Friday, October 12, 2012

SURPRISE!! Something SONY this way comes...

Lets cut to the chase, I bought a new camera system, no, not just a new camera, but a whole set of camera system, and it is SONY. I found this very irresistible deal in a local buy/sell trade forum and immediately contacted the seller. Upon further inspection, the items were in VERY good conditions, looking almost like new, so I made the purchase. 

I got the following items: 
1) Sony Alpha A350 body 
2) Sony 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens 
3) Sony 50mm F1.8 lens 
4) Original Battery Grip for A350 
5) Sunpak TTL Flash (guide number 42) and 
6) two original Sony batteries. 

I got the whole system for a dirt cheap price, not even sufficient to buy even the cheapest currently available entry level DSLR body on the market, say a Nikon D3200 body. Yes, ALL that system (camera body, 2 lenses, flash, battery grip and batteries) costed me less than the cheapest entry level DSLR body, no joke. 


My new camera, Sony A350, with the 50mm F1.8 lens attached


WHY BUY NEW CAMERA SYSTEM?

As most of you know, my main camera system at the moment, also my workhorse is the Olympus DSLR E-5, and a plethora of Zuiko Digital lenses, which I adore very much, and have very little complains about. The Olympus system has never failed me before, and I shall continue to use them as my primary weapon for assignment or serious shooting. I love Olympus waaaaaaay too much to give it up just yet, and I believe Olympus system has its own strong advantages which all other competitors lack. 

Now, if I were to be taking in more and more paid assignment (I have a few wedding jobs coming and some event coverage as well), any working professional will give you a very prudent advise: you MUST have a backup camera system. Currently I do have a back-up camera, the Olympus E-520, an aging, yet still functional camera body. I have to admit, the old E-520 is showing signs of dying, and might not survive much more beating and abuse from my very heavy camera usage. After all the camera is more than 4 years old now, and have been serving me very well under all the tortures on many paid assignment and shutter therapy sessions. Now, how can you have a back-up camera that is dying? I need something that is reliable enough, should something happen to my main system (E-5) I will need a secondary system that can fully stand on its own and deliver. 

My main issue now is budget constraint, if you have not figured it out. If money is not an issue surely a D800 and some nice Nikon primes would be great to kick start that new camera system, perhaps even to replace my current Olympus system altogether. But the camera body alone can feed me for months, and being a poorly paid and overly abused, under-appreciated engineer in Malaysia, there is no way my income can allow me to spend RM10,000 just for a camera body alone. All things considered, having all the essential components of a full camera system (body, lenses, flash) for a bargain of less than the price of the cheapest beginner DSLR body you can find, I believe this is the wise solution for my back-up system (or the only solution, if you see it from another way) that I have. 


All images in this entry were taken with Sony Alpha A350 and Sony DT 50mm F1.8 lens
All images were shot in JPEG and minimal post-processing applied. 

Endless Bottles. ISO400

Cool to the Touch. ISO800

Helmet. ISO800

By the stairs. ISO800

Night Performer. ISO800

WHY SONY? WHY A350?

Of all the camera systems out there to choose from, the choice of Sony was straightforward. I needed a system rather similar to Olympus: offering built in body Image Stabilization, having Live View capability, and decent image quality. Sony immediately came to mind, and no surprise, after doing my own research and reading on online reviews (DPReview has published their full review for A350, with "recommended" rating) I have found the Sony A350 to be fitting into my needs and requirements for a back-up camera. 

Here is the thing, I do not need a camera that can give me ridiculously high ISO performance, if that was what I wanted, I would have at least considered a full frame camera (Nikon D600, Canon 6D or that awesome Sony Alpha A99). I wanted something cheap, reliable, efficient and "good enough". Sony A350, though the camera is now 4 years old (its release was in 2008), is no slouch. It may never be able to compete in terms of overall performance and image quality with even the newest entry level DSLR today, but I strongly believe that learning the camera system, knowing how to optimize the output of the camera, working around its weaknesses while exploiting its strengths, one can make the camera work wonders. I have had many friends who use Sony DSLR, NEX and SLT systems religiously and they have always sung praises, claiming how much they love their camera system. I am not expecting the Sony A350 to give me results similar to my Olympus E-5, but I sure expect A350 to at least match the E-520, or better. 


WHAT ARE MY EXPECTATIONS FROM A350?

1) Image quality to be as good as Olympus E-520, or slightly better. I am not having high expectations, but the extra 14.2 Megapixels can be advantageous in some situations, and having a larger sensor size (1.5 crop factor vs 2x) should bring in some benefits. 

2) Great color output, considering it is using CCD image sensor. Now lets see what everyone is raving about the CCD color vs CMOS color. 

3) Fast and reliable AutoFocus performance, since A350 uses the same focusing system as its higher grade brother, the A700. I expect the AF to be superior to the slow and clumsy Olympus E-520, but not the E-5. AF is VERY important to me, even for my shutter therapy sessions. 

4) Good camera handling, since it is a DSLR, with substantial hand-grip and overall good ergonomics.

5) Optical Viewfinder and Fast Live View focusing. I always loved using an optical viewfinder. Also, Sony played a very important part alongside Olympus to popularize the live view on DSLR. 


BUT THAT CAMERA IS A DINOSAUR !!

You may have a hard time believeing me spending money on an old camera system, something that most people would have hesitate to throw the idea away. However, do hear my thoughts. A DSLR is still a DSLR, and is very capable of delivering high quality images, if the photographer knows what he is doing. The camera may be old, but it still uses large sensor, producing DSLR image quality, and utilizing large, capable glasses. Yes, the new DSLR today has 24-36MP,  can shoot ISO1000000000000 and have 1000 frames per second (ok sorry for the exaggeration), but let me share a very honest opinion: spending more money on that "perfect" gear wont improve your photography. I know this truth well enough, so if I were to focus on improving the art, why not sacrifice something that cost far less? The tool is a great necessity, but it also depreciates and will eventually give way one day. 

The way I see it, minimize the current cost, and maximize the benefit in the long run. You do not need the best gear and the latest technology to be a better photographer. 

I know you may find this contradicting to my constant blog updates on latest gear reviews, but do you see me shooting for my personal photography sessions as well as paid assignment with latest gear? I use the same camera system faithfully for YEARS and never changed. I am still loyal to that same Olympus system. Just that now, perhaps it would be great to discover what Sony can offer, and work with it side by side to complement my current Olympus system. Stay faithful to your gear, refrain from upgrade or buying frenzy and you will find your faithfulness be rewarded one day. 



Joy of Being Photographed. ISO400

Back Pain. ISO3200

Compact camera is not dead. ISO800

Digital world. ISO800

Standing on the walkway. ISO1600 

Smoke. ISO800

Alien. ISO3200

Sweet Corn seller. ISO800

I actually just met up with the seller earlier this evening after work, and the seller traveled all the way down from Ipoh to KL, just to make this transaction. Thankfully he has charged the camera batteries full. After the purchase, I went to meet up with Luke Ding, Nick Wade and Joe and we attacked the Bukit Bintang streets like we have never before (or at least it was true on my part). Well, this was my first run with the camera, I was a little excited, and went clicking all the way. 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS ON A350

No, you will not find me doing a review for this Sony A350, the web is full of reviews, from both professional sites and personal opinion. I shall write about what I think of this old A350 and how it compares with my E-520. After all, Sony was the other alternative in my list of considerations of DSLR system, before I decided on Olympus. Also, I have only used this Sony A350 for ONE session, a shooting session that lasted about 2 hours only. It takes a lot of time to understand the camera behaviour, getting accustomed to the settings and know how to work the camera to your bidding. Not knowing the camera well enough, I shall refrain myself from making any rash conclusions. Instead, I shall note down my experience and observations. Please give me time to use the camera more extensively!!

Very Good Handling
Being a DSLR, I find myself right at home with the A350, in fact the feeling is very much the same as I was using the Olympus E-520. I had the Sony 50mm F1.8 on the camera at all times, hence it was a fixed focal length, much similar to my shooting style all this time. 

Metering Problems
One annoying issue I had with the camera was the inconsistent metering. I have tried both center weighted and matrix/pattern evaluative metering, and they gave me very unreliable readings as I shot with Aperture Priority mode. There are a few instances I got away with very dark, underexposed shots, due to even that not so bright car headlight, or street lap shining in the background. The metering averaging calculation in the camera was overly sensitive to the bright light in the background. I had to resolve to spot metering in a few shots, which was not very convenient, because I never changed the metering settings unnecessarily. I have tried the exposure compensation, and even when I boosted +2.0EV on the underexposed shots, it was NOT sufficient to provide me with the balanced exposure that I had in mind. I know I am still terribly new to the camera, hence more experimentation and trials should be carried out, and I am sure I can work around this issue, due time. 

Image Quality?
Now this is a very subjective thing to talk about, and can be sensitive. To be entirely honest, it was not the right place to test what the camera is truly capable of, since I was shooting on the street at night where I had to use ISO800 and above, kicking in noise reduction, smearing details and producing generally soft output, with traces of chroma noise in the photographs. ISO performance was not my priority when getting the camera, and as expected, I find the camera to be usable up to ISO800 only. It is best to avoid ISO1600 and beyond, and use only for emergencies. I am fairly pleased with the color so far, the in camera JPEG engine did a good job in maintaining good color balance even in very challenging mixed lighting conditions on the street. Skin tone was very pleasing (my preference to Olympus skin tone, but so far A350 is not bad either) and overall color looked very lively. Resolution wise, I shall comment when I shoot on another session under plenty of sunlight, utilizing much lower ISO settings. 

Some may say that it was shooting in the most challenging situation that you can truly test the capability of the camera. I do like the images I am seeing (all shown in this entry) so far, with acknowledged limitations of the camera (well, the camera is 4 years old, lets cut it some slack). For convenience, I shot everything in JPEG. We all know we can squeeze out more detail and have better noise control at high ISO when shooting RAW. Lets do that some other day. As for now, the JPEG engine works just fine. 

Autofocus performance
I find the focusing on the Sony A350 to be favorably fast and reliable in most shooting conditions, but it does struggle in dimmer light, as anticipated. Focusing is not just camera, but also lens dependent. I have only tested one lens in this shooting session, the 50mm F1.8, and it has locked focus successfully, with relatively short time without much hunting. The Sony A350 can be considered much better in focusing in comparison to my old Olympus E-520. However, my workhorse Olympus E-5 is still miles ahead in AF reliability, but lets not compare apples to oranges. I am happy with what the A350 can do with the 50mm F1.8, even in very challenging lighting for now. 

Viewing Difficulties. ISO800

Something UP there !! ISO800

Wrapped. ISO1600

BBQ corn. ISO1600

Slow Walk. ISO3200

Buried Deep. ISO800

It was drizzling. ISO3200. 

I was in the bar with Nick and he was asking why do I have to leave so early (it was 10.30pm). I said I have to work tomorrow. Then he was asking what time I started work, and I said 8am. His next comment was one of the most striking thing I have heard in a while "I don't understand, how can a single guy be working everyday, as early as 8am????" I guess there is a strong truth in what he says. Something is definitely not right with the working system of 8-5pm jobs, weekdays. It just, sucked everything out of your life, leaving you with very little freedom or energy left to do anything else. I guess, the workaholic culture in big cities like Kuala Lumpur can get depressing at times. 

Frankly, the other truth was, I needed to head home earlier for two main reasons: 1 the the last train was 11.30pm, hence I needed to be at the train station by 11.00am. Secondly, the MOST important reason actually, was that I had in my mind to rush home to that I can unload the photographs, see how the results are from my new Sony A350, then process them, and now, blog about it here. Call me a freak, but it just does not feel right if I did not push this blog out before I sleep. 

Luke Ding and Nick Wade, my shooting partners for the evening. 
Someone should be shooting me from my behind. ISO800

Luke Ding's Noodles. ISO800

Nick. ISO3200.

Weekend is coming. Can't wait to bring the Sony A350 for street hunting under morning light, where I do not need to push up the ISO. 

Any Sony users out there? Share your thoughts on your Sony system, why you love them, and what do you think of my current setup. I do not plan to invest much into Sony for now (who knows what will happen in the future hey) but I am keeping my mind open for ideas and suggestions. I would love to hear what you have to say !!

78 comments:

  1. Well done Robin! Knowing you a bit, you aren't an "Olympus fanboy", but some do speculate! Perhaps this will will persuade them...
    As you know, it's the photographer, not the camera. Using a less than optimum camera teaches us more than a camera that does the job by itself. Challenging metering obviously taught you a lot!
    Cheers, Tom

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    1. Thanks Tom for the kind words. Well, to be fair me being Olympus fanboy is true, and I have no shame in admitting that. I also think it is crucial to love the gear you are using. However, I am not close minded, and I am fairly open to any systems, acknowledging their strengths as well as uniqueness.

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  2. :OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

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    1. Robin just caused another 'ripple'... :P

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    2. Jason, AAAAAAAAAAAHHH !!! It's a Sony !!


      Chong, tiny ripple in a huge ocean is meaningless !!

      Delete
  3. I'm still using my 5 year old A200 - no live view, no video, a real dinosaur and also a CCD sensor. I agree that it's not wonderful above ISO 800 but at normal ISO's (the ones I shoot at) it still produces excellent results.

    A couple of good cheap lenses worth considering are the Sony 35 1.8 SAM lens in the easy choice range which is around USD200 new and the 55-200 zoom. There are a few different versions of this - I have the older Sony version without the autofocus motor, but the Tamron version is also still available (and sometimes comes with a rebate) at USD200.

    I've heard good things about many of the old Minolta lenses but never used them myself.

    Good luck with the new kit.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Alpha 200 is a great camera !! I have a few friends who use them and say how wonderful it is.
      Thanks for the recommendation of lenses. I am very interested in the 35mm F1.8 actually, but lets wait for a while for my cash reserve to replenish itself.

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  4. Seems like a great buy to me! I don't use Sony equipment but what I hear is very positive. And I must say, these pictures are without a doubt quite good. Maybe not that lovely biting sharpness of the Oly glass, or so I believe, but then the conditions were far from optimal. I hear the old Minolta optics are very good as well.

    And so what if it isn't optimal for shooting black cats in coalmines. I use even older stuff that I consider OK at ISO 400. Dinosaurs like me consider ISO 400 fast. I even use a old D100 sometimes, only 6mp, gasp! It performs more than good enough for normal prints, and I don't intend to print murals with that thing anyway.

    I hear the noise characteristics of CMOS sensors are better than CCD. I don't know, but all I have is CCD-based stuff and I like the results. I think you bought yourself a nice camera, at a very good price! Congratulations!

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    1. Hey Andre,
      Thanks for the kind words.
      Of course this is not the ideal condition to test the camera, having the need to use high ISO, and do bear in mind the camera is already more than 4 years old. I shall bring it to better lighting condition to shoot.

      I am very intrigued with the CCD sensor. It is now not a popular choice anymore, but once there was a strong argument on CCD bs CMOS, and CCD seems to far better in color accuracy.

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    2. I've been a200 user for 3+ years now and I'm kind of agree with most of your opinion about a350 particularly that d*mn metering system! Sony DT 35 mm f/1.8 SAM is a MUST have if you're very particular in sharpness. Because of its sharpness, I find that I can go till ISO 1600 when I paired it with a200. Seriously you may compare its sharpness with your Olympus Zuiko 50 mm f/2.0 Macro ED! The only thing is it's a little bit too "wide" if compare to your Olympus 50mm x 2 crop factor :P

      I just got myself an a57 one week ago, very HUGE jump for the image quality. There's a definite lag compare to the EVF with OVF, but the "view" is pretty large I must say. Anyway, hope you enjoy your new a350 + 50mm f/1.8 SAM combo!

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  5. I think that Sony is a very good system and I'm thinking in the future to use this system with my Olympus gear (expecially if the 4/3 system will not live more). I do not want to invest in m4/3 for professional use and Sony seems to be a very good system. I do not like Canon or Nikon system. too expensive and more and more market oriented.

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    1. Agreed, Ugo, Sony is a good system, and by the way they are playing their cards now, it does seem like they are getting very serious about the photography department. Surely a worthy alternative, if not the right choice in comparison to mainstream Nikon and Canon.

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  6. Great deal you got there! It's not that wide on a crop sensor, but the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 can be found fairly cheap, sharp wide open, and provides a 42-112mm equivalent lens which is perfect for street portraits. It's fairly light as well considering it's a constant f/2.8 lens. Maybe sell the 18-70 to help finance it. The f/2.8 will also help keep your ISO down.

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    1. Hey Wataru,
      Thanks for the suggestion. I shall look for primes first (like the 35mm F1.8) but having a constant F2.8 zoom is a lifesaver in some situations. Will keep that in consideration.

      Delete
  7. Good morning, Robin.
    What a news?! It's a sony.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Most of the photographers and writers out there can say, "You do not need the best gear and the latest technology to be a better photographer.(RW)" or "a camera is just a tool but the one behind the camera that matter" but you show us what you have said or written. I salute you for that. Others? Maybe they are lecturers in the photography lecture room whom I also respect. I need them for my theory part of photography.
    Your action really show your character and the trustworthiness of the words that you have written. Thank you for being you.
    Keep on sharing and have a great fun with your new tool.
    Happy Shooting.
    John Ragai
    (Ps. I am saving for my OM-D as I need a weathersealed system. Sometime you can get really wet travelling in the long boat.)

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    1. Thanks for the kind compliments, John.
      If you need a weathersealed system, surely OM-D is a wise choice. Wow, wet travelling in the long boat, that sounds adventurous !!

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    2. That's my village life back in Sarawak, Robin. My parents stay along Igan River and our main transport is long boat.

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    3. John,
      One of those days I would love to follow you back to your village and shoot !!

      Delete
  8. I have no interest reading about equipment that I will never, ever purchase. I'm not an Olympus fanboy, just a Sony hater.

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  9. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! This is blasphemy. Hehehe. Well u did say you got it for a good deal. Its really all about the photographer behind the camera that counts and your photo shows that its in very capable hands. Does this mean you'll be reviewing Sony cameras and lenses in the near future. Well why not a Sony right? Olympus did use a Sony sensor for their OMD EM5. Enjoy ur new camera mate. Cheers!

    EricV
    Edmonton Alberta Canada

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    1. Hey Eric !!
      Don't worry, I still love Olympus dearly !!
      I won't be reviewing any OLD cameras and lenses, but I am fairly open to anyone who is willing to lend me their new gear for review purposes. Lets admit it, there are dozens (maybe hundreds if you include user reviews) of reliable reviews for the A350 out there, why add to what is already existing and abundant?

      Delete
  10. hey great write up! i use a sony myself,the alpha77.its a great system with good entry level lenses and expensive ones too!(the G lenses and carl zeiss lenses) and you must agree that the bodies by sony makes canikon eat dust..theyre truly making way for photography tech and others seem to follow suit although not being able to acknowledge the facts that times are moving!

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    1. Yeap, agree with you Anonymous, I am seeing the potential and future in Sony as well.

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    2. Please leave a name the next time you comment so I can remember you and trace back your history here.

      Delete
  11. Hi Robin,

    Am always a fan of your street shots ...looking at the photos you've just shot ...it seems this time around the camera seem to have struggle to focus properly in ISO800. Blur these days can considered an art and intentional mistake.

    however it seems the photos taken with this sony seems to be less sharp than your oly camera...

    just my 2 cents...correct me if im wrong.

    Im a pentax shooter myself ..im a fan of body stabilized system.

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    1. Hey Joshua,
      The blur was not really caused by out of focus, the lens was focusing fine. However two other reasons: 1) softness of the 50mm F1.8 lens shooting wide open and 2) Motion blur (everything was moving, ISO800 was not enough to freeze motion).
      Nonetheless, you were right, the photos arent as sharp as my Olympus, but we all know how great Olympus lenses are, so lets not go there.

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  12. Congrats on your purchase Robin, and terima kasih for showing us the very nice results. Looks like a nice street shooting combo, and wow, my E-520 can't even do ISO 3200 as you'll know ;-)

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    1. Thanks Wolfgang. Well, to be fair that ISO3200 is quite bad really !!

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  13. You put me to shame on so many levels!

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    1. What shame??? What levels? Me no understand.

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    2. Cheaper system, less time, home at a reasonable hour, write up to blog, up early for work - and - excellent photos! I just have a hangover and some blurry photos ;-)

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    3. cheaper system coz im poor, home at reasonable hour and up early for work coz I am a slave for my engineering job, Write blog, and taking photos (excellent is questionable, one reader commented images were so so, not that sharp) are the things that KEEP ME SANE !!!
      Between your life and mine, I choose hangover !!

      Delete
    4. Ha! You are welcome to it ;-)

      Delete
  14. Hi Robin,

    As always, great pictures! Isn't OM-D a better as a main camera? Better low light performance, weather sealed, better stabilization, etc. I would use OM-D as my main camera, and E-5 as a backup, but I am sure you must have a good reason for not doing it. Can you give us an insight on this?

    Thanks for sharing your shutter therapy sessions with us.


    I.Gurel

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    1. Hello I.gurel,

      thanks for the kind words. omd would be greatx but that also means I have to start a completely New system, with new set of lenses, which won't be cheap.
      I think there is some confusion here, I ne er have an omd. for my reviews I used a loaned unit from Olympus Malaysia.

      Delete
  15. Hi robin,I was only saying the other day that the photo trade show could be very tempting to buy new gear! But you have been sensible and gone for a good secondhand combination,:) I have a question for you if it's ok? If you owned a em5 and wanted a macro lens,which lens would you buy with your own money between the 50mm f2 or 60mm f2.8(assuming you already had the mmf-3 adapter)You say in your review that you mostly shot macro at 1:2 so maybe the 1:1 is not as crucial as one might think.Thanking you in advance,Tony

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    1. Hey Tony,
      If you are using an OM-D or any micro 4/3 camera bodies, it is best to get the 60mm F2.8, since it is optimized for use with micro 4/3 system. The reason why I am clinging to the 50mm F2, because my main camera system is the DSLR E-5. The 60mm F2.8 has fixed almost all the flaws of the 50mm F2, yet its selling at the same price. You are getting faster AF, technically improved images (no CA, good distortion control, etc) and ability to shoot 1:1 macro. I'd say the 60mm is a clear winner.

      Delete
    2. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.Tony

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    3. ...I just got the 60mm macro Tony and am really starting to like it though I will try to put it to a real test over the weekend when I have more time. Previously I have shot a lot with the 50mm f/2.0 and it was definitely my favourite. Nearly all my macro underwater is shot with the old 50mm f/2.0. I have a ring flash here as well but don't have the adapter for the small diameter of the 60mm lens.

      Delete
    4. Shaun,
      Can't wait for the photos ! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Delete
  16. Happy to know you are trying a new system now. Must be interesting.

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    1. Bila you nak beli A99? Jack must be asking you to buy buy buy !

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    2. Tight budget, can't afford to buy digital full frame :P Got myself into film-o and a digital scanner. Cheap way to self satisfy.

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    3. Jack will beat you up later. It is digital world now.

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    4. He is shaking his head when he saw that too. :P My left hand Digital right hand Analogue enjoying the beauty of both. The best part is my eyes starts to read Dynamic Range by itself. LOL

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    5. If you just want to have fun and play around, film is fine. And if you have enough money to spare, not afraid of long running cost, then its ok.
      However, if you seriously want to improve in photography, embracing digital is the way to go. Film will limit your growth and restrict you with many things that you cannot do.
      Of course, there are many people who own multiple film cameras just for the fun of owning them, not really putting much care on their image output.

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    6. Haha I am using both. I will still share my photos out there. Feel free to comment if I am lost. Good to have someone to remind me. :P Checking your new post now...

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    7. I think you already know what Jack and me are telling you. It is very obvious. Don't take it the wrong way. Surely there is no right and wrong. I prefer to work with something more powerful and capable. Not a medium that restricts my growth in photography. I want a camera system that won't fail me when I need it to perform. Surely from the two mediums you are handling, in your mind you know which is more capable.

      Delete
  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  18. A good choice Robin - I do like the Sony cameras and many of my Malaysian students do shoot with a Sony (as you know from our last outing). The only thing that annoyed me with the sony cameras was their proprietary memory card. At least with the new A99 you can use dual SD cards now. My very first digital camera was a sony.

    I am now using my E5 as a backup system for pro work but must say I still have a lot more to learn about the OMD E-M5 and still find myself grabbing the E5 because I just know how the photo will turn out with a particular lens. I also think the one lens missing from the m43 line up these days is a lens equivalent to the four thirds 50-200mm. It is a great lens!

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    1. I know right, that 50-200mm lens, irreplaceable so far. Micro 4/3 does not have anything equvalent just yet.

      The Sony A350 was the first Sony camera to shy away from their own memory stick, in fact it does not have a slot for it !! It only takes in CF cards, which is find, because I have enough CF card supply from my old Olympus E-520, which I can also use for the E-5.

      Delete
  19. A couple notes.

    1. The A350 does NOT share the A700's AF system, it has the same number of points and layout but distinctly lower performance as it lacks the double-cross centre point and the extra processing of the A700.

    2. The 18-70 is not a terribly good performer. Expect to be underwhelmed at best. Most copies are lousy, some are merely mediocre. The cheapish 18-55 SAM is much better, as are the higher-end zooms. The 16-50 and ZA 16-80 are outstanding and arguably best in class (and I say this as someone who previously considered the ZD 14-54 II to be best in class)

    3. The 50/1.8 is quite a solid little lens. It does well on the 24MP NEX-7 so I'd expect good things from the less demanding A350.

    4. You get good AF in Live View, however remember that the Live View System uses a second sensor, all it's good for is framing with fast AF on the LCD. You cannot accurately confirm focus with the A350's LV system because of the use of the second sensor.

    5. Sony didn't solve the metering issues until the SLT's, all their DSLR's inherited inconsistent metering from the Minolta bodies where the metering system originated.

    Frankly, as a longtime Sony shooter I don't consider the Sony bodies worth bothering with until the SLT's with the exception of the A900/A850 and the A700.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts mawz.

      I read online that the A350 shares the same motor drive, enabling very fast AF, similar to the one available on A700, being 1.7x faster than A200 or A300, which is what I needed.

      18-70mm is a terrible performer. I have seen how horrible it is. Trust me, amongst ALL available kit lenses out there, this is simply the worst kit lens to be bundled with any DSLR, ever.

      I hope the 50mm F1.8 is doing well. Will be testing more of this lens soon, in better light. So far the image is uncomfortably soft.

      The live view AF is doing just fine. I am not wishing for miracles, but being able to use the live view for framing is definitely advantageous in many shooting conditions. for example, for low angle shots, I do not have to lie on the ground !!

      I noticed how bad the metering was !! Nonetheless, I am still trying to figure out the behaviour of the metering. Once I know how it works, its easy to play around with it.

      I do think Sony has very solid offering, you have to understand that the A350 is for beginner or entry level users.

      Now asking an entry level photographer to pick up A700 or A900, thats overkill, I would say !!

      Delete
    2. If you consider better detail and sharpness, nothing comes close to Alpha System
      A real amazing deal with the budget those we have !

      Delete
    3. The A350 shares the A100's AF drive, it's less powerful than the A700, but more powerful than the A200/A300.

      As to camera's for entry-level photographers, I don't think the Sony DSLR's are great choices due to a mix of poor design features, a choice of large size (the A200/300/350) or poor ergonomics (especially the A290/A390) and a somewhat confusing LV function. Their SLT's, particularly the A33/35/37 and A55, are excellent though, far less compromises and less obtuse crippling and Invalid Action Buttons than the consumer DSLR's they replaced. There's quite a good reason why Sony's sales took off when the first SLT's replaced the consumer DSLR's in 2010 and it comes down to producing a far better product in the SLT's than the consumer SLR's were (and also a much less confusing lineup, Sony's current A mount lineup covers all the bases with less bodies than they had in the sub-$1000 range at one point)

      The A350 also shares the record for the single dumbest button ever put on a DSLR (yes, worse than Canon's Direct print button), with the A300 in the Digital Teleconverter button. It just gives Invalid Operation unless you are using JPEG and in Live View. Later cameras at least give a meaningful error with this button (and with the SLT's it's actually semi-useful).

      I am overall very fond of A mount and am a long-time shooter of the mount (albeit I'm mostly shooting NEX these days, my only current A mount bodies are a pair of Minolta Maxxum 7's for film use) but I don't feel the consumer DSLR's are good choices for most beginner or entry-level shooters. They do better with more experienced shooters who understand what the tradeoffs are however.

      Delete
    4. Thanks for the further comments, mawz.

      I choose to disagree with you on Sony as the poor choice for beginners. I think it is a fantastic choice, offering great balance between rich features and user friendliness. The menu system is so easy to understand, and the settings are easy to reach and control. Unlike Canon and Nikon system for beginners, I even had trouble finding the ISO setting !! Yet there it was on A350, a direct shortcut button for ISO. How convenient. The confusing LV function? Have you tried the similar class camera offering from Canon and Nikon in 2008? (take Canon 450D or Nikon D90 for example), those live view are almost UNUSABLE. Sony and Olympus are the first ones to popularize and really make the live view such a joy and ease to use.

      While I know A350 has many things done wrong, they also have many things right. I have my fair share of complains with the camera, in this blog entry, and the new one I have published just immediately after this entry. All cameras have problems and flaws, but I think the A350 is easy to live with.

      Delete
    5. Rendra,
      In terms of sharpness and resolution? I pick Olympus. Clear winner here. Dig around my images from the past few years, you will understand.

      Delete
  20. Hi Robin,
    Its a pleasant and intriguing surprise that you have bought a sony for a backup system. Well, I'm looking forward to see how you will use this Sony system in your future shutter therapy! I usually come back to your blog because your pics give us a glimpse of life in Malaysia. Also, enjoy the fact that you are still single... I have 3 kids here and I can tell.. you I'm so busy with them.. but this offers me opportunity to take pics as well.
    I find the colours of the Sony punchier than the Olympus system... but I like the Oly colours better ... just a matter of taste. Can't wait how the Sony will fair during the day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Johan,
      I agree, Sony colors are very strong and contrasty, but yes, like yourself, I much prefer what Olympus is doing with the color.

      Delete
  21. Dear Virtual Friend,

    Your choice is rather interesting! I had an A700 before my current E-5 & E-P3, and let me tell you that my Sony era was a great love story in its own right. Your A350 may not be as sturdy, as easy in low light, as snappy in its operations, in a word as perfect overall as that aforementioned APSC legend, BUT please take a few seconds to go read this pep talk that once upon a time made me utterly jealous of those lucky albeit often unaware A350 owners: www.photoclubalpha.com/2008/06/12/sony-alpha-350-a-creative-review/

    And last but not least, be sure to visit the online bible of all Alpha lenses aka Dyxum at http://www.dyxum.com/lenses/index.asp

    Have fun in your new endeavours, and post some more gorgeous pictures PLEASE!!!

    Daniel
    PS Many cheap Minolta AF lenses are super awesome (35-105 F3.5-4.5 Mk I, 50mm f/1.7, Beercan 70-210mm, 100mm Macro f/2.8, etc.); and if you can find an old Tokina - AT-X 270 PRO AF 28-70 F2.6-2.8 Mk I w/ Angenieux-style hood, JUMP ON IT!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marathonianbull,
      Thanks for the recommendations, I shall be checking out the websites soon.

      Delete
  22. Robin, my FB update today was for you. Any camera can do anything, the limits are with you, not it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Aizuddin !! And I see you have been feeding yourself with Leica poison lately !!

      Delete
  23. You're right there is potential for Sony in the future! They make some of the best sensors in the business, they have an enviable relationship with Zeiss and they're a company that is not afraid to innovate. If I were starting over I might have followed your path . . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey dillan,
      Very true, Sony indeed has been very daring and making some very innovative decisions, and always the first to make the push and take the lead in the market. Hope to see great things coming from them.

      Delete
  24. Robin, congrats on the new purchase. I've never used the Sony system but have heard fantastic things. Considering that cost was such an important factor for you, I do wonder how this will impact your wallet now that you'll need to buy a lot of new glass?

    I shoot weddings and events with a Canon system. If my main body goes down I can still use all my lenses because my backup is also a Canon. I really like the Olympus system but I've never pulled the trigger on buying one of their DSLRs as a backup because not only would I have to buy a bunch of lenses for it, I'd have to carry them all too. Too much cost, too much gear to carry for me.

    I am not being critical, I just wondered what your thoughts were on that issue and how you plan to handle that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Joel,
      Using the kit lens 18-70mm and the 50mm F1.8 are sufficient for now, coupled with flash. That all came with a system. Important thing is being able to have usable ISO400-800 shots, and reliable AF. Still learning the camera characteristics.
      I do not plan to invest on Sony much, unless I find dirt cheap used lenses or interesting deals. My main system now is still OLympus, and if I spend, it will be for that main system.

      Delete
  25. Ok Robin, I'm stunned. I guess since Sony are about to be the major shareholder in Olympus you don't feel so guilty? ;-) I just sold my E-1 and soon to sell my E-5 and lenses, I bought an E-M5 body, and the 4/3rd lenses with an adapter are only any use if the subject is static or very slow moving(!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Get some nice M.Zuiko lenses !! OMD is the future, of course it is great moving on. However I do not have the budget to upgrade just yet, hence I am staying with what I have, and with that spare cash I had I bought a 4 years old system which I believe is capable to deliver results.

      Delete
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