Book Excerpt. The Lisbon Portfolio.

A few more from the wall. It changes every day. Adventures in Austin, Texas with a camera in tow.

All images: Sony a6000 + 18-105mm f4.0 G.

I hate unexpected brushes with the intimation of mortality. I was on location yesterday, getting ready to shoot a public relations job, when I reach down and grabbed a heavy bag of cameras and flashes the wrong way. If you've ever had a lower back spasm you'll understand when I say, "Ouch."  It's been years since I've tweaked my lower back but it's something most photographers eventually deal with, and it never gets easier, or more fun.  I finished the shoot and made the mistake of grabbing the camera bag again and swinging it up onto my shoulder. "Ouch." Again! 

I've taken it easy since then and the whole issue is resolving many times quicker than it has in the past. I credited some of that to strengthening my core muscles with the push up regimen I wrote about a while back. At any rate I skipped swim practice today (emotional "Ouch") because the idea of doing a hundred or so flip turns with an achy back wasn't particularly welcoming. But after lunch I decided that it might be therapeutic to take a bit of a walk. I grabbed a small and non-combative camera and headed downtown. I thought I'd walk to the Graffiti Wall and then do a long circuit of downtown. 

After spending half an hour shooting at the Wall my back warned me to knock it off and I surrendered to my physical self's higher awareness and headed back to the car. One more day off and then we'll get back into the groove. 

Aside from the physical trauma ( a new reminder of my advancing maturity age ) the walk was pleasant and the park was filled with graffiti tourists; myself included. I didn't see a whole lot I felt like I needed to document but I did enjoy using the small and light camera and lens. They work well together, and that 24 megapixel sensor is pretty outrageous. I'd read some review that were lukewarm about the lens but in practice it does a great job with high sharpness, and the image stabilization is as advertised, pretty good. 

As Robin Wong reminds me, sometimes getting out and shooting for yourself is a form a therapy. In this case a brief warm down from the day before. Go ahead and click on any of these to see them bigger. They are jpegs that came popping out of the camera. Good, clean fun. 

Doing stupid things like bending over to pick up a camera bag reminds me of an old saying:

"With Age Comes Wisdom. Sometimes Age Comes Alone."

Just another afternoon photograph in Austin, Texas.

At the Graffiti Wall with a Sony a6000
and the 18-105mm f4.0 G lens. 

"Through the portal."

OT: The house next door is for sale and they are having an open house. No, more like an OPEN HOUSE!!!!!

Our neighborhood was quiet and affordable until about five years ago. That's when the speculators and people arriving fresh from S. California showed up with bags of extra cash and the desire for their own, "West Austin/Hill Country Homes." A couple of speculators bought the large, rambling house next door. It was decades old and not particularly well cared for. Over the course of the next two and a half years, up to the present, the speculators tore down the old house and built a nouveau riche dream home, of sorts. The construction was stop and start. We never knew if we'd have peace and quiet or an army of saw and power tool wielding construction workers next door.

Soaring windows, multi-level pools and a hot tub big enough to hold Shamu. Faux Modernism in every kitschy architectural touch. They even built a recirculating "stream" along the front of the house which runs for about 200 feet and ends near the storm drain at the corner of their property. (Water rationing anyone?).

So, now they are (almost) ready to sell the house. The price tag is a choking one million, seven hundred and eighty nine thousand dollars, U.S. Today is the open house. They've spent weeks "staging" the house with trendy furniture, plants and throw rugs. The landscape company came this morning for one last "spruce up." There are balloons and "bandit" signs at every street corner, throughout the neighborhood. A three piece ensemble of musicians showed up to perform. They have cakes from "Nothing Bundt Cakes" and tea from one of the boutique tea shops that have sprouted up around oh-so-current Austin.

And the big draw for gentleman home buyers is the opportunity to test drive either the black or the bright red Tesla S automobile. How amazing? Right?  Look at a $2,000,000 house and test drive an electric car at the same time. Chic.

After having been inconvenienced over and over again by the speculators' contractors we are disinclined to help out with the marketing of the house. To that end I've parked an ancient, pollen covered, Toyota Corolla with no hubcaps at the top of our adjoining entry way. It's there mostly to keep the herds of black Range Rovers and BMW X cars off our driveway. I've put the trash bags full of leaves out on the curb for the trash collectors and our lawn guy took a couple of weeks off. I was thinking of hiring some people from the theatre community to do, "Trailer Trash Homecoming" in the front yard, complete with Colt 45 malt liquor and big, bare bellies with tattoos, sitting in lawn chairs but my spouse said, "No!"

There are several problems with this whole gentrification thing that I'm having trouble getting over: One is that the asking price is ten times what most of the surrounding neighbors paid for their homes twenty years ago (when the neighborhood was casual and middle class) which means our property tax comparables will skyrocket (and we live in a state with no income tax which means everything comes from one of the highest property taxes in the country). The second is that when projects like this are successful in a neighborhood it opens the floodgates to an army of wannabe speculators and then all hell breaks loose.

Ah. The maturing of Austin, in which we get to pay in advance for the next generation's expenses and live day by day and month by month with fleets of cement trucks and dumpster deliveries rumbling up at all hours of the day and night. One issue I dealt with this year was not being able to do videos in our little studio. Couldn't do audio with all the jack-hammering. Sometimes it seems like the only answer is to sell and move along but ......

I sure like my house and my studio. And my dog loves her yard.  Ah crap.

The new Sony RX10iii is an interesting adjunct to an existing, small sensor system. An easy choice for videographers, a tougher choice for "still only" shooters....

The Sony RX10iii. 
Long, long, long. 

Sony continues to create new iterations of existing cameras at a rapid clip. I purchased one of their RX10ii cameras right around the end of last year and I have pressed into use for an impressive number of photographic and video projects which would have been the realm of APS-C or micro fourth-thirds cameras previously. The RX10ii is a good, all around photography tool that would suit the needs of many photographers for many kinds of projects. It's not right for everything, but then no camera is.

I also have the first version of the RX10 which I refer to as "the classic." After Sony came out with their firmware upgrade (improving the video codec) I didn't think I would want to upgrade to the "version 2" but I was lured by the 4K video as well as the newer, higher resolution EVF. I'm happy to have the newer camera because the image quality is slightly improved (mostly in the shadows) and the two cameras together make a good pair of production cameras for video when I am shooting 1080p on both, simultaneously.

I've discussed the merits of the RX10 (both iterations) several times here on the blog but as a reminder: 20 megapixels is good for at least 90% of our projects. The video is probably among the best quality of any 1080p camera out there limited to (in camera) 8 bit 4:2:0 output. The build quality is great. The lens is a good (for me) range of 24mm to 200mm. The image stabilization is quite good. For most purposes they are fully loaded for video work: microphone in, headphone out, zebras, good profiles, focus peaking, etc. To my mind Sony has done a great job of producing a serious compact system which is a great adjunct to the usual inventory of a working photographer.

If the Sony RX10ii is so well implemented then why would we also be interested in the Sony RX10-3?

The camera adds only one thing to the overall system. It adds a zoom lens that yields the equivalent angle of view of a 600mm lens on a full frame camera and it does so on a sensor that's big enough to take advantage of the reach. In my shooting universe the need for anything longer than the 400mm on the Panasonic fz 1000 is rare, but there are times when I do need the reach and those times might become more frequent if the potential were part of my conscious thought process. A thought process sometimes driven by what is at hand. Meaning: If I had "it" I'd probably use it.

From a non-professional point of view there's no reason to own both a Sony RX10ii and the RX10iii. If you need the longer reach you would just choose the newest camera and you'll be able to take advantage of all the things I love about the RX10ii along with the added reach of the new lens. And, importantly, Sony doesn't make you give up the wider end in a focal length compromise. If you always shoot wide, never long, and you like the lighter weight and smaller overall size of the originals you would go for the RX10ii. If you want the basic performance of the RX10ii but don't need the latest finder technology and 4K video --- but would love to save about half the purchase price --- you can buy the original and few if any will see a difference in sensor performance or pipeline performance between the three.

But some professionals have different needs than their enthusiast counterparts and so may want to consider owning two different models from the RX10 system of cameras. I like photographing P.R. exterior events with the RX10 cameras for both the reach of the lenses and the ability to work without endless chimping. (Yes, I know that many of you are OVF genii would can estimate all exposure parameters to within one sixth of a stop. I am not Vulcan, only human and I love the ability to fine tune, through the finder, on the fly. It's a time saver).

I am a bit eccentric and, even though I keep a raft of full frame Nikon DSLR cameras for client work (where necessary or implied...) I am starting to look at the RX10 family of cameras as an alternative professional imaging system of the future. Narrow depth of field has been a style for a long time now but there are numerous situations in which deeper focus is more or less demanded. Products, group shots, landscapes, most video, etc. With the improved performance metrics of Sony's BSI 20 megapixel sensor and the very good performance of the Zeiss branded zoom lenses the only two places that require different cameras choices are quickly becoming situations requiring very narrow depth of field and situations that call for the use of very, very high ISOs. For nearly everything else all of the formats are capable of good results on a wide variety of media.

I'm certainly not suggesting that anyone need change a system that works for them and that they like I am trying to outline why someone in my occupation may be interested in the one inch cameras as an alternative or an adjunct to a more traditional system.

The zoom lens on the front of the RX10iii, if it lives up to its marketing spin, will give many of us our first real taste of extreme telephoto reach, coupled with a good performing imaging sensor. And we would be getting this reach at a fraction of the cost of the same sort of lens from, well, anyone.

If you need the reach of a 600mm but can't handle the weight, price, size and logistics of handling a traditional lens this camera will be logical and almost mandatory. I can hardly wait to put the long reach to the test at the next big swim competition. In most lighting conditions for swimming concerns about AF performance aren't vital. But being able to reach across a pool from the audience bleachers and get tight close ups of competitors could be amazingly fun. I also love a good compression shot and this is a camera/lens choice that would handle that superbly. It comes with a small penalty over it's sister cameras in terms of weight but, apparently, nothing else.

When I go out to shoot video I want to take two cameras with me for a number of reasons. The first being the need/desire for nearly identical, redundant back-up. With so many resources being focused on a specific time frame it's folly to go out without a second camera. Cameras don't just fail on their own, they also get dropped, mishandled, splashed and stolen. $1300-$1500 more, spent on a second camera is just like buying insurance. You may never need it (in a back up capacity) but if you do it can be a job saver...

The other compelling reason is the ability to use two cameras to video capture the same scene or interview from two different angles and two different focal lengths. Having more material with which to edit is never a bad thing. That the 2 and the 3 are mostly identical except for the difference in lenses is a great thing. When you are in the middle of a series of interviews, with short windows of available time, being able to go back and forth between cameras with identical menus, codecs, profiles and setting is an enormous time saver and reduces anxiety on important projects.

I could write more things about the cameras but I have covered most of the big features in my review of the RX10ii. The important thing to remember is that I'm not necessarily using any of the cameras exclusively. My purchase of an RX10iii does not mean that I would use it all the time, instead of any other camera. It would be a nod to the idea that there is no one perfect cameras that's perfect for everything you might want to throw at it.

The bottom line for me is that I've been shooting with the RX10 products since their inception and have found them to be reliable,  functional, easy to handle pieces of equipment that do many of the things I like to do with a camera well.

I've asked my supplier for a "review" camera when the "type 3" comes out so I can put it through its paces and write a knowledgeable review of it. Until then I am actively resisting the pre-order hype, mostly because I am so darn happy with the RX10ii. We'll see....

Also, quick question for video inclined readers: Have you used the Sony PXW X70 HD422 video camera?  If you have I'd love hear/read your impressions. Thanks.