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Panoramas the easy way

27th August 2012

Photographically speaking, a panorama is a photograph that encompasses a very wide view. I like panoramas because they reproduce a scene as if I were viewing it live by turning my head from the far left to the far right. I can view the photograph in small ‘chunks’ as I scan the entire image from the left to the right.

In the past, making a panorama was a complicated, multiple step process involving capturing the images and then stitching them together whether it be done chemically in a darkroom or digitally with a computer. I won’t go into details of making panoramas using either of these two “conventional” ways. Instead, I’ll point out the ease with which a feature on certain cameras enables me to easily make panoramas in one step.

For the past two years I’ve been using several Sony Alpha series and NEX series cameras to shoot panoramas. These cameras enjoy a feature called Sweep Panorama. When this feature is chosen, you simultaneously depress the shutter and move the camera in a sweeping fashion to the right. As you do this, the camera captures multiple images of the scene. The camera signals the completion of the sweep by halting the shutter. A few seconds afterward, the panoramic capture appears on the camera’s LCD for your review. Press the PLAY button and the image is displayed from left to right – in video fashion – but is actually a single, still panoramic image.

Above, I explained that the sweeping motion is from left to right. But in fact these Sony cameras let you sweep left to right; right to left; up to down; and down to up. These cameras also capture three dimensional appearing images using 3D Sweep Panorama that can be displayed on certain compatible 3D television sets.

Here’s a few of the panoramas that I’ve taken with various Sony cameras. You can click on each of the images to see a wide view of the panorama.
 


Red Rock Canyon, Nevada


Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

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A Performance Heavyweight

08th August 2012

in an attractive lightweight package

 
 

I’ve been a technology buff for a long time.

During the golden age of film, I was introduced to a slew of new camera technology – autoexposure, flash synch, t-mount lenses, autowinders, autofocus. Innovations such as these incrementally improved the technical craft of photography. And then along comes the digital age bringing this photographer a constant stream of remarkable imaging devices with an amazing array of features.

Since the mid 1990’s I’ve owned a countless number of digital cameras. Each year the image quality improved so much that I felt compelled to upgrade to the latest and greatest. Today, I have three or four high quality DLSR cameras and dozens of lenses of various brands. But similar to my political leanings, I’m an independent. I vote for a “candidate” based on the performance that a particular piece of equipment can bring to the task at hand whether his party be Canon, Nikon or Sony.

Although I already have a sizable stable of equipment, I’ve been following the development of a class known as mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILC). My interest in the MILCs centers around their size. At half the size of a typical DSLR, an MILC is also very lightweight. The interchangeable lenses also share this compact advantage. For the past year, I’ve been examining the pros and cons of the various MILCs.

Last week I decided to wait no longer. I acquired the Sony NEX 5, an attractive silver model weighing just 10 ounces compared to the 22 ounce Sony Alpha 57 DSLR which has similar features. The size difference is significant too: NEX 5 is 4-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ x 2″ (width/height/depth) while the Alpha 57 is 5-1/4″ x 4″ x 3-1/4″ (width/height/depth).


This is the NEX 5, the middle of the road model in Sony’s series of MILCs.

All of the cameras in the NEX series have relatively large sensors. They are APS-C size meaning they are the same size as the sensor in many of the high quality DSLRs. This accounts for the high quality of NEX images. To accompany their compact size, the NEX uses Sony’s E-series lenses which are considerably smaller than Sony’s A-series lenses for their DSLRs.


The large APS-C sensor give the NEX series the ability to capture very high quality images.

On the left is a traditional DSLR lens compared to a MILC lens for the NEX series.

Of course the proof is in the images. Here are a few of the first pictures that I took with the NEX 5.


Having had the camera for less than a week, I’ve not used all of its features. However, our arsenal includes a Sony A65 DLSR so I am familiar with features such as sweep panorama (combining multiple images to build a wide or tall photograph), DRO (dynamic range optimization to maintain highlight and shadow detail) , HDR (high dynamic range to combine multiple exposures controlling contrast), anti-motion blur (combines 6 separate images) and full 1080 HD video. The NEX series share almost the same features as Sony’s DLSR Alpha series cameras.

So in coming days, I’ll be using the NEX 5 to see how the “lightweight” attempts to produce quality images that are usually reserved for the DLSR crowd. I’m glad that I took the plunge and picked up the NEX 5, an eminently convenient camera in an amazingly small package.

Written by Arnie Lee
 
 


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