Okay. I surrender. I'm using the built in HDR feature on both my Sony a77 and my Sony Nex 7. And it works.
I don't like a lot of the HDR stuff that I see on the web. In fact, I hate the flattened look and grainy, clarity overkill that I plainly see in so much of the work. But my friend, ATMTX, seems to have a light touch with it and he's always pushing me to stop being such a curmudgeon and try doing things like using the concepts of HDR to improve my work as well as using the rear screen of my cameras to compose with. "Use the force!" He says.
After a recent post I read about throwing away a lot of stuff I knew I knew I decided to shelve my prejudices about photography and just go out and respond willingly to the stuff I saw. No big agenda. Just like moth to flame or a child to colors. I gave up some control by putting my ISO on auto. But I gave up a lot of control when I decided to turn on the in camera HDR in my Sony Nex 7. This will seem old hat to some of you but in the Sony Nex there is a menu in which you can select HDR and then make a second selection for how many stops difference you want between each of the three shots that the camera uses to combine into one final frame.
The camera shoots the frames really fast and then micro aligns them and processes them into pleasing HDR files. For the uncertain it's nice to know that the camera also gives you a separate untouched jpeg that is the "correct" or center frame of the the three frame bracket.
All of the images in this particular blog post were done with in camera HDR and at ranges from 3 stops to 5 stops. I think they look darling and I didn't have to buy a book or go to a workshop in order to get them. Which makes me think that Sony is making a pretty damn sophisticated camera to be able to do exactly what I want it to do without any intervention from me....
All but the last image in this series were taken at the Austin Hilton Hotel, just across from the Austin Convention Center. I was out test shooting with the Sony LAEA-1 Alpha to Nex lens adapter, the 35mm 1.8 DT lens and the Sony Nex camera. I like the combination very much and I can see using the Nex 7 as a primary shooting camera for professional work. I think mirrorless has come, now, totally of age and it's ready to compete with traditional camera paradigms. The Nex cameras, the Olympus OMD and the upcoming Panasonic GH3 are/will be capable of delivering nearly everything a typical, regional working pro needs in order to supply clients with professional images. There will always be exceptions to this statement. I freely admit that micro four thirds and mirrorless Sony aren't ready to tackle high end architecture photography. Not because the sensors aren't ready but because there are no tilt/shift optics available and adapting the ones out there that are made for other formats isn't a solution because they are too long...
What I found after pixel peeping my take this afternoon is a camera that out resolves everything I've used before, handles like a dream and basically-----kicks ass. The other thing I found out is that the Sony DT series of inexpensive prime lenses kicks ass, squared. You can read tests based on flat resolution target bullshit or you can go out and shoot with the optics you are interested in and make up your own mind. I'll take the latter path every time. In my experience the Sony 35mm 1.8 DT, the 85mm 2.8 DT and the 50mm 1.8 DT are some of the finest performing optics I've shot with. But I'll be the first one to tell you that I don't shoot newspapers tacked to the wall or air force resolution charts. And neither should you.
If you want to test a lens you put it on your camera and then shoot the stuff you enjoy shooting. Look at the results and make up your own mind.
So, all of these images are hand held with the camera setting shutter speeds between 1/60th and 1/80th of a second. I am consistently amazed at how the camera is able to align all three of the frames and make such perfect images. If I'd had the camera on a tripod and the ISO set to 100 I can only imagine just how great the images could have been. But would I have liked them any better?
The Nex 7 is turning out to be the camera I really wanted from Olympus and Panasonic. But it's even more eccentric which endears it to me even more. So much performance. So many wild features. So many lens choices. Has there ever been a better time for the actual practice of photography?
Finally, I've spent the last two years denigrating the whole idea of HDR. Do I feel guilty? Was I wrong? NO. The stuff that became known as HDR in common parlance was atrocious stuff. And it was applied to all kinds of inappropriate subject matter. I'm changing my mind and finding that judicious use of a three frame blend adds another tool to my creative and professional tool box. And that's okay. It's only when carpeting steps over the line to lime green shag that we have an aesthetic problem.....
Final note: The more I use the Nex 7 the less I want to use anything else.
The very next day after receiving the Fotodiox Sony Alpha to Sony Nex lens adapter I found a Sony branded one, the LAEA-1, on the Precision Camera used shelves so I bought that one too. Today I put my LAEA-1 on my Sony Nex-7 and put a 35mm 1.8 DT lens on that. Then I went out for one of my long, Sunday afternoon walks. About an hour into the walk I came across a small group of people at 6th Street and Brazos who were painting each other's faces and I asked them if they'd mind me taking a few photographs. Of course they were more than happy to oblige.
I used the lens and adapter combination in the same way I would normally use the Nex 7, minus the autofocus. I keep describing the Sony LAEA-1 as not having autofocus capability and I keep getting corrected by sharp eyed readers who are quick to let me know that, technically, the LAEA-1 will autofocus with most of the recent and current Alpha lenses. I am here to tell you that while the reader/correctors may be technically correct no one in their right mind would describe the painful process of LAEA-1 try-to-focus as true AF. Let's just say that if you have infinite patience you could use the Sony adapter in the AF mode and eventually you might have a frame creep, with great hesitation, into focus. Of course your chances are better if you are in bright, bright light (say a daylight scene supplemented with an 18,000 watt HMI for fill) and a focusing target with more detail than a ten million piece jigsaw puzzle... But why stress over it when the Nex 7, in combination with the 35mm 1.8 DT lens, does an amazing and quick job of assisting you in manually focusing with focus peaking?
I'm probably just responding to the newness of the process but I'm really enjoying the pleasures of manually focusing my photographs. It seems to also give me back more control over my sense of composition. I'm not always starting from top dead center in order to get and hold a focus lock. The focus peaking works over the entire frame.
So have I found out anything new by using the Sony Nex7 with an adapter and an Alpha lens? Yes. I've found that the Sony Nex 7 becomes the most responsive camera you can imagine because you'll never have to wait for focus lock. The lens info even shows up in the exif info in Lightroom. Just don't think you'll be enjoying laser fast auto focusing. It's not in the cards for the economy model adapters.
I photographed Jana downtown. It was a hot, clear day. The kind that makes your eyes see into the colors and the details of everything. We didn't talk much but we did create the outline of a little story and I just followed her around and documented our "story." It seemed a fun thing to do on a Sunday afternoon.
I hope no one has decided to spend their Sundays indoors with the TV on and some sports team running back and forth on the screen, in between commercials for beer and Viagra. There's so much fun to be had outside. Camera in hand.
The Canon 85mm 1.8 seems to have "Modigliani" bokeh in the background. Look at the way the two people on the right side of the frame make hemispherical slices off into nothingness.