Please Mr Sony, Help the Hardcore!

Started Nov 27, 2012 | Discussions thread
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MeanGene2 Regular Member • Posts: 103
Please Mr Sony, Help the Hardcore!

I posted an open letter to Sony on my photo blog today.  It's all about improvements that could be made to the A77 and A99 for the hard core photographer.  My guess is that there are other crazies like me out there that enjoy image processing and all the frustration that comes with it.

Rather than just post a link, I'm posting the entire text here.  I'm sure there will be ideas that I missed completely, so suggestions are welcome.

Mr. Sony, Help the Hardcore!

I love my Sony A77. It's a wonderful product that delivers amazing images. But like all cameras that fall into the gray area of the 'Prosumer', advanced amateur, and even professional market, it's missing a few things that would make a big difference. I think that's because the marketing mavens lean toward making everything easy for the the guy who always shoots jpegs. That guy uses the scene modes, auto HDR and auto Panorama. That's all well and good, but it ignores the crazy hard core guy.

That's the guy who always shoots raw. The guy who actually enjoys processing his images, trying to squeeze every last ounce of image quality out of those raw files. That Hard Core Guy would rather create his own scene modes than use the ones some engineer in a lab coat at Sony Engineering created. He's the guy who likes to experiment, learn new techniques, reads photo blogs and who would never send an image to a friend without running it through Lightroom, Photoshop or Aperture. That guy is Hard Core. And Mr Sony, you could do some simple things to make Hard Core Guy much happier.

How about something that would really help work flow, and would take minimal effort on your part? Seriously hard core photographers often bracket shots, and there are many different ways to bracket. There is exposure bracketing, good for HDR or just for coverage, there is bracketing for panoramas, there is flash bracketing and even white balance bracketing. And there is focus bracketing, most often used to extend depth of field in macro shooting.

But at the end of the day, the photographer loads all his consecutively numbered shots on to the computer, and then manually has to examine each and every one to determine which shots belong to which bracket and put them in separate folders for processing.How wonderful it would be if when the camera was in exposure bracketing mode, the raw files were named, EV01_121225-01... EV01_121225-02....In this case, EV identifies the file as an exposure bracket, 01 means the first bracket of that day, the next number is the date, and the last number is the sequence number. How easy would it be to organize the day's shots for processing? No more shooting a black frame at the start and end of every bracket to save work flow time.

And speaking of bracket modes, why is there no Panorama mode for raw file shooters? All that is needed is to lock the white balance, lock exposure, and turn on the level display if it's not already on. How hard can that be Mr Sony?

What would be truly wonderful would be focus stack mode. This one is a little more complicated since it requires a lens adjustment. What has to happen is that after exposure is locked, the photographer sets the focus at the nearest point that needs to be sharp. Then the focus is moved in tiny increments further away. A focus stack or focus bracket mode would automatically make the adjustments in ½ degree, 1 degree, 2 degree and other user defined increments. It can be done with just the focus ring. To get a greater depth, adjusting the focal length is better. That would replicate using a focus rail. Dedicated focus stacking software like Helicon can control the camera through a remote control interface to accomplish this, but only for Canon and Nikon. According to Helicon, Sony does not have a software interface they can use. For the hard core macro photographer, that sucks.

One thing a hard core photographer can live without is the Anti Alias filter. Leica and Nikon have already demonstrated that photographers can deal with the potential issues. The evidence from those products suggest that trading maximum resolution for a safety net is a deal that serious photographers will take every time.

One other simple thing that would be helpful for the hard core shooter would be a countdown timer for bulb mode. When using black glass or doing other very long exposures, out comes the stop watch. There is a clock already in the cameras processor. I can't believe it would take a major effort to display a countdown on the LCD. Saves carrying another piece of equipment and definitely improves precision.

Another area where Sony could be a leader is in the format for raw files. Every camera manufacturer has their own. So when a new camera model comes out, we have to wait several weeks for the raw file software to catch up. DNG would be the obvious choice. I can understand there might be issues there. I worked for a large software manufacturer for some time, and at their core, the idea was always to get their file format to become a standard, and then find a way to charge users a penny every time they opened a file. So a common format has to be free in perpetuity. Open source would be even better.

One last thing on the hard core wish list. And it's about sensor formats. 35mm film is the legacy format, but we are in the digital age now. The full frame aspect ratio of 3:2 is just a holdover from a bygone era. Maybe it's time to think about what's the most flexible aspect ratio rather than what was done decades ago.

The sensor in the A77 and A99 both have sensors that measure 6000 x 4000 pixels. How amazing it would be to have 6000 x 5000. More flexibility to crop. Portraits would be much easier.

It's understood that there will be fewer sensor chips out of each silicone wafer, and so the cost has to increase. And many will say that if going that direction, why not go square? But that costs even more, and it's all about balance. This is the kind of improvement that makes the hard core photographer's heart beat a little faster. And yes, some of the hard core will get a little dreamy eyed over the prospect of a 6000 x 5000 sensor. Count me in that group.

That's my wish list. All things that I think are relatively straightforward to do, and don't require major investments in new technology. But for the hard core photographer, those little extras would make a world of difference. And best of all, they add a few extra reasons for hard core Canon and Nikon users to make a move.

So here's wishing for an A77-HC and A99-HC in the not so distant future.

Thanks for listening Mr. Sony.

Blog post with images here

 MeanGene2's gear list:MeanGene2's gear list
Sony SLT-A77 Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Sigma 120-400mm F4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM Carl Zeiss Biogon T* 2/35 ZM +1 more
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