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Old Jun 22, 2008, 6:14 PM   #1
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This is my second day with the A300 and the list of negatives keeps growing. I found some firmware flaws (that's how I categorize it)that to meare very annoying. If you make any function change (Metering mode, DRO, etc..) to any of the preset modes, the camera will not save it. So, if you customize Landscape to DRO off for instance and then you either switch to a different mode or turn the camera off, when you go back to Landscape DRO is turned back on. Why? If I'm allowed to make changes to the preset modes, then the camera should retain the changes I made. If Sony thinks they know better, then they should disable Function settings for preset modes, period. I like to use Center Weight rather than Matrix so if Iset the camera toLandscape mode, I will have to remember to change the Metering mode from Multi-point to CW every time I use Landscape. How retarded is that??? Also, the Menu item Creative Style is only available in P,S,A,M modes. This feature is disable on all preset modes. So, if I want to use Macro mode, I'm stuck with the Standard setting and Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness all set to 0. I can not increase sharpness (as I wish) or reduce Saturation. This is very very limiting, IMO. I wonderwhether the A700 has the same limitations or the A300 is a strip-down model. In any case, these flaws can be fixed via firmware updates. The question is, will Sonyenable these functionalities?

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Old Jun 22, 2008, 6:46 PM   #2
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Cameras changing to default settings when using preset modes other than PASMis a relatively common practice with digital camera manufacturers (probably to help prevent new users from making mistakes and leaving something set wrong).

As for the Scene Modes, I've never used a Scene mode on a Konica Minolta or Sony dSLR model. My 5D has them. But, I've never tried any of them, and would have preferred the 7D mode choices design instead (mode dial positions for memorized settings versus scene mode). My A700 also has scene modes. But, I've never tried any of them.

The KM 7D didn't even have Scene modes, so some users are upset at Sony for adding them to the new Sony A700 (because that takes space away from the mode dial that could have been used for recalling multiple sets of stored settings in memory the way the 7D worked, versus needing to go to a memory recall position on the mode dial and selecting one of the stored sets).

Keep in mind that the scene modes are designed to change things like Saturation, Contrast and Sharpness to better match the scene type selected. So, these choices take the place of your settings. For example, the Landscape mode is increasing sharpness, contrast and saturation from what my A700 manual tells me. So, don't use the scene modes if you want different choices for that type of thing. ;-)

I don't even know what the Macro mode is doing. But, unlike a point and shoot camera, where you may need to switch to Macro mode for closer focusing, that kind of thing is controlled by the lens on a dSLR. Chances are, it's probably just doing something like preferring a smaller aperture (higher f/stop number) for more DOF when you use it. But, it wouldn't surprise me if it were doing something like boosting saturation or contrast, too (since many usesr would probably try it for shots of flowers). Some camera models also tend to shift certain colors with a given scene mode (for example, more vivid blues and greens for landscapes), which sometimes can make colors look very artificial.

It never ceases to amaze me how many scene mode choices are available on some cameras. From my perspective, it would be much easier to set the camera the way you want yourself, versus trying to figure out what all of the scene modes are trying to do. So, I don't use scene modes (and would have preferred it if that mode dial space was used for something else). But, I can understand that some users may want that kind of thing.

I tend to use Aperture Priority the vast majority of the time for better control over things like Depth of Field and shutter speeds, using a wider aperture (smaller f/stop number) if I need faster shutter speeds and/or a shallower depth of field; or a smaller aperture (higher f/stop number) if I need more depth of field. Or, in difficult lighting, I may use manual exposure instead. As for metering, the A700 has a dedicated external control for it.

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Old Jun 22, 2008, 10:50 PM   #3
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I understand your point (and agree with it), Jim. I guess my complaint is more due to the inconsistency rather than the actual matter. If the preset modes exist for the novice, then you should not be able to make any changes to settings that can, to agreat extent, modify the camera's ability to producegood canned shots (as suggested by Sony engineers). The fact that they allow you to make changes to those preset settingsindicatesSony's acknowledgement that the photographer may not agree 100% with the default settings, thus giving him/her the ability to change them. Therefore, they should make it such that those changes were saved (even a yes/no question would do the trick).

I also found the A300 metering system to be very inconsistent, particularly in Matrix mode (or Multi-point as Sony calls it). I've set the exposure to +0.7 for most shots since the camera tends to under expose quite a bit. However, if there are bright spots, guess what? TheA300 under exposes the image even more. You'd think that at +0.7, the bright spots would just get blown up but on the contrary. In order to preserve highlights, the A300 under exposes further. That can be a good or bad thing. The good thing is, the DR is extended. The bad thing is, it takes a few shots before you get the exposure right. Unfortunately (here is another complaint), the A300 does not offer a "preview" mode where you can take the shot w/o actually recording the image, allowing you to preview the exposure and DoF w/o wasting space in the memory card. I loved this feature on the E510 and used it all the time.

Another complaint? The A300 does not offer the highlight blinking feature when the picture is taken. That's a great feature to have since it shows right there and then whether the image has blown highlights or not and depending on what you see, you can make a quick judgment to whether you should change the setting and take another shot or not.

As it has become obvious, the A300 has a lot less features to offer than the E510, it comes with a much worse kit lensand it's more expensive. Hummm, what's wrong with this picture???
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Old Jun 23, 2008, 7:10 AM   #4
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It should show you both blinking shadows and highlights when you go to the playback screen that includes the histogram (my 5D and A700 do). As for metering, you'll probably find that it's weighting your focus point more using matrix (so, if you're focusing on a brighter area, it may make the image darker to compensate). That's been the trend lately with most dSLR models (focus point weighted more using matrix/mult-segment type metering options). My A700 seems to do less of that compared to my 5D (much improved metering). Are you sure you're not using spot by accident?



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Old Jun 23, 2008, 9:15 AM   #5
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Tullio wrote:
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I understand your point (and agree with it), Jim. I guess my complaint is more due to the inconsistency rather than the actual matter. If the preset modes exist for the novice, then you should not be able to make any changes to settings that can, to agreat extent, modify the camera's ability to producegood canned shots (as suggested by Sony engineers). The fact that they allow you to make changes to those preset settingsindicatesSony's acknowledgement that the photographer may not agree 100% with the default settings, thus giving him/her the ability to change them. Therefore, they should make it such that those changes were saved (even a yes/no question would do the trick).
The preset "Scene" modes serve mulitple functions.

From my experience, I learned how best to use my KM5D to shoot sports by using the preset Sports mode, customizing it to my preferences, and then transferring those settings to the "A" mode. If the settings didn't reset each time, then as I experimented with differnet settings, I'd have had more trouble figuring out what worked and what didn't.

Also from my experience, sometimes I find myself shooting something I haven't shot before. So quickly selecting an appropriate mode would at least give me something better that I might have gotten otherwise. For instance, last Independance Day, my wife and I were visiting my stepson and daughter-in-law. As we were leaving, fireworks started exploding overhead. I had my KM5D with me, but it was set to another mode I use for indoor shooting. I quickly switched to the 'Night Portrait' mode and got the following shots. (They're not great shots, but they're better than I would have gotten otherwise.)

Ifthe KM5D saved mymistakes,I might not have beenable to rely on those modes ever again.


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Old Jun 23, 2008, 1:25 PM   #6
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TCav wrote:
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From my experience, I learned how best to use my KM5D to shoot sports by using the preset Sports mode, customizing it to my preferences, and then transferring those settings to the "A" mode. If the settings didn't reset each time, then as I experimented with differnet settings, I'd have had more trouble figuring out what worked and what didn't.

I'm not sure I follow you. If the settings reset back to default every time you leave that particular preset (or switch the camera off), you are back to ground zero. If you look at the EXIF data (BTW, is there any good softwareto see Sony'sEXIF data? I used EXIFtool to extract the EXIF data from the E510 and really liked it.It provided a great level of detail, like exactly how much a particular setting was increased or decreased. For instance, thereare +/-2 settings for contrast, saturation and sharpness.The EXIFtool program will tell you whether you set to +1, -2 or whatever but itonly provides this level of granularityfor the E510.When it comes to theA300 EFIX data, it says SHARPNESS HARD but it does not tell me if the actual value was +1, +2 or +3), you'll have an idea of what your settings were (roughly since,as I mentioned above, the EXIF program - at least EXIFtool and EXIFERthat I've been using - does not provide a greater level of granularity. Unfortunately, the A300 user manual is poorly written and does not provide any information as to what the default settings are for any particular mode. The EXIFtool program extracts that information from the E510 exif data so you can see what the default values are and what you change them to.
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Old Jun 23, 2008, 2:01 PM   #7
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That kind of information is stored in the Makernote Tags. Manufacturers don't publish that information. So, programmers writing EXIF readers need to reverse engineer it in order to interpret the settings (and it often varies between camera models within the same brand, because byte offsets tend to change).

It doesn't look like ExifTool supports all of the sharpness settings yet (he's only looking for a 0, 1, or 2 in that tag if you look at the Minolta TAGS links from the Sony page he has (interpreting the values in it as normal, soft or hard).

http://www.sno.phy.queensu.ca/~phil/exiftool/TagNames/Sony.html

I'm using a Linux library for decoding makernotes from cameras. But, I don't think it supports all of the sharpness settings either (I never use anything other than Normal Sharpening anyway, so it wouldn't make any difference to me).

The way programmers write these types of readers is to view the header information from files with known settings. For example, take photos using various white balance settings with all other camera settings the same. Then, look at the makernotes section of the EXIF for anything that changed and determine what values in a given byte offset represent the setting you chose. I wrote a program a while back to extract the headers from images, with a database that allowed you to select from menu choices for the camera settings you used for the images it extracted the header from, just to help someone out developing software for a camera. It can be a bit time consuming to reverse engineer that kind of stuff. lol So, if you want better support for that kind of thing, you'd need to send him files with notes of the settings you used, so he'd be able to look at the makernote tag Sony is using for sharpening and see what values it contained for your settings.

I haven't loaded any of Sony's software for my A700. But, my guess is that it probably supports most of the Makernote tag info.

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Old Jun 23, 2008, 4:05 PM   #8
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Thanks for the link, Jim. You are very helpful (as always). I find it very handy to have access to all EXIF data. I usually teak my camera settings quite a bit. The default settings usually produce very soft and over saturated images to my taste. I prefer more natural looking and sharper images. So, most cameras I've owned, I changed saturation to -1 and sharpness to either +1 or +2 depending on the camera and how soft the default sharpness is. The EXIFtool version I have is not giving me any granularity as far as levels of contrast, saturation and sharpness settings I have made. For instance, it will show sharpness HARD whether I set it to +1, +2 or +3. Do you happen to have the source code for one of these EXIF programs? I'd be willing to invest some of my time to reverse engineering it for the Sony EXIF (at least the A300).
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Old Jun 23, 2008, 4:33 PM   #9
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I use the open source digiKam for browsing EXIF info, which is designed to work with the KDE Desktop under Linux.

It's probably using the libkexif library you'll find in the source section on this page about the Kipi plugins it's using for many of it's features. This plugin library is used by some of the other KDE based imaging viewing/editing tools, too.


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Old Jun 23, 2008, 8:56 PM   #10
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Tullio wrote:
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I'm not sure I follow you. If the settings reset back to default every time you leave that particular preset (or switch the camera off), you are back to ground zero.
Whatever settings I changed, alone or in combination, if it didn't work, I could start from scratch by turning off the camera. That's the idea.
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