With some ‘work in progress’ images from an ongoing documentary project later on….
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If you’ve read this post, you’ll know that after shooting West to East on a cell phone, I embarked upon a more ambitious project using ‘real cameras’, samples from which can be seen here and here. And to begin with it went well. However, I should have known that the satisfied glow I was getting from being able to capture what I wanted fairly easily could not possibly have lasted! So, on cue, everything fell apart: I completed three flight legs in a row and had not one single sharp frame from any of them. Despite hardly being the worst thing that can happen to a person, it drove me absolutely nuts, because I had no idea what was going wrong. Many of the image had great potential and it really burnt to have lost such opportunities. This was particularly the case on the flight to Jalalabad, where some of the scenes were quite unique.
After the third leg of wall-to-wall soft images, I managed to restrain myself from doing an impression of an angry chimpanzee, even though I wanted to. Instead, I pressed my artistic wrist to my artistic forehead and slumped into an artistic depression, cut myself off from all human contact, drank lots of Absinthe and knew that if I could not solve this problem I would have no choice but to cut off my ear. I’ll now explain what transpired and how I managed to keep the ear that was partially detached from my head during a massage in Varanasi India, forcing me to wear a woolly hat for two weeks, while it healed.
The symptoms, when using my Sony A7 and A7R with native lenses, were as follows:
- Images did not appear to be in focus. Ever. They were slightly, but fatally ‘out’.
- I noticed apparent curvature of field that is normally absent with the lenses used. This was sometimes severe. Resulting in one or more edges being noticeably mushy.
- I noticed out of focus ‘patches’ within the frame that were smeared to hell.
Here are some examples, straight out of camera (i.e. looking horrendous due to the lifelessness that 14+ stops of dynamic range will give you from 25,000 feet in hazy light! You’ll also see how much work has to be done in post, which I will write about in another article: the Sony files are not disappointing, despite being lossy compressed RAWs.
Now, remember, I was using the same cameras, the same lenses and set up as I had on several other flights before, which had returned perfect frames. In all cases, I shot the A7 and A7R with native (or adapted lenses). With FE lenses, AF was switched on (and I got focus confirmation) and with the adapted lenses I used infinity focus. I was shooting at apertures in the f4 region, with shutter speeds of 1/1000 to 1/4000th! I tested all gear on land and it worked faultlessly. Hmmmm. What – had – changed?!?!
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