Yesterday [Monday 26 January 2015] being Australia Day we toddled off to take in the Parade. It was an opportunity to put the Nikon D750 [fitted with a Sigma 100-200mm lens] and the mZuikoPro 40-150mm lens [fitted to an OMD EM10] through their paces.
We couldn’t get through the crush to take photos of the parade itself but there were plenty of beautiful faces in the crowd. When we sorted the photos we were all overcome with patriotic sentimentality and made a little slideshow, complete with the much-derided national anthem.
The reviews of the camera [Fabulous!] and the lens [Superb!] will appear here in the next few weeks.
High quality no-brainer
THE LOW-DOWN: This 24.3 megapixel mirrorless interchangeable lens camera comes with a 16—50mm lens. On this APS sensor that translates into 24—75mm in film terms. The retracting lens keeps the overall bulk of the camera small enough for a handbag, if not for a pocket. The 179 point hybrid auto focus system is quick and accurate, with the usual caveat: cameras don’t know what is important to be in focus. There are almost no external controls with camera settings made through the menu. The 75mm LCD limited function touch screen is of decent resolution at 921k dots. It swivels up into a forward pointing position for you-know-what. There is both NFC connectivity and WiFi using Sony’s smartphone app.
LIKE: The image quality is good, and better than good in RAW mode. Auto white balance is particularly fine even under mixed light sources where subjects are rendered in correct colours. Movie mode is aided by a very smooth power zoom function controlled with a slider on the lens barrel. There is no jerky motion or mechanical noise.
DISLIKE: The absence of any external function controls – even something as elementary as shooting mode (Auto, P, S, A, M) is a pain in the posterior. There is no eye-level viewfinder, not even an option.
VERDICT: The Sony a5100 is clearly made for someone trading up from a point and shoot compact who wants better image quality without taxing the brain. The camera is capable of producing outstanding images, but left to its own devices you won’t get 100 per cent satisfaction. And imposing user control through the menu system is cumbersome. Who will bother? If you absolutely must have a no-brain camera then this is as good as it gets.
Here’s a bold resolution for the new year – take the camera off Auto and take control of the picture taking process. Believe us, it’s not that hard and the photos will be all the better for a bit of human intervention.
We’ve been down this path before but it is using the Sony a5100 for today’s review that moves us to revisit the auto vs user control once again.
Because the Sony is obviously intended for the auto shooter we set out to use it in that mode for our testing. We quickly gave up and braved the cumbersome menu settings to get the best from the camera.
Left to its own devices a camera will get some things right most of the time. It will do a reasonable job of adjusting the white balance (colour accuracy) and it will set an appropriate ISO sensitivity. Even exposure will be acceptable most of the time, but the one thing it will fail at is focus.
Just think about it for a moment. When you point the camera at a scene that contains a child, an adult, a donkey, a tree and a cathedral in the background how does the camera know which is the important subject for sharp focus and correct exposure? It doesn’t. So it is set up at the factory to either focus on any object closest to the camera, or on one or more faces if face detection is turned on.
Switching the shooting mode to P – which stands for Program – means that you don’t need to worry about exposure because the camera is programmed to set the best shutter speed/aperture pairing for the light conditions. This works well enough most of the time. And if you go boldly into the menu and set Metering Area to Centre Weighted you will get a little extra control.
While you’re there in the menus take a look at Autofocus – you will find two settings for Focus Mode and Focus Area. Set Focus Mode to Single Shot (S-AF) and the Focus Area to Centre. Turn Face Detection off.
Face Detection is useful if you are really tracking one particular face, but in a scene where there are faces that are not important to the picture it only confuses the camera.
When you’ve got all your ducks lined up – or in this case your focus and metering set to centre – you put the viewfinder centre on the subject, half depress the shutter button to lock focus and exposure, and then reframe if necessary, holding the button half way while you do it. Easy.