great accessories where the manufacturers of cameras, lenses and tripod have left gaps).

Sony FE4 70-200 F4 Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Sony FE4 70-200 F4
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The good news is there is a relatively simple, reasonably elegant, “fix”

In the case of the Sony 70-200, however, the good new is that, if you are reasonably “handy,” there is a relatively simple, reasonably elegant, “fix.” I looked at both of the above sites and of course, it was too early for them to have replacement feet. And because of the integral design of the Sony bracket, it will probably require replacement of the full part. I suspect this will be an expensive item. The two close-up images here show my “fix.” I have several Arca-Swiss compatible mounting plates lying around and found one that was a near perfect match to the bottom of the foot. I carefully drilled (I recommend using a drill press and vice for precision – or getting someone you know to do it for you) an additional hole in the foot (I know; scary to mess up that pretty white metal – but not really very noticeable. You will unfortunately have to drill a “through” hole in order to use a conventional tap.  The metal is cast aluminum alloy of some description and is very soft.  Take it steady and you will have not problem). I then tapped the hole with a ¼-20 thread pitch tap, and found a small cap screw (see second image). Stainless would be best, but I used a galvanized screw. To ensure tightness, I put a small amount of clear silicone in the tapped hole before screwing the Arca-Swiss bracket on. It will be semi-permanently mounted to the foot.  And it won’t twist.  It is not often that you can “DYI” a reasonably elegant solution, but this is one!

Sony FE4 70-200 f4 Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Sony FE4 70-200 f4
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

But what about the Lens?

Early supposition was that it would be a first class, pro quality lens. In my hands, I am still not sure I would go there. In fairness, though, I have had limited use of the lens and so far, (it reminds me a lot of the very estimable 28-200 f3.5-5.6 Nikkor zoom lens I used on my “APS” Nikon D200 almost 100% of the time. That lens, at a “consumer” price point, was a very good, all around lens. But it did not have quite the cache‘ of the “pro” 24-70 and 70-200 f2.8 series offered by Nikon).

As the complexity of engineering and manufacture increases, so does size

At first blush, I would put the Sony 70-200 f4 in that same “not quite” category. I hope that time will change my view, because the Sony is not really at a “consumer” price point in my view. As the year goes on, I will have more opportunities to use and observe the performance of the lens and the look of the images.

The first thing you notice is that this lens is a departure from the other, diminutive E-mount lenses. As far as technology has come in my lifetime—especially in regard to size—there is still one area they have not yet been able to “miniaturize” as dramatically as all the other items of photographic equipment. With optics, it is still a truism that as the complexity of engineering and manufacture increases, so does size. In relation to virtually every other lens I own for both of my Sony bodies, this lens is massive! Nearly 8 inches long without the lens hood attached, it has a front element diameter of 72mm.

For those of us contemplating replacing our DSLR systems, the combination of a 24-70 and 70-200 “pro” zoom lenses are pretty common. But our DSLR system lenses are generally f2.8 constant aperture lenses. So when Sony announced the f4, it was just one more little potential “negative” in the choices. One of the arguments for justification is that you really don’t need the extra speed  (its 2 full stops), because the Sony sensor is so good you can just bump up the ISO. But that doesn’t help with the gorgeous bokeh that my Nikons produced (or-compare the bokeh in some of the Zeiss f1.8 images). With the added focal length, this lens should produce adequate bokeh, and my samples, so far, demonstrate that. It certainly is pleasing enough, though still not going to stand up to a side-by-side comparison.

I am doing the “do as I say; not as I do” thing here

So why didn’t they make it an f2.8? The primary thing here, comes back to the design limitations. In order to make an f2.8 lens for a full-frame sensor, even with the mirrorless designs, it is going to be essentially the same size as the DSLR lenses. And that defeats a main purpose of the mirrorless designs – to be smaller, lighter and more portable. If it is not, then why not just stay with the excellent, tried and true DSLR systems out there – especially if you are already invested in them? While I am doing a “do as I say; not as I do” thing here, it is essentially the conclusion I came to in the earlier review of the A7r, linked above. I am not saying that I regret my switch. Rather, I am saying that it will take a certain set of circumstances that will justify the switch, and at this point, I believe those circumstances apply to a very small group of DSLR users. For more casual shooters, I cannot more highly recommend the Sony NEX system (Sony no longer manufactures or offers new equipment badged as “NEX.” They have dropped that in favor of simply calling all of their cameras “Alpha.” The former NEX is now Alpha E-mount. The replacement to my NEX-6 is now their a6000). These are small and easy to use and reasonably priced for the higher end enthusiast who is not a “power user.” Power users and current DSLR System owners should think this out very carefully in my view. It may be a great “second” system for travel and casual use. But as a complete replacement system, I don’t think it is “ready for prime time.”

This lens feels very solid and well built

On the bright side, it seems noticeably lighter than any other similar zoom I have ever owned (though one non-scientific review I read suggested that it is heavier than the Nikkor 28-200 referenced above). And it feels very solid and very well built. Fit and finish is excellent. The zoom and focus rings are well-damped and so far, I have not detected any “zoom creep.” The auto-focus is completely silent and in most cases where there is adequate light and contrast; swift. There is an array of nearly mind-boggling, on-lens controls, allowing the user to switch from AF to MF, and from full to limited zoom/focus range. There is also a switch to turn off Sony’s variety of image stabilization: “Optical Steady Shot” (OSS), and to change the mode (for panning vs. still use). Near the front of the lens there is an odd looking ring with push buttons placed in 4 quadrants around the ring. I had to dig into the literature packed into the box to see what it was for. I am not sure that I will ever use this feature, but pressing and holding any one of the buttons on the ring, locks the focus. Hmnn. Uses, anyone?

For those using filters (I usually don’t, with the exception of a polarizer, which is on the lens a fair amount of the time), you must use the thin style filters, or they will vignette. I noticed (too late) some vignetting on my 24-70 from some of my Ireland photos. While it is mostly “fixable” in post-processing, it will be there on the wide end of these zoom lenses. Polarizer users note: on these mirrorless cameras, it is not required that you have a circular polarizer for them to AF properly.  In most cases, lens glass is high quality, expensive stuff and my gestalt is to never put something in front of it that will degrade it unless there is a good reason to do so. So, when purchasing filters, I try to find good quality (I like the German-made, B&W brand and have been able to find some pretty reasonable prices on non-polarized versions on Amazon). One problem with these thin filters is that it is impossible to put a standard lens cap on them, and at least with the B&W brand, the supplied plastic cap is useless (it falls off – you are guaranteed to lose them in the field).  I have found a pretty good solution, I think.  I have begun using the neoprene “Hoodie” lens caps by Lenscoat.  You can purchase them from B&H or Amazon, but I have had best success just buying directly from the manufacturer website.  You can see illustrations of them and sizing information.  I believe OpTech also makes a similar cap.  My only advice is to go smaller than you think, so they will stay on.  At first the may be snug, but they will wear in to a comfortable fit.  They take up very little space and they – if anything – give added protection to the front of the lense.  They have a rigid disc that is inserted into the front so the glass gets impact protection.

Since starting in on these Sony systems, I have been making some comparison shots of yellow day lilies in my yard. So, I did the same with the 70-200. The first thing I immediately noticed was that in close-focusing shots, locking onto a point of focus is a challenge. The design of the lens, of course, is not as a close focusing lens, so this was not a shock to me. As I back away from the subject this problem quickly goes away and it seems to acquire and focus quickly. I will need to make more images to really be able to judge this, so: more later on this – hopefully as the summer winds on.

This lens, in my view, will have a certain limited utility in my personal style of photography. As I mentioned above, in spite of the “cool” white look :-(, this is not a camera and lens combination that is made for a serious sideline sports photographer. It is not that it could not be used. But the burst rate, AF, and the lens specifications just do not lend themselves to serious sports shooting. Nor is either the lens or the body really built for the rugged conditions sports shooters often find themselves in. For the same reasons, in my view it will not work as a serious wildlife shooter’s outfit.

When you look at the day lily image, a couple points come to mind. The bokeh is pleasing enough. I am not sure I am completely impressed with overall sharpness, but there are a number of issues that may have affected that, so it needs more controlled testing. There is a phenomena with the a7R (apparently not an issue with the a7) which may create vibration from “shutter slap,” that has to do with the mechanical vs. electronic shutters in the two cameras (though it is my understanding that this manifests when the lens is tripod mounted on its foot).   This shot was handheld, and it was difficult to hold, and focus on a critical point in the image, like the stamen on the flower.  As you can see, it did find a point of focus (some of the green blades), but there will be some challenge to get it right and it will need a tripod.  And, on the tripod, with my a7R, I have to deal with the shutter slap issue.  I have an a7 on the way and will probably wait until I have it in hand to do any more testing with this lens.

Another point is that–out of the camera–the lens is simply not as contrasty as the Zeiss designs are.  This is fixable in post-processing, when making adjustments to the raw image and by using NIK’s Viveza, or ColorFX add-in software.  But the natural rendition of the lens is not what I expect from a lens of this price point (again, this is a “so far” observation with very little sample).

I think this lens will make a decent landscape lens

So what good is it? The above was really basically true for my Nikon DSLR setup. I have found that a fair majority of my landscape images over the years have been shot in the 135mm plus or minus range. So, I am thinking it will make a very good tool for this and am anxious to get out and try some of that. I rarely use the wide open aperture for landscape shots, so the f4 should not be any hindrance there. What I will be looking for is image quality first, and handling (especially AF and things like depth of field and accuracy of focus). Again: more to come.

This fall I have had some limited opportunity to test this lens.  Unfortunately, there is too much going on between the a7R and the lens itself for me to give totally useful critique.

In the end, I think I will personally like this setup for its portability and versatility. It fits my current shooting and travel style. The jury, for me, is still out whether I truly need the “full frame” camera body (the APS sensor is so darn impressive and so much more portable).  I began writing this blog early in the summer of 2014.  I am completing it in late November and have recently concluded that I do not really need the 36MP sans anti-aliasing filter a7R.  I have the 24mp a7 on the way (sans the shutter slap feature :-) ).  In the meantime, Sony is announcing overseas, the a7II (with a7RII and a9 soon to follow, I would guess).  Technology marches on.

If you are newcomer to higher end, interchangeable lens cameras, using them for casual or even semi-serious travel or other general uses (including possibly, portrait, stock shooting, and other commercial uses), this may actually be a better starting point. But if you are a serious sports or wildlife shooter, or already invested in a high quality DSLR system, my current advice will be to think very seriously about making any changes. And most of you will probably conclude that we are just not quite ready for that move yet.  We can only watch and see whether new offerings will change this view.

Most DSLR users will probably conclude we are not ready for the change just yet

Something Borrowed; Something Blue . . .

Bay Bridge in morning Twilight Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Bay Bridge in morning Twilight
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

I  am not getting married (my wife will be relieved to know).  And I didn’t borrow anything. I rarely do (my grandpa was a fan of Ben Franklin’s old saying, “neither a borrower nor a lender be …..”, and it made a lifelong impression on me – it seems borrowed things rarely get returned :-) ). But the remainder of the traditional nuptial utterance probably does apply.

The opening image was made during my recent trip to California in October of 2014. The image is very blue. And it’s new. My very first visit to California was to the San Francisco Bay area in October, 2011. Finding San Francisco a photographer’s wonderland, I was especially enchanted by the Bay Bridge. And since I stayed very near it, I visited it on several twilight mornings. In fact, my favorite take-away from that trip was this twilight image of her. So it qualifies as “something old.” The opening image is “new.” Both are “blue.”

San Francisco Bay Bridge  copyright 2011  Andy Richards

San Francisco Bay Bridge copyright 2011 Andy Richards

Of course, it is The Golden Gate Bridge that is the iconic shot of San Francisco. It is magnificently impressive, uniquely colored, and grandiose in its setting. Spanning the “golden gate,” entrance from the Pacific Ocean into San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate can be photographed from all 4 cardinal points of the compass (and gradients in between), from the “reach out and touch it” shots from the Marin Headlands to the Northwest of the span, to the beaches below the bridge with grand landscape in the foreground and background. When I look at my image files, my takes of the Golden Gate Bridge outnumber my takes of the Bay Bridge at least 3 to 1.

Bay Bridge; San Francisco, CA Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Bay Bridge; San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

And still, I come back to the Bay Bridge images (and to the bridge itself) every time. On 2 of three trips I spent 2-3 mornings hanging around the bridge watching and waiting for light and images for several hours. It has a draw that is hard to explain, but easy, in my view, to illustrate in imagery. It isn’t the “knock your socks off” kind of imagery that you see of the Golden Gate. Its more subtle …… but very beautiful, and very stately.  I have photographed one view or another of the Bay Bridge during every trip I have made to the area.

Bay Bridge; San Francisco, CA Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Bay Bridge; San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

More or less at the Southern start of the well-known Embarcadero, the Bay Bridge is ever present. At the end of Harrison Street and on the East side of the Embarcadero, at the base of the span, the bridge is looming and intimidating. As you move away, it becomes an element of background in almost every view of the city from (and often toward) the East side. Intrigued by its “anchor” characteristic, I made a number of images in and around the bridge.

Bay Bridge; San Francisco, CA Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Bay Bridge; San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

The “new” image had some significance to me, because I noted with interest in 2013, that the bridge authority strung completely new lighting on the bridge structure. Having noted that, a “re-take” made it on to my bucket list.

Bay Bridge from Yerba Buena Copyright 2013  Andy Richards

Bay Bridge from Yerba Buena
Copyright 2013 Andy Richards

Another California Fall Trip

AT&T Park; San Francisco, CA Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

AT&T Park; San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

My first ever visit to California was in October of 2011, when we spent a week in the San Francisco Bay area. I fell in love with the city, and particularly, the two bridges that border it on the Northwest and the Southeast. But everywhere in between, is a photographer’s paradise. There are subjects for landscape shooters and travel and street photographers alike. There is plenty of “fodder,” both in daylight and at night.

Lombard Street; San Francisco, CA Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Lombard Street; San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

In 2013, we were again, very briefly in San Francisco, for 2 days, bookending a 3 day wine-tasting trip with some friends from the Obrien Estate Wine Club in Napa. I didn’t have much chance to shoot on that trip, but did get a grey/cloudy day shot of one of my favorite San Francisco subjects, the Bay Bridge, connecting Oakland and San Francisco.

China Town;  San Francisco Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

China Town; San Francisco
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

So I looked forward to our long weekend trip to San Francisco again this October (2014). We stayed right downtown in SOMA (South of Market Street), and I was, once again, within a 10 minute walk from the Embarcadero and the Bay Bridge, the downtown Financial District, and Chinatown. I am a relatively early riser, and with the 3 hour time differential, was once again, up and on the street before first light, each morning.

City Lights Bookstore San Francisco, CA Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

City Lights Bookstore
San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Since my first trip in 2011, I had a few images on my “bucket list.” I had come home satisfied and with some nice images, I left a couple out there. Most notably, I have wanted to photograph the iconic row houses on Alamo Square; “The Painted Ladies.” Even though this is a proverbial “post card” shot, I still wanted to shoot it. I was able to get there on a sunny afternoon, probably too early for the very best light. But with the able assistance of NIK Viveza, I was able to salvage a decent shot of this subject.

Alamo Square Row Houses Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Alamo Square Row Houses
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Another place I wanted to see and photograph was the famous Lombard Street, the so-called world’s most crooked street. In reality, it is a switchback cobblestone street down a steep hill. One morning, I made the 35 minute walk from my hotel to the base of the street. The last block was an almost vertical climb up a street. Every time I visit San Francisco, I marvel at the steep hillside streets, and wonder what it might be like if there were snow and ice there. As you can see from my image, there really is no conventional photograph from street level, here. I have been told that in order to capture this image, you need to get up into one of the upper stories of the homes lining this street. A friend did get a pretty cool image of tail light trails down this street one evening, however.

Lombard Street; San Francisco, CA Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

Lombard Street; San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

I also was able to photograph the Palace of Fine Arts, which has some really nice architectural features.

Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco, CA Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Palace of Fine Arts
San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

While walking around on the Embarcadero, I also wandered onto AT & T stadium, home of those “Tiger-tamers,” The San Francisco Giants. It’s an impressive stadium, right on San Francisco Bay.

AT&T Park; San Francisco, CA Copyright 2014  Andy Richards

AT&T Park; San Francisco, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

On our last day, we traveled up to Tomales Bay in Marin County, and out to the Point Reyes Lighthouse, where in the space of about 12 miles, we drove from clear blue skies to totally fogged-in conditions. Unfortunately, there was no clear view of the Light. We finished up the day, though with a nice sunset on cliff above the Point Bonita Light, which guards the opening of the Golden Gate.

Point Bonita Lighthouse Marin Headlands, CA Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Point Bonita Lighthouse
Marin Headlands, CA
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

My Eclectic Fall Color Shooting Season – Part III

Old Mission Peninsula Grand Traverse County, MI Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Old Mission Peninsula
Grand Traverse County, MI
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

I grew up in Traverse City, which is the county seat of Grand Traverse County. Grand Traverse County is a geographically unique.  Using the “hand” comparison to the State of Michigan, Traverse City sits near the “little finger,” at the base of a narrow peninsula, which divides Traverse Bay into West Bay and East Bay. These long, narrow, North to South bays are part of Lake Michigan. Parts of Grand Traverse County skirt four different “Lake Michigan shorelines.” There are also many inland lakes in Northern Michigan and Grand Traverse County has its share of them.

Sunrise over East Bay Old Mission Peninsula Grand Traverse County, MI Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Sunrise over East Bay
Old Mission Peninsula
Grand Traverse County, MI
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

But perhaps the most spectacular part of Grand Traverse County is the “Old Mission Peninsula.” There are 2 primary roads that go out almost to the Northern tip of the peninsula. Peninsula Drive skirts the West side of the peninsula and the Eastern Shore of West Bay. Center Road goes up the middle of the peninsula, mainly on a ridge, which provides views in many places, of either West or East Bay, and in some instances, both.  I photographed the sunrise, from nearly the same spot on Center Road, at nearly the same time, on both the West Bay and the East Bay.

Sunrise over West Bay Old Mission Peninsula Grand Traverse County, MI Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Sunrise over West Bay
Old Mission Peninsula
Grand Traverse County, MI
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

There are some pretty spectacular views from Center Road; particularly at its highest point near the northernmost part of the peninsula, where Center Road and Peninsula Drive come together. There are points here where you have a panoramic view of both of the bays.

When I was growing up, the primary activity on the peninsula was fruit farming, with a major emphasis on tart cherries. There was a time when this area lead the world in tart cherry production. Traverse City took on the title, “Cherry Capital of the World,” and that has remained a claim even today. For example the Traverse Airport calls itself Cherry Capital Airport. For many reasons, the production of tart cherries is also being done in many other areas today and while there is still a significant cherry production in Grand Traverse County, it is neither the sole, nor largest, producer. Times change and today, the fruit production has been largely replaced by a number of large wineries. I read an article in a national wine publication a year or so back that opined that this area was poised to be the next “Napa.” Time will tell.  But it is certainly an area that has both the climate and the soil conditions for growing grapes for wine.  They have done a nice job with some of the white wines. I have heard in years past that the reds – not so much. But lately, I am being told that they are coming on with the reds. I prefer reds to whites, so bring them on!

Vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula; Grand Traverse County, MI Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Vineyard on Old Mission Peninsula; Grand Traverse County, MI
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Off of Center Road, there are many turnoffs and secondary roads that bear exploring. As time goes on, perhaps I will return and find more to photograph.

Old Mission Peninsula Grand Traverse County, MI Copyright  2014  Andy Richards

Old Mission Peninsula
Grand Traverse County, MI
Copyright 2014 Andy Richards

Because of my trip to San Francisco (next week’s topic), I spent some fall foliage “prime time” in California (not known for fall foliage in the same way other parts of the U.S. might be) and my foliage shooting this year was catch as catch can, on a couple of quick weekend trips.  Nonetheless, I thought they were (no pun intended) “fruitful.”  Next year promises at least a short trip to Vermont.  This year, the leaves are off and I will look forward to perhaps some winter scenery shooting.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 416 other followers