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

 

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Mastering the Nikon D610 – Another helpful how-to from Digital Darrell – #photography #bookreview

Mastering the Nikon D610

Darrell Young

(Rocky Nook – paperback, Kindle)

d610_hr

Today’s digital SLR cameras have many more features than most of us can possibly use. And, certainly, they have many more features than most of us can readily employ without cracking open a how-to guide.

Still, I am both a fan and user of DSLRs. I am also a fan and user of some of Digital Darrell’s books on how to master various Nikon cameras.

Yes, the instruction manuals that come with new DSLRs are supposed to tell us how to use every button, setting and indicator. Often, they do. Yet, that’s all they usually tell us: the bare basics.

In a Digital Darrell book, on the other hand, you get more than detailed coverage of every dial, button, indicator, and menu setting. You also get color photographs of menu options, plus recommended settings and numerous tips based on Darrell Young’s shooting preferences and experiences in the field. Those recommendations and tips can be valuable savers of time and frustration, whether trying out a feature for the first time or using a feature not touched in several months.

Darrell Young’s new Mastering the Nikon D610 is a world-class how-to book that deserves to be kept handy by anyone who uses this new, feature-rich, full-frame (FX) camera.

Young has written more than a dozen photography books, primarily detailed guides for specific models of Nikons. “The massive resolution of the 24.3 megapixel (MP) sensor, an amazing dynamic range, and clean, broadcast-quality video make the D610 one of the world’s best digital cameras,” Young states.

“In my opinion, the image is what counts, and the Nikon D610 can deliver some of the highest-quality images out there. It’s a robust 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.”

Whether you get one D610 or a dozen, you may really like keeping a copy of this well-crafted, 547-page book handy for quick—and detailed—reference in the field or studio.

Si Dunn

Our Beautiful, Fragile World – Excellent photographs by an environmental artist – #bookreview

Peter Essick's new book will inspire photographers to work harder and help readers to better understand the fragility of our planet.
Peter Essick’s new book will inspire photographers to work harder, and it will help readers better understand the fragility of our planet.

Our Beautiful, Fragile World

The Nature and Environmental Photographs of Peter Essick
Peter Essick
(Rocky Nookhardcover, Kindle)

Most of us are content to take a photograph and just settle for what we get under the current circumstances.

That’s not how Peter Essick works.

Essick has spent more than 25 years traveling to remote corners of the world, but also to many spots in North America, as a photographer on assignment for National Geographic.

“Many of my successful photographs,” he writes in his noteworthy new book, “are the result of discovering a scene and then going back several times to get the best picture possible.”

Our Beautiful, Fragile World presents a collection of Essick’s excellent nature and environmental photographs. And almost all of the photos are accompanied by a one-page essay explaining where and how an image was taken, what circumstances surrounded the shot, what environmental issues or crises are represented, and what Essick wants readers to take away from the story behind the photograph.

His book likewise contains a technical information section where specific details of each shot are described, including camera (Nikon or Canon), lens, film (typically Fujichrome 100) or digital camera settings, and how he had to work to get the photograph (i.e., use an underwater housing, or shoot from a light plane, or “look for a place where the sunlight was bounding off the sandstone and reflecting golden light on the opposite wall.”

There also is a fine foreword by Jean-Michael Cousteau, son of the famed, late ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. “I feel much hope for the future,” he writes, “when I see the talented work of artists like Peter Essick and understand the message he conveys through his stunning environmental images.”

Our Beautiful, Fragile World will inspire almost any photographer to try to take better nature pictures. And it starkly highlights how we continue to run roughshod over the delicate elements and natural forces that keep us alive on this threatened planet.

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

HDRI, Digital Zone System, Canon EOS 5D Mark III – 3 new #photography books – #bookreview

Rocky Nook, based in Santa Barbara, Calif., recently has released three handsome new how-to works focused on digital photography and image processing.

The books are: The HDRI Handbook 2.0, The Digital Zone System, and Canon EOS 5D Mark III.

The HDRI Handbook 2.0
Christian Bloch
(Rocky Nook – paperback, Kindle)

Every chapter has been significantly updated in this new edition showing how to use high dynamic range imaging (HDRI) “to digitally capture, store, and edit the full luminosity range of a scene.”

Author Christian Bloch notes: “We’re talking about all visible light there, from direct sunlight down to the finest shadow detail.” Using HDRI, “[t]he old problem of over- and underexposure—which is never fully solved in analog photography—is elegantly bypassed.”

This is not a quick guide. Its 659 pages (in print format) cover everything from “the ideas and concepts behind HDR imaging” to tone mapping (“where you learn to create superior prints from HDR images”) to using HDR images in 3D rendering.

If you are ready to learn how to use HDRI in photographs or computer graphics projects, definitely get this well-written book. It is packed with tips, tricks, step-by-step tutorials, stunning images, and other useful information. Even if you already have some experience with HDRI, you can learn new things and improve current skills using this updated guide.

The Digital Zone System
Robert Fisher
(Rocky Nook – paperback, Kindle)

In famed photographer Ansel Adams’s Zone System for film cameras (which many people still use), the mantra is: “Expose for the shadows; develop for the highlights.” The goal is to capture more details in the shadow areas without losing too many details in the highlight areas.

Of course, much of the artistry of Ansel Adams resided also in his ability to convert his low-contrast negatives into stunning prints using photographic chemicals in “wet” labs.

The Digital Zone System is a methodology for using Photoshop, Lightroom and other digital photography tools to echo the spirit and goals of Adams’s Zone System (which he used primarily with large-format, black-and-white film).

Much of this book’s focus is on showing how to gain greater control over digital images by isolating and adjusting colors and luminance values within specific areas.

One of the important goals of teaching the Digital Zone System is to help speed up workflow and reduce the tedium caused by using traditional methods (such as layer masks) in Photoshop. Zone masks, Fisher notes, are “self-feathering,” so they can give you “smooth transitions and maintain smooth tonal gradations or transitions in your images.”

While color photography is emphasized, the author also shows how to convert digital color images to black-and-white images and apply the Digital Zone System to enhance tonal separations, sharpness, and other aspects.

“Wet lab” film purists no doubt will disagree. But the Digital Zone System described in Robert Fisher’s book can help open the way to creating and producing stunning photographs in color and black-and-white.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III
James Johnson
(Rocky Nook – paperback, Kindle)

James “Jim” Johnson’s new book is a solid, well-written how-to guide to using “the latest in the famed series of Canon EOS 5D full-frame DSLR cameras.” The book , Johnson states, is aimed squarely at “photographers who are comfortable with basic photography, but who need an understanding of the myriad features, functions, options, and settings available with the EOS 5D Mk III camera.”

The 5D Mark III, photographer Juergen Gulbins writes in the book’s Foreword, “may be used for portrait, landscape, and sports as well as for studio work.” And it offers “dramatic” improvements over the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, he adds.

The 22.3 MP resolution is “sufficient for all kinds of photography,” and it allows for print sizes well beyond 17 inches by 24 inches–“if you have a sharp, well-focused image,” Gulbins emphasizes.

James Johnson’s nicely illustrated text starts with what you’ll get in a Canon EOS 5D Mark III package. Then it moves to showing and explaining the purpose and operation of each of the camera’s buttons, connectors, switches and dials. After that, you get some pointers on digital photography, including focus and exposure, while also learning to use the camera’s rich range of menus. And the camera’s video-shooting capabilities and its in-camera photo processing features are explained, as well.

For example, in the section on Live View, the author hails it as “probably the most straightforward implementation of shooting with the LCD monitor that I’ve come across.” But he also cautions: “The LCD monitor uses a great deal of battery power, so when in Live View, you will want to watch the remaining charge level a bit more closely than usual.”

With this excellent guidebook in hand, you can toss aside the camera’s problematic instruction manual and get some real-world explanations from an experienced photographer who also happens to be an experienced technical writer.

— Si Dunn

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Panobook 2012: Award-Winning Panoramic Photographs – #bookreview

Panobook 2012: Award-Winning Panoramic Photographs
The Kolor Team
(Rocky Nook, hardback)

Beautiful.There are few other words to describe this gathering of 150 prize-winning panoramic color photographs.

The photographs were judged as the best of the 1,647 entries in the Panobook 2012 competition sponsored by Kolor, developer of Autopano image-stitching software. The software enables individual images shot with conventional digital cameras to be stitched together to create expansive panoramic photographs. 

Professional and amateur photographers all over the world submitted photos for the competition.  And, in the words of the book’s editors, the results included “[s]ublime landscapes, original compositions, artistic and technical performances …exceptional images that invite you on a unique journey around the world.”

The stunning shots range from the interior of a basilica in Krakow, Poland, to an idyllic landscape in West Virginia, to an amazing tangle of trees in New Zealand, as well as elegant city skylines, landscapes, shorelines, building interiors, and even panoramic underwater photographs.

Almost anyone who likes photography and pursues it as a profession or hobby will find many inspiring and engrossing pictures in this collection.

Si Dunn