Sony SLT a65v Long-term Impressions

I was frequently pleased with the quality of the images from my Sony SLT-A65. This camera was with me all the time, and when not around my neck was hiding in a Pelican case at the bottom of my boat as I worked on various habitat restoration projects. The built-in GPS on the camera was great for documenting where I was and keeping the date and time updated. Not a big deal to most people, but for me it was great. It seems like most cameras omit the GPS these days which is a real shame in my opinion. You can always sync up with a phone, or smartwatch, but I don’t like the extra steps. There is often a delay with the built-in GPS, so I often left my camera on and would wake it up now and again by pressing the shutter button.

The 24.3 MP resolution was more than I needed 98% of the time and the 2% was good enough. The camera was an upgrade from my Sony a580 dslr, and I am not sure it was necessary. The biggest problem I had with the Sony A65 was that my giant thumb would rest on the command wheel and when held down without knowing, pushed the color balance all the way to the right and made everything look muddy. In the bright sunlight I usually worked in, it was impossible to tell the color shift unless I really looked for it. It was disappointing, to say the least, to get back home after a long day in the field to see my photos look like they had been taken with a dog crap filter on.

My Lenses for the Sony SLT A65

The other big problem with the Sony a65 SLT was the protective LCD film. This is an integrated part of the screen, not an add-on protector. If you put a protector on your screen, you are really putting a protector on a protector. Anyway, the adhesive they use on these is not very good, and begins to bubble, until they are practically unusable. The same happened to a Sony point-and-shoot and a Sony a77 of the same vintage. Because of these issues and a couple of others, I dumped Sony and returned to Nikon. I don’t ask for perfection in my cameras. There are so many compromises to make when designing a camera body that I can only ask so much. I certainly can’t afford to jump brands because I don’t like the menu in my Nikon z50. (Which is true garbage), but I do want to see my LCD screen!

Here are a few video examples from the A65. I stepped up to the Sony A65 from the 580 to gain autofocus ability while recording HD video.

While I really didn’t like the way it was prone to changing the color balance without me knowing it, I really did a lot of good work with it, and it was a significant step up from my A580. I later inherited an A77, and I really like that camera, especially with the vertical grip accessory, so if you are looking for a used Sony DSLR, I would recommend the A77, but watch out for the screen protector.

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Sony a mount 75-300mm-f4.5-5.6 Lens Review

There are numerous lenses out there in the 75-300mm range built to various quality standards. This Sony 75-300 mm F4.5-5.6, built for its alpha dslr cameras is of the quality you would expect at its price point. The resolution and durability of this lens should not be compared to a prime lens like a 300mm 2.8 or a higher quality Sony Alpha 70-350mm F4.5-6.3 G series lens. The reason you want to buy this is because you can’t or don’t want to spend money on a better-quality lens. You probably don’t need to reach out with 300mm very often, and you don’t want the bulk and weight of more lens elements and more durable materials. I bought this lens was the price point, and it was portable compared to my sigma 150-500mm. The question is could this lens get the job done?

One of the great things about the lens is that Sony decided to put the image stabilization mechanism in the camera body and not within the lens. This makes a lens cheaper and lighter without having to sacrifice image sharpness in lower light. A convenient zoom that goes out to 300mm really needs image stabilization. Choosing a lens such as this for its portability means you probably aren’t bringing a tripod along very often.

I think this lens served its purpose. I got images that I couldn’t have without. This lens allowed me to get images I couldn’t have if I only had a better 75-300mm because that lens would have stayed home. The quality of images from this lens is without question, not as good as better glass. The images speak for themselves, I don’t need fancy tests to see that spending an extra $700 would have been better, but again, I would have left that lens at home.

All photo and video examples were shot with a Sony SLT A65.

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Sigma 150-500mm Lens Review

Back in the day I bought a massive Sigma 150-500 mm f 5-6.3 telephoto zoom lens to help me with a project I was working on to help create nesting habitat for a locally endangered bird, the common tern. The lens was there to help document the project and help identify the birds. My Sony 75- 300mm was not providing enough magnification for me. I had no chance of affording a 400 to 500mm prime lens, so this was probably the best option at the time.

Hand-held shot of American White Pelicans, hand-held with the Sigma 150-500mm f5-6.3 from a moving boat!

I was worried the image quality of this lens was not going to be very good, even for my limited use but after taking some photos on a sunny day I was pleasantly surprised. The images were sharp enough for me, and the autofocus was faster than expected. The lens also appeared better built than I expected.

The problem with this lens is really just how practical it was. I used it very little due to its size and weight. This isn’t a lens you can casually put into your backpack just in case you see a wolf. You have to be out looking for wolves and bring a 24mm. in case the light hits the landscape just right, you don’t want to miss that moment.

You can still find the Sigma 150-500mm F5-6.3 on Amazon. Or you can find them used on eBay.

Purchase Sigma 150-500mm for Canon, Sony, and Nikon on Amazon

All photos in this post are uncropped and taken with a Sony A65 slt dslr.

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Under the Ice Under the River

Yesterday I took a little photography trip down to a favorite creek of mine, but I also made a stop at the Waupaca River, not far from where I grew up.  The Waupaca River is a mid-sized trout stream with a swift current, at least in the portion I was at.  The river was mostly frozen over after several weeks with freezing weather off and on.  The current kept only a small portion of the river free of ice, and luckily this opening was near the shore.  I wanted to take some underwater video and obviously not get wet, so I mounted a GoPro Hero 3+ Black Edition camera to a 12-foot (4 meter) aluminum pole.  The camera was in its standard housing and used a standard pole mount made by GoPro.

The water was clear, but not crystal clear.  There was a lot of debris in the form of leaves and other bits of organic matter flying by in the swift current.  Still, I got some good footage of a scene not often captured on video, a trout stream under the ice.

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Watson Duo Battery Charger

Quick 2021 update. After five years of regular use the Watson Duo chargers is still working good and all the below is still accurate.

The Watson Duo LCD Battery Charger is a great device for reducing the clutter of many battery chargers and charging camera batteries away from home.  The charger uses interchangeable and inexpensive plates to swap out different camera batteries.  So far, I have used the charger for my Nikon D750, Nikon P7800 GoPro Hero 3, Sony Dslr, Sony Point and Shoot, and Nikon P6000 cameras.  Each camera type has its own battery charger or cable at the Watson Duo Charger allows me to go from 5 charges to manage to just one.

The ability to charge two batteries simultaneously is nice, but the other features really make this charger shine.  While the charger is not cheap at about $80, the plates are relatively, only about $2 each, so it’s not like Watson got you to buy the charger and then makes you pay ten bucks for each plate.

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Toyo 120 Roll Film Back for 4×5 Large Format Cameras

The Utility of 120 Roll Film Holders for Large Format

Few products in photography look as amazing as large format transparency, whether it be 4×5 inches or even larger.  Even large color or black and white negatives bring a sense of satisfaction not equaled in 35mm or digital photography.  The problems plaguing film these days are amplified in the large formats.  The number of emulsions in 4×5 are dwindling, and even larger formats like 8×10 and 11×14 are as rare as platinum and nearly as expensive.
An old standard slide film, Fujichrome Provia 100F (RDP III),  is now running $3.60 per 4×5 inch sheet, and that is before processing, which, if you can find it, can cost you just as much.  Bracketing exposure, which can be a good idea for transparencies and old shutters that may not be quite in tune, will add to the cost per image.  As much as $40 an image with processing is quite possible.  How can hobbyists keep the old large format cameras alive and shooting on a budget?  Roll film adapter backs can reduce the costs of shooting these cameras while at the same time making them easier to use.   By using a roll film holder, the price per exposure before processing now drops to $0.72 for 6×7 cm, $0.90 for 6×9, and $1.80 for 6×12.

Back of the Toyo 45/69 rollfilm holder

Roll Film backs differ in their function.  Most of them clamp onto the back of a large-format camera in place of the ground glass.  Others slide between the ground glass like a regular but thicker sheet film holder.  The most cumbersome and awkward to use are slider backs. These backs replace the 4×5 back and have their own ground glass to focus and compose on.  When it is time to take the photo, the roll film holder slide over to make the exposure.  Slider rollfilm backs are a good option in the studio but a poor choice for fieldwork because of the bulkiness and relative fragility.

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Sony Camera LCD Screen Problem

Sony makes some cameras that can capture incredible images if the photographer does their part.   I have had three Sony cameras the a580, a65v slt, a77, and the DSC-HX20V point-and-shoot, all of which have taken great photos.  However, the Sony a65, a77, and the DSC-HX20V have a design flaw in their LCD screens.  There is a layer of plastic that protects the LCD from damage and reduces glare, and unfortunately, this layer comes unglued, forming bubbles and even peeling off at the edges.   This problem occurs not only in those two models but also in the Sony NEX 5, RX100, and others.

Sony DSC-HX20V LCD screen problem
Sony DSC-HX20V LCD screen forming bubbles, and peeling between layers. Unfortunately this seems to be a common problem in many Sony cameras.

There doesn’t seem to be any user issue causing the separation, although I can imagine it is made worse if the camera is left in a hot car, or in the sun.  I think it might be an issue related to high temperatures, like those encountered in a car on a hot day. Nevertheless, this problem shouldn’t occur.  I have read on the internet that Sony won’t fix the cameras for free beyond the factory warranty.  This is hardly surprising for any company, but I would hope that they would have wanted to stay by their product.  If this issue would have happened with an automobile, it probably would have resulted in a recall.

Sony a65 slt screen problem
The same LCD fault is occurring on my Sony a65 slt screen

New screens for some of these camera models can be found on eBay, and from what I understand it is not too difficult to replace.  Some are even peeling off the layer and putting on a cell phone screen protector.  Currently, the problem with my two cameras is mostly cosmetic, but I don’t think it will be too long before I will have to repair the LCD screen.  Update: I did repair the screen, but it looks, well like an armature did it.

I have been pleased with the quality of the images my Sony cameras have made, but a number of issues and long-term use of several Sony cameras is causing me to sour on this camera manufacturer.  I doubt I will be purchasing any more Sony cameras.  Unfortunately, I don’t have the money and do not want to take out a loan, to jump ship and switch platforms at the moment, but if I did, I would.

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Nikon SB-50DX and Nikon SB 30 Speedlights

A few  interesting flashes were introduced at the end of the film era, and the tip of the dslr revolution, the SB 50DX and SB 30.  While these flash units are no longer fully compatible with recent dslr’s by Nikon and iTTL, but will work in manual mode.  However, they are still worth considering as slave (I hate that term for a flash) units for those of use who like to use film cameras or early dslrs like the Nikon D100.

SB 50 DX

The Nikon SB 50-DX is a nice flash that I enjoyed using back in the day except for one major flaw.  It used two CR123a batteries that were not always readily available, and expensive.  That isn’t much of an issue today with the availability of CR123a battery chargers from Watson and other manufactures. That out of the way the flash is well made, has power zoom function that runs from 24-50mm and down to 14mm with a flip up diffuser.  The flash tilts up 90 degrees to bounce light, but does not twist.  As is nearly standard on medium to high end speedlights the flash has an auto focus assist light.

Nikon SB 50 Flash

The SB-50 has tow interesting functions uncommon to flash unites.  One is the ability for the flash to tilt downward 18 degrees for macro photography.  While not great for serious macro work, it is a nice feature to have. The other interesting feature is a built in diffuser that covers the pop-up flash.  This can be used with either the camera’s built in flash only, or both the built-in and SB 50.   Using both is very handy to have a softer direct light, and also bouncing the flash off the ceiling or wall.

For full stats see the Nikon SB 50DX instruction manual

Nikon SB 50 Flash
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Sony Alpha 580 Vertical Grip – Cheap

The Sony a580 is a great dslr camera, but like most cameras it can be made easier to hold with a vertical grip.  A vertical grip usually does at least three things.  It makes the camera easier to hold for those with large hands in any position, and easier to manage in the vertical position for most everybody.   The third advantage is more power by the addition of an extra battery.

Cheap no-name Vertical Grip for Sony a580 and a550

By the time I decided that I wanted/needed a grip for my Sony a580 the grip made by Sony had already been discontinued.  They could still be found with some searching, but the price was well over what I wanted to pay.  I don’t recall the price exactly, but it was half as much as the camera at least.  While looking on eBay I saw a few different no-name, straight from China vertical grips that would work.  I ended up buying one that came with two extra lithium batteries, for less than $90.  I knew what I was getting wouldn’t be as good as an original Sony, but I decided to take a chance and see.
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Watson Rapid Battery Charger For CR123a and CR2

Watson CR123a CR2 battery Charger

Watson Rapid Battery Charger for CR123A and CR2 Lithium Batteries

Compact lithium batteries such as the CR123a and the CR2 contain a great deal of power, and take up less room electronics, allowing the devices to be smaller, and less bulky.  However, they can be expensive and sometimes difficult to locate when traveling.
At least one other manufacturer make rechargeable CR123A and CR2 lithium batteries and chargers.  Recently I purchased a Watson Rapid Charger and some batteries to power and old Nikon Lite Touch Zoom 35-70, an SB-50 and 30, and some wireless shutter releases I have.  I was particularly interested in resurrecting the flashes because they are good, but I never used them much because they were expensive to use.
Published Charging times:

  • CR123A approximately 2.4 hours
  • CR2 battery approximately 1.6 hours

The Watson Rapid Charger comes in two models, one prepackaged with two CR2 batteries, and the other with two CR123a batteries.  As you would expect from a simple device it is easy to use.  You just pop up to two batteries in and plug in the charger.   If the battery is not fully charged a red LED light appears above the battery, when it is fully charged the light turns blue.
The best feature about this Watson charger is that it comes with plugs for the home and the car.  The car charger is not some separate accessory to by.  With the charger for the car it will be easy to keep batteries on trips and while camping.

Watson Rapid Battery Charger Power Supplies.

Watson Rapid Battery Charger Power Supplies.

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