New camera

The picture below is one of the first I took with my new camera, a Sony Alpha 65. The Sony is somewhat different than a traditional SLR. It has a fixed mirror that transmits most of the light to the main sensor. Part of the light is reflected to a second sensor that drives an electronic viewfinder and serves as autofocus sensor. This design allows the Sony cameras to provide continuous autofocus during still and motion picture shooting. In movie mode, the zoom lens may be used and manual focus may be used. Motion picture shooting, though good, is not a match for a camera designed for that purpose.

Fletcher Sunset
December Fletcher Dr Sunset

After many years of point and shoot digital photography, it is time for a proper camera with a proper viewfinder and no shutter lag. I’ve been putting off this purchase for some years because the technology was in flux and digital sensors weren’t the equal of the prior art from Kodak and Fuji. In the last 5 years, this has changed so, this winter, I finally made a choice and bought my first DSLR camera.

Buying point and shoot cameras is easy. They are self-contained. There is little that carries over from one to the next. DSLR cameras have interchangeable lenses so the choice of a camera is a commitment to a lens family. Most hobbyist cameras are sold with a nice general purpose lens, usually a wide angle to portrait focal length zoom lens. This lens is a great learning lens but usually makes performance compromises to keep the kit price reasonable. Most hobbyists later buy one or more fixed focal length prime lenses or zoom lenses with different characteristics than those of the kit lens

Jessica and Katelyn candid
Jessica and Katelyn

I’m just beginning to explore the camera. It does very well taking holiday gathering photos. The camera has little shutter lag, particularly if the red eye blinky flash feature is off. The kit lens has a nice focal length range for general photography including candid portraits at full length. The aperture range is f3.5 to f5.6 or so which is the primary compromise that keeps its price reasonable. It is a very flexible lens that is equally at home in the lounge taking kid and pet pictures and at the beach taking landscapes.

Christmas Day 73d St Beach
73rd Street Beach Christmas Day

The Sony Alpha 65 is designed primarily for hobby use but is up to light professional service. The camera uses a unique lens mount, the Sony A-mount. Sony partners with Carl Zeiss gmbh for lens design and manufacture. Carl Zeiss also makes A-mount lenses for the camera. Professionals regard Zeiss and Leica lenses as the finest there are. A-mount to Leica mount adapters are available. Access to these two lens families was one reason for my choice. Sigma and Tamron, two third party lens makers also have nice A-mount product.

The body features were the second. The electronic viewfinder works well with eye glasses. It is bright and visible outdoors and indoors. It shows a wealth of information inset in the display and what is shown can be tailored. The display features include an artificial horizon that aids in leveling the camera in roll and pitch. I use the artificial horizon quite a bit.

The camera has a rear LCD display whose use is optional. It is used to set up the camera for a session and to review images and footage. These tasks can also be done with the finder but are most conveniently done in the rear display. This display is articulated and can be rotated to permit use as a ground glass viewfinder. This is a useful trick when the point of view needs to be different than eye-level. But like all of its ilk, it will wash out under bright conditions. The camera automatically switches between the finder and the rear panel. Placing the camera to eye enables the internal finder. Moving it away enables the rear display.

One thing I was unaware before starting my research is shutter life. Most shutters are designed for 100,000 to 150,000 operations. That’s 20 years of shooting for a hobbyists but maybe a year and a half for a busy pro shooting advertising. The Alpha 65 is designed for 100,000 frame service life and is not drip proof — it’s not sealed to be out in the rain, something a photojournalist would want. These things make it more a hobby camera than a pro camera. But the image quality is first rate and the sensor and processor are shared with Sony’s pro products.