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Old Jun 21, 2007, 9:14 PM   #1
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Last year, I convinced my boss to let me borrow his Nikon D200 to take some shot of our litter of golden retrievers. The pictures came out awesome, less some focusing problems since I was told to leave the settings alone. This little photoshoot motivated me to get back into photography and get a DSLR (I shot film SLRback in High School).

So I got my A100 a month or two ago, e-bay special... but it does have the extended warranty from Best buy.

I took it on a business trip to San Diego and took a few shots to get a feel for it. Wasn't too pleased with the results. I got unlucky and got a bit of dust on the CCD and ruined most of my shots. It also seemed to have some problems with exposure, but I chocked that up to my inexperience with all the controls on a DSLR.

I shot with it a few other times, and still wasn't impressed with the results. So I decided to go out tonight and practice up since I'm going on vacation to Rome, Venice, and Paris in 9 days. I went outside and setup a tripod and pointed towards the sundown. I took a pen and paper and wrote down the settings I was using with the plan of adjusting the settings till I was pleased with the exposure.

When I started, the sun was just poking through a tree. The green in the landscape was pleasant and the sky wasn't overpowering. I set everything to Auto; AWB, Auto ISO, Wide Area AF, Multi Segment Metering, Standard color.

To make a long story short I took about 100 shots of the samesubject adjusting every parameter on the camera in a systematic fasion, White Balance, ISO, shutter speed, e.v. metering.... What improved the shot stayed and then I adjusted something else. None of the shots looked good, in fact none of them looked good at all. The sky was very overexposed in AUTO, the trees lookednearly black. The only thing that got the sky within acceptable limits was setting the ISO at Lo 80, which turned the trees pitch black. And looking at the subject with the naked eye, it wasn't a difficult shot. The sun was set by the time I had 10 shots taken and the lighting was very soft. It looked beautiful to the eye. My little point and shoot would have done a wonderful job in full auto mode. And I know that I'm not that bad with a camera. Even though high school was a while ago, I got A's in the class. And I don't understand how I couldn't get 1 in 100 pictures to look good! I graduated college for goodness sake. I am seriously thinking that there is a problem with my Sony Alpha.

Has anyone else had this kind of trouble with the Sony Alpha? I'm going to Best Buy tomorrow and crossing my fingers that they will work with me to figure this out before I leave. It's the trip of a lifetime and I have a new 18-200 lens on the way.

Thanks for any help.
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Old Jun 22, 2007, 6:59 PM   #2
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So I may have found the problem, I'll find out this evening. It was set to meter the exposure with ambient light and the flash. In hopes of correcting the problems I'm having, I set it to ambient light only. But I would have thought that it would only compensate for the flash when the flash was put up. But I don't know. Anybody have an answer on that? If not, it's one more thing that I'll have to remember to adjust if I need the flash.
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Old Jun 22, 2007, 8:15 PM   #3
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This was this afternoon, with exposure compensation set to ambient only:

F 5, 1/320 sec, ISO 100, exposure correction +0 eV, Multi Metering, Steady Shot On, D-Range off.

The sun/shade lighting was harsh. But my alpha definetly exagerated it. I had one of my coworkers take the same shot with a Canon G7 'point and shoot' and the picture came out so much better. The colors were brighter in the shade and the appeared less harsh. I'll see if I can post it next week.
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Old Jun 22, 2007, 9:40 PM   #4
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Big B,

Are you aware of the limited dynamic range that can be handled by the sensor in your camera? If you have not already come across it, Gary Friedman provides a detailed discussion of this issue in his book on the Sony Alpha.

http://friedmanarchives.com/

Have you tried spot metering mode, metering on the primary area of interest in your picture?


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Old Jun 23, 2007, 10:03 AM   #5
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Frank. I was not aware that the Alpha had a limited dynamic range. I read lots of reviews and no one mentioned anything like that. But thank you for pointing that out, I was getting tired of banging my head wondeing if something was wrong with my camera. It's also something I wish I would have known before investing so much money into the camera, a new lens, and filters. And to be honest,It doesn't make sense whythey would put a crummy CCD in it, unless they were cutting corners to get up to 10 MP.

To be honest,after findingthis outI would have to say that thedynamic range sucks on this thing sucks. I would have to compare it to a camera phone. If the lighting is even and plentiful the pictures come out great. But once the sun starts to go down all bets are off. And I have tried spot metering on the subject. I can get the subject exposed properly, but then sky is blown way out. And to get the sky properly exposed the subject is nearly black.

I guess my point and shoot comes out in the evening, and the Alpha is restricted to day time use. Either that or I do a lot of composites in Photoshop.

And another thing that I have noticed... The file size on the JPEG's when shooting RAW & JPEG continuously goes down. Weird.
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Old Jun 23, 2007, 10:06 AM   #6
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Here is the same shot, metering wide area.... rediculous.
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Old Jun 23, 2007, 1:01 PM   #7
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Big B,

I went through the same thing. I used a Maxxum 7000 for twenty years before buying the Alpha. I could easily get decent results with the Maxxum. When I switched to the Alpha I virtually had to start from the beginning again. However, if you keep at it and try to learn from your mistakes you should see some improvement.

The dynamic range issue is not specific to Sony but applies to digital cameras in general. In Gary Feiedman's book he discusses dynamic range in detail. He states that the dynamic range of a digital sensor is 128:1 compared to 4096:1 for colour negative film. This may explain why you are expecting more in tonal range. BTW I would highly recommend his book - it was $20 when I bought it.

The Sony will work in all lighting environments but you do have to pay attention to the range of light levels. If there is a broad range between bright and dark areas in your picture you have to decide where you want the detail. Most people expose for the highlights and hope the darker areas still have detail. For the Sony you can help in this regard by turning on Dynamic Range Optimization (affects JPGs only).

Most importantly, go and practice before your trip!

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Old Jun 23, 2007, 1:18 PM   #8
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Big B wrote:
Quote:
Here is the same shot, metering wide area.... rediculous.
Actually, the EXIF shows that one as being Spot metering, and if you metered on the sky, the rest would probably be very dark. You probably had the focus set to Wide Area (that's not the same thing as metering).

With the default matrix setting, the metering will heavily weight your focus point, and this camera does appear to lean more towards protecting the highlights. I've got a feeling your focus point was likely the person's white shirt in the earlier photos (which would explain the darker exposure).

Anytime you have a wide range of bright to dark, you'll have a Dynamic Range issue to contend with (and that also goes for film).

Your Sony has a Dynamic Range Optmization feature built in that can help. I'd try it and use the advance setting with DRO. It does have some limitations, as it cannot be used with metering other than matrix (multi-segment), can't be used with manual exposure, can't be used shooting raw or raw+jpeg), and you'd need to set ISO to 100, 200, or 400.

Use your Histogram (it will show blinking highlights and blocked shadows) to help determine the exposure needed within a given metering mode/point. Just use Exposure Compensation and set the camera to a +EV setting for a brighter exposure, or a -EV setting for darker exposure after reviewing a shot to see what's underexposed or overexposed.

Shooting RAW can also increase your Dynamic Range if the Dyanamic Range Optimization setting doesn't get you where you want to be for those types of shots.

You can also use blending techniques. See this article for details:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tu...blending.shtml


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Old Jun 26, 2007, 11:20 AM   #9
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Is there any chance you can post the G7's results in comparison to the alpha?

When I bought this camera, I, too started to be picky about exposure problems you are experiencing. This was annoying: skies are blown out, subject exposed...OR subject under-exposed and sky is beautiful. If I spent $1000 why does it do this?!

I learnt a couple of things:
1) Use flash if subject is close but background is bright
2) Use blending techniques if you use a tripod for your shot (i.e. combine low/hi range exposed shots)
3) Frame your shot to leave out high-lights from background
4) Favor underexposed shots: I managed to save shots by correcting for underexposure in photoshop.
5) LEARN BY EXPERIENCE EV, spot meter, multi-area metering, Lo80, High200, RAW.
6) Look at ND (neutral density) filters and polarizers
Quite simply (or as complicated as it is), some situations have too much dynamic range and you need to see it right away on your shot and correct. Digital is instant. Take advantage of it.

I am still learning. My latest issue is back-lighting.

Situation: Camera on AUTO/Flash is up. Subject dark, background
bright. Camera did not fire flash and metered for background. (Shot was saved in Post-processing)

I set EV +7 and spot metering. Same problem but picture is slightly better!

I set manual 1/60. Flash fires. Image properly exposed...but out of focus (hahahaha).
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Old Jun 26, 2007, 4:31 PM   #10
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I bought my sony a100 after researching all the sub $1000. dslrs for over a year. I took me that long because I was really just a point and shoot photographer. During my research I clicked on links provided by experienced photographers to web sites that basically educated me on how to shoot photographs. During my research I read all the reviews, followed the forums, and pretty much had all the complaints memorized for all the major brands of entry dlsr's. I finally bought the Sony because it's pictures looked the best on the reviews.

One of the things that I liked about the a100 was it's great dynamic range: 8.4 even at 400 iso. (Check the review at dpreview). It starts to drop off at 800 iso, but basically it shot like the old rebel 350. So please understand that your problem with high contrast scenes are typical of all dslr's including slr film. Don't blame the camera. I have shot over 600 pictures since I bought my a100 two months ago, putting it through the most demanding light situations and I have been amazed from day one at how great this camera exposes the different light (and low light) situations. Your going to have to learn metering, exposure, focus, etc. Your going to have to learn about the dynamic range optimizer and about post processing. For example you could open that shot of the people in shadow with the bright background in the sony Picture Motion Browser and simply lower the contrast in the brightness correction tool. With just that one tool you would instantly see detail and ambient light in the shadow without loosing your highlights.

But it's better just to learn how to expose your pictures. One place to start is to read the instruction manual for the camera. All the tools in the manual are explained in a manner that helps one learn about what issues effect exposure. Then continue reading other instructional sources. You would have to do the same thing with any dslr or film slr. Point and shoot cameras cannot approach the quality of exposure that the dslr will give you.

Good luck,
ChaCha
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