Sunday, December 30, 2012

Testing the Sony SEL30M35 (e-mount) macro

hard drive controller chip2.5" hard drive controller chip1990 US dime1994 US quarter1994 US quarterDirty penny
Dirty penny2006 US dollar, 100% crop2006 US dollar, 100% crop2006 US dollar2006 US dollar, 100% cropClean penny
Clean penny

These were shot with a Sony NEX-7, Neewer macro ring lights and no additional macro filters. All crops are 100%.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Project 365/one photo a day: a primer

Photography has been my hobby for over 20 years. At the worst, when it was creeping into "vice" territory I was shooting dozens of rolls of film per week and I was developing my own black and white film, which I then scanned. 

Then digital came, which meant that I wouldn't have to let my pocket slow me down. My first digital camera, circa 1999 or 2000, was about $900 including the memory card. Based on the savings from not shooting film I had broken even before the 6 month mark. 

12+ years later and I am still an amateur, and very happy about it. Looking back, the one constant thing that has helped me with this hobby is to shoot and shoot and then shoot more. There is no substitute for experience. The equipment is much nicer now, but it has the exact same limitations that it had back in 2000. My Sony NEX-7 takes bigger pictures than my original Sony DSC-S70, has much better auto focus and flash performance, and I can switch lenses, but it has the same problems that require experience, not equipment, to figure out. 

There is no camera in the world that can auto expose accurately 100%. None. Zero. If the photographer knows enough to understand this and how to use exposure compensation, it becomes a non issue. If the camera has an exposure compensation dial, it makes it easier, but it is still a setting that the photographer is picking, not that the camera is figuring it out by itself.

No camera in the world can focus on a static object as well as you can do in manual focus, assuming that your camera allows the proper focusing aids, be it a range finder, a split prism, focus aid zoom, focus peaking, etc. 

There are many other things in modern cameras that require that knowledge and judgment that only comes from shooting lots of pictures and seeing what works and what doesn't. This is why photo challenges are so crucial in helping newer generations of photographers to improve their skills. I am about to wrap up my first photo a day project for a whole year, and I can easily see a progression in my work that wouldn't be there if I had just spent the year shooting whenever I felt like it.

This is where the challenges really pay off: they force you to grab that camera and shoot.

The problems with this kind of project are mostly logistical, and the most common is simply not knowing what to shoot.

A simple way of surviving project 365

  1. Commit yourself to the project, make some noise in your preferred social media network so your friends nag you whenever you start falling behind.
  2. Find a topics list. It is really hard to come up with a unique subject every day. My favorite is Fat Mum Slim and she publishes new topic lists a week ahead for each month. When topics are popular she'll repeat them every few months. 
  3. You don't have to stick to the topics list every day, but you do need to shoot and post something at least every day. There are daily challenges posted at
  4. It's OK to post to more than one challenge per day. It is also OK if your shot overlaps more than one challenge, just don't try to cross-post one photo to 20-30 challenges, it looks silly.
  5. It's OK to shoot ahead. I shoot whenever I walk outside, and many times I mark shots to be used later in the week. This will also help you to maintain momentum since you won't really shoot 365 days in a row.
  6. Some challenges have rules about editing, please keep those in mind. 
  7. It's OK to be lazy, but don't be too obvious. Half of the macros and exterior shots I have posted started out of laziness.
  8. Try to think what you want to shoot before you touch the camera. Don't spray and pray. 
  9. At the very least, post your daily photo to one public group and learn how to tag your posts so others can find them.


  1. The best camera is the one that you have at hand. Get used to the idea that you are not leaving your house for the next year without either your camera or a camera phone.
  2. If you do something clever/weird/etc., explain it in your shot, or ask people to try to guess. If the setup is elaborated enough, take a photo of that. I actually posted a photo of the setup as my daily entry because it was more interesting than the shots I was getting.
  3. If you are using a camera with interchangeable lenses, and you use lenses that the camera can't read automatically (non-CPU lenses), try to disclose what kind of lens you used and any relevant settings. A lot of people look for that kind of photo, and if the camera can't read the lens it'll leave the EXIF data blank.

Social Media

  1. I personally liked Flickr until Google started the communities feature. Right now I post to both Flickr and Google communities and will probably stop posting to Flickr at the end of 2013.
  2. I also post to mostly because it has a nice calendar navigator I can use to make sure I didn't forget to post a day.
  3. I don't post to facebook for personal reasons that have nothing to do with photography. If you like facebook I don't see why you shouldn't use it for the project.
  4. If you post to Google Plus, Twitter or Facebook, you'll notice that your posts will get lost in the clutter after 44 hours or so. I recommend that you either use or a blog so you can have a clean, separate place where you can see just your project. Mine is at


The most important thing: have fun! It's a hobby! With luck you'll connect with a few people doing the project too and have some fun along the way while you improve your skills. Don't be shy, share! Once you are done, there are services that you can use to publish your blog into a book, which you can keep as a memento from all of your hard work over the previous year. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Portrait Test

Portrait Test by pvera
Portrait Test, a photo by pvera on Flickr.

A little portrait test with Ivette

Sony NEX-7, Carl Zeiss Planar 1.4/50 T*

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Where did 2012 go?

Where did 2012 go? by pvera
Where did 2012 go?, a photo by pvera on Flickr.

Slums of North Virginia

Slums of North Virginia by pvera
Slums of North Virginia, a photo by pvera on Flickr.

Crosstown traffic

Crosstown traffic by pvera
Crosstown traffic, a photo by pvera on Flickr.

Some of you about to grab a Nikon APS-C or Sony NEX body are probably wondering about the use of buying these with a "kit" lens since pretty much everyone (except a couple lunatics) says that those lenses are shit.

I am one of those lunatics. I spent months trying to find something wrong with the Nikkor 18-55 VR DX kit lens, and I couldn't. It is a light and inexpensive lens that is very compact and is extremely versatile. I didn't get the Sony NEX equivalent until I got the NEX-7, so I wasn't able to check on it until the past week or so.

My verdict: the NEX 18-55 OSS kit lens is not a piece of shit. It's super light, very small, and works really nicely on both the NEX-C3 and the NEX-7. It's no Carl Zeiss, but again, for what it costs, it isn't a piece of shit.

This photo doesn't look like much, but it was shot from a moving car at sunset through a windshield that I am sure wasn't perfectly clean. You can read most of the license plates without having to mess with over-sharpening the photo. Now look at the building right in the middle of the photo: that building is 4,323 feet away according to Google Earth, yet with enough zooming you can actually count the antennas on its roof.

Just because a bunch of people tell you those lenses are shit doesn't make it true. Go to the store and mess with them and see for yourself. And no, technical reviews don't count, all they do is take machine measurements and don't take into account that our vision is analog.

Happy accident

Happy accident by pvera
Happy accident, a photo by pvera on Flickr.

Sometimes the photo shoots itself.