The Sony a7 and a7R: The Unofficial Quintessential Guide – #photography #bookreview

sony_a7_a7r

The Sony a7 and a7R

The Unofficial Quintessential Guide

Brian Matsumoto and Carol F. Roulland

(Rocky Nook – paperback, Kindle)

 

Rocky Nook has gained a hard-earned reputation for publishing excellent digital camera how-to guides. And this new one does not disappoint.

The Sony a7 and a7R: The Unofficial Quintessential Guide is aimed at both professional photographers and newcomers who recently have acquired, or are still considering, various elements of the Sony a7 and a7R digital photography and video system, including camera bodies, lenses and accessories.

The authors, who both have extensive photography experience, praise the a7 and a7R as “a breakthrough camera design…the lightest, least expensive, full-frame interchangeable lens cameras available to professional and amateur photographers” at the time their book was written.

The a7/a7R system has some innovations, including, for example, “a completely electronic viewfinder” that provides “immediate feedback on errors in white balance, focus, and exposure.” You also can use the viewfinder to “preview the image with additional artistic elements, such as saturated vivid colors, or muted colors and subtle shades, to decide how to create the proper ambience for the scene.” You also can preview the image in black-and-white.

But Matsumoto and Roulland offer a caution, as well. The a7 and a7R cameras are not well-suited for “taking action shots with a rapid-fire burst capability.” They recommend some of the “heavier digital SLRs,” instead.  The a7 and a7R, they contend, are “eminently suitable for those photographers who are interested in taking pictures at a more deliberate rate, who are concerned about critical composition, and whose aim is to take landscapes close-ups, portraits, or scientific photographs.”

Their 11-chapter, 362-page book wisely includes a chapter titled the “Basics of Digital Photography” near the front of the book, so users new to the a7 and a7R series–particularly those moving up from simple point-and-shoot cameras can learn to how to set their cameras on Intelligent Auto mode or Superior Auto mode and take good pictures while they are becoming familiar with menus, options and features.  (Superior Auto mode “is able to fine-tune the camera settings to create a better-quality image,” the two authors point out.)

Like many other of today’s digital cameras, the a7 and a7R offer “scores of menu commands and options, which can discourage even the most experienced user” if time and care are not taken to learn the ones you will use most often.

Matsumoto’s and Roulland’s excellent how-to book begins with chapters on “Getting Started” and learning the basics of photography, including f/stops, ISO numbers and some essential settings when shooting pictures or video.

The remaining chapters cover:

  • Managing Your Images
  • Automatic Settings
  • Taking Control of the Camera
  • Manual Control
  • Additional Features
  • Working with the Camera’s Wireless Functions
  • Accessory Lenses
  • Flash Photography
  • Making Movies

Two appendices also are included. Appendix A covers menu commands. Appendix B focuses on error messages and warning messages and how to resolve them.

A caution is offered for those who may use the a7R with telescopes, long telescopic lenses, or microscopes. “In comparison to the a7, movement of the a7R’s mechanical shutter can generate significant vibration which can blur the image.”  However, Matsumoto and Roulland also offer some tips to minimize the vibration’s effects.

If you have or are considering this new Sony camera system, The Sony a7 and a7R: The Unofficial Quintessential Guide packs a lot more clear and useful information than you will find in the official user manuals.

The book is richly illustrated, and it provides clear, step-by-step procedures and recommendations for every feature. You’ll need and want it in your library and in your camera case.

Si Dunn

 

Mastering the Fujifilm X-E1 and X-Pro1 – Are you ready for some RAW+JPEG? – #photography #bookreview

Mastering the Fujifilm X-E1 and X-Pro1

Rico Pfirstinger
(Rocky Nook – paperback, Kindle)

As a photographer, I enjoy reading other photographers’ first-person books–even when their books that happen to be how-to texts created to supplement and expand upon the lackluster user manuals typically shipped with new cameras.

Rico Pfirstinger’s latest book is a well-composed guide to learning how to use a new Fujifilm X-E1 or the similar X-Pro1. What are their key hardware differences? The X-Pro1 has a hybrid viewfinder that can show either an optical or electronic image, depending on your preference, and, also unlike the X-E1, the X-Pro1 does not have a built-in flash (which many pro photographers disdain anyway).

The two cameras’ “buttons, dials, menus, and connections” are given big labels and adequate illustrations and explanations, particularly if you are an intermediate, or better, photographer.

Once you get past the initial familiarization tour, Pfirstinger takes you into the process of using the features, picking settings, and dealing with many of the finer points, including how to shoot panoramas and double exposures.

There is one surprise you may not have encountered with some other digital SLR cameras: the ability to do firmware updates. “The X-Pro1 and X-E1 are novel cameras in many ways, and they also exhibit a few quirks,” the author notes. He describes how to determine which firmware version is installed in your camera. Then he outlines how to download newer firmware from a Fujifilm website to your personal computer. From there, you move the newer firmware onto an SD card that first has been formatted in your camera. Then you must carefully follow some steps after the SD card is re-installed in your camera. Once the firmware has been updated, you may also need to follow Pfirstinger’s steps for resetting the frame counter.

The book contains numerous photos by Pfirstinger and some fellow professional photographers, along with information regarding camera and ISO settings, lenses used, and other details relevant to how the images were obtained and processed.

Pfirstinger is a strong advocate for the Fujifilm cameras’ RAW features. “If you spend time in online photography forums,” he explains, “you’ll discover that there’s hardly a debate that generates more controversy and discussion than the question of whether it’s better to shoot in RAW or JPEG format. Since this back-and-forth has been raging for years already, you can assume that there’s no right answer.”

But what the Fujifilm X-Pro1 and X-E1 cameras (and some other camera brands) offer are settings that enable you to shoot and save in RAW and JPEG at the same time. “Today the RAW file is the digital equivalent of the negative, and a JPEG file is the digital counterpart of a photographic print. This means there are many different possibilities for interpreting a RAW file and ‘developing’ a JPEG from it.”

If you choose to not save RAW files, he contends, you are choosing to “reduce your X-E1 or X-Pro1 to a sort of instant camera….” In other words, you get one JPEG from a shot, and that’s it.  Of course, you can make many copies of that JPEG and edit them in many different ways. But his point is that RAW format lets you focus on composition, focus and exposure and gives you numerous digital post-processing capabilities that you can work with later, “when  you have time to sit in front of a larger monitor to evaluate your images….”

Rico Pfirstinger has a very diverse background as a writer and photographer. According to his website “Fuji Rumors”:

“Rico Pfirstinger studied communications and has been working as journalist, publicist, and photographer since the mid-80s. He has written a number of books on topics as diverse as Adobe PageMaker and sled dogs, and produced a beautiful book of photographs titled Huskies in Action (German version). He has spent time working as the head of a department with the German Burda-Publishing Company and served as chief editor for a winter sports website. After eight years as a freelance film critic and entertainment writer in Los Angeles, Rico now lives in Germany and devotes his time to digital photography and compact camera systems.”

Pfirstinger’s new book includes a chapter on how to connect and use third-party lenses that have appropriate X-mount adapters. It’s not simply a matter of attaching the lenses and firing away. You have to change several menu settings to ensure that a lens is recognized and that the exposure,  focus and certain other features work properly.

Si Dunn

Mastering the Nikon D600 – Digital Darrell’s excellent new how-to guide – #photography #bookreview

Mastering the Nikon D600
Darrell Young
(Rocky Nook – Kindle, paperback)

Digital Darrell is at it again. This time, he has delivered an excellent how-to guide for using the Nikon D600 camera. This high-quality new digital SLR, he says, “can deliver some of the highest-quality images out there.”

Furthermore, he notes, the D600 offers “a rugged camera body designed to last. With this camera, we can return to the days when we seldom bought a new camera body and instead put our money into new Nikkor lenses. Wouldn’t you like to have some new lenses?”

As you would now expect with a feature-rich digital SLR, “the Nikon D600 is a rather complex camera, and it requires a careful study of resources like this book to really get a grasp on the large range of features and functions.”

The Nikon D600 is not recommended for total newcomers to digital photography. But it definitely looks like a rugged, yet lightweight winner for hobbyists and professional photographers alike. And it can be, the author says, an excellent choice for hiking, skydiving, underwater activities,  and other environments where camera weight and sturdiness are important.

Darrell Young’s hefty 547-page book devotes most of its pages to menu choices within the camera, plus step-by-step procedures for using features, changing settings, and picking the best settings for various situations.

Digital Darrell has written about 10 other books on Nikon digital cameras, including Mastering the Nikon D800 and  Mastering the Nikon D7000.

His new book is best read while working hands-on with a Nikon D600, getting it configured for the way you want it to work. (“Your Nikon D600, like a chameleon, can change to a different style of shooting with a mere turn of the Mode dial” once you’ve worked your way through various parts of  “an incredibly dense series of 50 functions,” Young writes.

Example photographs are kept to a minimum. If you need some basic, how-to-take-good-photographs help, add another Darrell Young book to your collection. But definitely get this one, too, if you want to get the most you can from your new Nikon D600.

Si Dunn

The Lens – A Practical Guide for the Creative Photographer – #photography #bookreview

The Lens
NK Guy
(Rocky Nook, paperback)

NK Guy’s new book is billed as “A Practical Guide for the Creative Photographer.” It is that–and more. It also is a celebration of excellent photography made possible by great glass and having several interchangeable lenses available for your digital SLR or film SLR.

Forget about megapixels vs. more megapixels. “Nothing affects the technical quality of a photo more than the glass,” Guy writes.  

And: “Lenses are at the very heart of the image-forming process. They’re not a peripheral, and they’re not an accessory.”

He notes: “Many new photographers put a lot of effort into choosing the right camera, but leave the lens as an afterthought. Lots of people rarely venture beyond the standard kit lens that came in the box.”

The Lens is a noble effort to put lenses on the minds of new and experienced photographers alike. Well written and beautifully illustrated, the book offers not only the nuts and bolts and interior workings of lens but shows numerous top-quality photographs that visually capture the essence of the technical explanations. The pictures can make you want to pick up your camera and shoot something. And add another lens to your camera system.

The 310-page book has nine chapters:

  1. A Brief History of Optics
  2. Bending Light
  3. Lens Mechanisms
  4. Choosing the Right Lens for a Project
  5. Choosing a Lens by Focal Length
  6. Accessorize!
  7. Buying Lenses
  8. Advanced Topics
  9. Creative Options: Beyond the Standard Lens

There also are four appendices:

  • Appendix A: Lens Mount Systems
  • Appendix B: Manufacturer-Specific Lens Terms
  • Appendix C: Lens Mount Table
  • Appendix D: Chapter Opening Images

The book contains many useful tips, as well as information that can be surprising even to veteran photographers.

For example, Guy points out that “there are actually organisms that eat camera lenses….certain types of fungus can invade your prized possessions, gradually etching the glass with permanent tendril-like marks.” He describes how to protect against a fungus invasion and how to detect its damage in a lens, particularly a used lens you may be thinking of buying.

Si Dunn