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Fisheye On The Cheap

14th March 2021

A few years ago I upgraded from a Sony NEX7 to the newer Alpha 6000.

The A6000 became my everyday walk around camera. But I didn’t want to let the NEX7 collect dust, nor did I want to spend a lot more investing in more glass.

The one drawback is that this lens is manual aperture control and manual focus but I decided that I could live with these limitations.


 

So I started looking for an inexpensive lens. My preference was to go wide so I did a little looking around and found an affordable 8mm fisheye. I’m a fan of the way the images are elegantly distorted by lens’ curvature. The lens adds lots of interest to common everyday scenery and subjects.

The lens I chose is the 8mm Rokinon fisheye for about $300.

When the 8mm lens is coupled on the camera’s APS-C sensor it is equivalent to a 12mm full frame lens.

To use the lens, I set the camera to Auto ISO and using the manual exposure mode (M) rotate the aperture ring on the lens to a specific aperture (f/stop) and dial the shutter speed until the exposure indicator is centered.


Measuring about 3″ long and weighing just a few ounces, it is miniscule compared to the two other DSLR fisheyes in my equipment stable. The Rokinon 8mm has a well-marked aperture ring, smooth focus ring, a small built-in sunshade and lens cap that total covers the outer lens surface. I am very happy that when mounted, my fisheye camera is very compact and easy to carry.

 

The important question is how does this inexpensive fisheye perform?

I’ve taken hundreds of photos with the 8mm. I’ve found that the images are tack sharp. The resolution of the NEX-7 is 24MP and with this lens I’ve made several 16″ x 20″ enlargements including three below.


roaming through the cypress groves in the Everglades

amazed at the super bloom in Death Valley

viewing part of Mammoth Hot Spring in Yellowstone

a very wide view of the front porch on our house

The compact size of this camera/lens combination makes it a great way to have a tag along camera and use it for the wide views without having to change lenses.

For many excursions, I carrythree cameras: this fisheye combo, a second with a long lens telephoto (80-400mm) for wildlife and a third with a medium zoom (24mm to 200mm) – all without breaking my back with the weight. In the case of the 8mm fisheye lens, I have a winner at a very decent price.

Having done a little looking around, I know that there are other inexpensive fisheye lenses available for all of the major brand cameras. If you too like the interesting effects that the come from the ultra curved lens surface you’ll be able to find a fisheye to add to your camera bag.

The Sony A6000 Mirrorless

14th August 2014

My 6300-Mile Field Test

On our recent vacation, my camera of choice was Sony’s newest mirrorless camera. While I also brought a much larger Nikon D700 conventional DSLR, I relied mostly on the the Sony A6000. As a comparison, I captured about 150 images with the Nikon D700 and more than a thousand images with the Sony A6000.

My setup was the A6000 coupled with Sony’s 18-200mm lens. This combination is lightweight and compact, produces quality images and just happens to fit beneath the driver’s seat for fast, convenient access.

Hopefully, the following photographic sampler illustrates the A6000’s versatility. I’ll add a few techie details afterwards.



The A6000 is smaller than a conventional DSLR so it’s both lighter and more compact.

You can compare the sizes of the A6000 next to the conventional Nikon D700 DSLR.


The A6000’s high resolution 24MP sensor renders scenics with very high detail.

Additionally, the camera can capture subjects that have a wide range of exposure levels.


The A6000’s articulated LCD makes it easy to capture stills and closeups.

The much improved focusing system works well for wildlife shots.


With the 18-200mm lens, I can keep dry while still in on the action.

Here’s some quick, responsive focusing


The A6000’s bright viewfinder makes it easy to compose and frame in bright sunlight.

The electronic viewfinder previews the scene with the camera adjustments applied.


It handles action shots well and can capture up to 11 frames per second.

The exposure system works quite well with a wide variety of subjects.


I used the camera’s sweep panorama feature often to automatically produce some very pleasing large images.

I suppose it doesn’t matter than I traveled 6300 miles with the camera other than I used it under a variety of conditions.

My “film” was a 32GB SD card, but I never filled it with the 200 pictures a day (the camera was set to record simultaneous RAW and JPG images). All in all, I’m very happy with the images that the camera produced. The one small gotcha is that the A6000 has a short battery life – probably due to the electronic viewfinder. Thankfully, I had an extra battery that I carried along.

Since this is my third Sony mirrorless camera, you can safely assume that I’d recommend this camera to others. In fact my daughter must have agreed with my assessment and purchased one.


For those interested, here’s a few of the technical specs for the A6000:

Sony A6000 os a mirrorless with a 24MP sensor. One of the reasons for choosing this camera is its fast and accurate hybrid focusing system that allows up to 11 frames per second capture. Other proven features are its “sweep panorama”, automated HDR capture, easy exposure bracketing, and Sony’s proven video recording.

List price for the A6000 body without lens is $650. The 18-200mm lens cost $850, more than the body but this single lens allowed me to enjoy the scenery without clutter of additional lenses.


 

 
Written by: Arnie Lee


Sony Alpha 6000

17th April 2014

Sony’s Newest “MILC” – Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera

I’m apolitical when it comes to camera brands. I use equipment from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, etc.

When traveling for assignments I carry a quality camera and several lenses. For the past few years I’ve gravitated towards the smaller and lighter cameras. What’s more is that lenses for these cameras are also smaller and lighter too so packing is easier.

My go-to camera is now a Sony NEX7 which is half the size and weight of the Canon 6D or Nikon D800. But the one downside of the NEX7 is its slow focusing speed and accuracy in low light situations.

Naturally I was interested in seeing the new Sony A6000 at the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International Expo last month. This new model addresses the focusing issue by using “hybrid” phase detection for fast response combined with contrast detection for improved accuracy. Sony claims that the A6000 can record an amazing 11 frames per second with continuous autofocus. Whether shooting still or video this is a welcome and impressive feature packed into a camera this size and cost.

The A6000 is similar to my NEX7 in many respects including a 24 MB APS-C sensor and an electronic viewfinder (EVF). I find the EVF essential when using any of the interchangeable lenses rather than relying on the rear facing LCD screen especially in bright light. Another advantage of the high resolution EVF is that it displays a preview as you make exposure and/or white balance adjustments.

The bright, tilting LCD lets you shoot from a low viewpoint without having to kneel or from a high viewpoint without having a ladder.

The A6000 at WPPI was equipped with a 18-50mm lens. Sony calls it a PZ “power zoom” in that it has a small button which automatically zooms in and out when depressed. When retracted this camera/lens combo is quite compact, yet it fits comfortably in my hands. The specs say that the camera body weighs less than 13 ounces – how’s that for a weight saver?

The A6000 has most of the same features of the NEX7 such as in-camera HDR, sweep panorama and multi-frame noise reduction. For me a bonus is the built-in wifi for transferring images to a mobile or computer device and the downloadable apps (for an additional charge) such as time lapse, automatic backup, photo sharing.

The Sony rep told me that the A6000 will be available about April 23rd. Price for the A6000 body is $649; for the A6000 with 18mm-50mm PZ lens is $799.

I have an A6000 on order and am looking forward to this as an upgrade to my NEX7.

Written by: Arnie Lee