Why I switched from CANON to SONY for my photography.

April 04, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Sometimes I get asked why I switched from Canon to Sony for my cameras. I work at Robert's Camera in downtown Indianapolis selling and renting camera gear, so I am acquainted with the different brands of cameras including Nikon, Olympus and Fuji as well. My first D-SLR (digital-single lens reflex) camera was a Canon 20D which, along with various lens and flashes, were what I used to shoot my way through several weddings, senior and family sessions plus vacations and other fun photo times.


A few years ago I bought my first, non-traditional mirrorless camera. The D-SLRs I had been using up until that time had mirrors in them.  In these cameras, after composing my picture in the optical viewfinder, the mirror swung up and out of the way and the shot was taken. In the new little Sony mirrorless camera I had purchased (my second one!) there was no mirror, so no optical viewfinder but it did come with an electronic viewfinder (EVF) instead! This meant that whatever the digital sensor saw, *I* saw as I looked through it! Being a manual settings shooter this meant as I adjusted up my exposure I was able to not only see the exposure meter rise, but also the image getting brighter. It was an amazing experience! (see images below, including some taken with the new full frame Sony α7s II mirrorless!)

By now I had a full-frame, 35mm sensor Canon 5D Mark II and a fair amount of fancy L-series (luxury) glass lenses.  Until the mirrorless experience I was used to taking an image on the Canon and then holding my camera away from my face and looking at the image playback on the LED screen on the back. This was often irritating if it was a bright, sunny day out as I was not able to see the image on the screen. Even trying to shield the screen with an arm or inside a jacket was not helpful. So my outdoor professional work was often frustrating while my fun photography pleasurable! Let me say it this way: USING A LIVE VIEW ON THE BACK OF A MODERN D-SLR IS ABOUT AS EASY AS TRYING TO SEE AND TAKE PICTURES ON A BRIGHT SUNNY DAY USING OUR CELL PHONES - IT ISN'T!! If the camera does NOT offer a EVF as well as a live view screen, you are often sunk.

TIME TO UPGRADE! When the time came to update my 5D Mark II to something else, like the Canon 5D Mark III, I stopped to noodle what I should do.  I was truly spoiled by my little mirrorless and since Canon did not have a big mirrorless option I looked over at Sony's larger format sensor offerings. Enter the Sony α99 (alpha 99) with its translucent mirror technology. With the translucent mirror that remained in place and allowed the image to pass right to the image sensor and be viewed live through the EVF (electronic viewfinder) I had found my Canon replacement! I sold my old Canon gear and fancy lenses, etc. to UsedPhotoPro at Robert's Camera and put the money toward a new α99 35mm full frame camera. I also needed a top shelf lens and opted for the Sony Zeiss 24-70 2.8 lens.  The α99 had an image stabilized body so any lens I put on it, including old Minolta glass (Sony bought out Minolta), was stabilized too. This opened up the door for all sorts of fun. I also got an adapter for the little Sony mirrorless I had (NEX-7) so I could use the larger Sony and Minolta lenses (another topic for another post!). From this point my pro and fun photography lives experienced full convergence and I could not be happier!

The EVF is one of the biggest reasons for my switch but not the only. I do like Zeiss glass. I also enjoy the "flippy" screens - my α99 has a articulating screen that is second to none and can be easily swiveled to just about any shooting position I may desire.  The low light capture, high ISO, dynamic range optimization and built-in HDR (high dynamic range) is a hallmark of Sony across the brand. It has been a WIN-WIN for my photography!

EVF images, α99. [Taken with a mobile phone so pardon the quality]

  EVF-1EVF-1Downtown skyline, taken from Riley Tower 1 EVF-1EVF-1Downtown skyline, taken from Riley Tower 1

New α7S II images taken with an actual Sony α7s II mirrorless camera!

Old school Wico Atari-style joystick with Sony Zeiss e-mount 16-35 lensOld school Wico Atari-style joystick with Sony Zeiss e-mount 16-35 lensOld school Wico Atari-style joystick with Sony Zeiss e-mount 16-35 lens
 Old school Wico Atari-style joystick with Sony Zeiss e-mount 16-35 lens

Riley Towers Outdoor Lounge, Grilling & Pool area! Shot with Sony 85 1.4G lens.Riley Towers Outdoor Lounge, Grilling & Pool area! Shot with Sony 85 1.4G lens.Riley Towers Outdoor Lounge, Grilling & Pool area! Shot with Sony 85 1.4G lens.
  Riley Towers Outdoor Lounge, Grilling & Pool area! Shot with Sony 85 1.4G lens.

COMMODORE a company on the edge

March 06, 2017  •  Leave a Comment
Really enjoying 'COMMODORE a company on the edge'. I have read and have enjoyed lots of books about Commodore over the years but I have not found one as thorough as this volume. It starts out with the early Commodore calculator business and gets right into how computers became part of what Commodore ultimately became. It is the most detailed account I have ever read. I was 19 years old at the time (in 1981) when I got my second computer (VIC-20 after the silly and soon returned Sinclair ZX81). I recall driving around and visiting computer stores in Omaha, Nebraska and many of them only had the PET computers from the last part of the 1970s. I am still thankful that the adults in most of those stores explained to me the differences between my new wiz-bang Vic color computer and the larger, 40 and 80 column PET CBMs; even popping the 'hood' and showing me the insides! So this books puts all that time period in perspective for me in a way a Commodore VIC and/or a C64 or a Commodore consumer computer only history book never could.
Now I know why ComputerLand never had Commodores and why the Apple II flew ahead and how Apple tried to rewrite early microcomputer history to name a few things. If you love Commodore you owe it to yourself to buy or check out a copy of this book. It is in its second edition. And there is a follow up book about the Amiga years. Over 500 pages. It is a real page tuner for me! =]


Lightroom Culling Tip #1

February 19, 2017  •  1 Comment

I think the best Lightroom tips that have been shared with me or that I have learned over the years have to do with KEYBOARD shortcuts and today's tip is no exception.

One of the reasons we use Lightroom is to quickly sort through tons of images. To cull is to sort and I want to make the culling as quick and as painless as possible. So my big tip here is to use TWO main keys only to make the sorting process painless. After you create your catalog in Lightroom and import your new images (1:1 Build Preview speeds up the culling, just give it a while to build all the full-sized previews!) double click on the first newly imported image with your mouse (in the Library module) and then push that mouse aside.  From here we will use just the keyboard.

If you LIKE your first image just tap on the 'P' key on your keyboard to tell Lightroom you like it. If you make a mistake in the picking just tap on the 'U' key to unpick it. Then tap the right arrow key to move forward to the next full sized preview image. Tap 'P' if you like that or tap the right arrow key to skip it if you don't.  Do this all the way until you reach the end of the imported images.

Now tell Lightroom to just show you all the PICKED images. Easy as pie - just drop down the Edit menu, and choose 'Select Flagged Photos'.  This will highlight all those you picked. Now make a Quick Collection by right clicking on any of the highlighted photos and choosing 'Add to Quick Collection'. Finally click on the Quick Collection+ under Catalog in the left panel and you will now only be dealing with those you picked!! Before you make any changes drop down the Edit menu again and chose 'Select None' (or press Ctrl/Cmd+D on your keyboard). This way you won't accidentally make changes to all those Quick Collection items at the same when you think you are just changing one image.

Final Speed Tip. Tap on your CapsLock key on your keyboard to turn on CapsLock and each time you tap on the 'P' key it will pick the image and then automatically move to the next image saving you from having to tap on the right arrow key! If you prefer to go back and forth in your newly imported images (tapping the right arrow & left arrow keys) then this final speed tip may not be for you.


Fast culling leads to getting to editing faster so make use of keyboard shortcuts as often as you can. Today's Culling Tip should really save you some time!

Alienware Graphics Amplifier : Desktop graphics power for my laptop; my impressions.

January 10, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

So I got tired of carrying my old HP 6-core desktop computer to work when I needed to teach a photography software related class. My old 2010 MacBook would no longer cut it to teach Photoshop, HDR or the like so I was forced to load my PC and monitor, keyboard and mouse, cables and cords and such up into a laundry basket and carry it into the classroom. My wife suggested I get a gamer laptop after I got sick of hauling around my desktop computer. I liked that idea, and she knew I also liked to play video games but as I said aloud to the kid at Best Buy: "They are just too expensive!". He assured me this was no longer true.

Long story short I did my research, traded in and sold a bunch of gear I no longer used, and funded my new (refurbished) Alienware 15 4K gaming laptop. Part of the fundage went to purchase not only a new monitor but also the much coveted (at least by me) Alienware Graphics Amplifier.

     Alienware Graphics Amplifier by Dell.com

I joking call this my 'toaster' because it is about the size of one. What this bad-boy does it allow me to open its case and insert a full-fledged, high powered desktop graphics card! Also it lets me hook up a variety of USB devices to its added USB 3.0 ports. In essence it is a "docking station" for when I am at home. I can plug a mouse and external keyboard into it and even a USB hub to allow more USB devices. The GTX980 card I have in there powers three monitors which has been handy for me. If you have never used a multiple monitor computer you do not know what you are missing. Once you try it, you will never go back to a single monitor.

I rarely use my laptop as strictly a laptop. I am not a fan of the small screen and laptop keyboard. But for teaching or meeting with clients it is great. At home it thinks it is a full powered desktop computer.

Set up initially was a bit of a challenge, but after I updated drivers and such it has never failed me. For games or videos or Photoshop, Lightroom - or whatever; it performs exceedingly well. After all, if it plays games well; it will 'play' everything else well too. And it does.  Eventually I will want to swap out last year's graphics card for a new model. My Alienware Graphics Amplifier has "future proofed" my little laptop. My current laptop's processor won't support VR (virtual reality) sadly, but a new model Alienware will and I hope I can take my Graphics Amplifier to whatever model is in my future.  VR is amazing. I have tried it and plan a blog post about that soon.

            Open it up and put in a powerful video card. A long thick
           cable hooks it to your laptop and is easy to plug and unplug.

If you want a portable system that is also a powerful system this might be for you! I have no stock in Dell and other companies have similar options so do your research if it is time to get a new computer. It allows you to have the best of all worlds!

If you have any QUESTIONS for me or COMMENTS just click the Comment link above. I would appreciate a LIKE as well at the button on the top. Thank you!


Yes you CAN still play (real) arcade games today!

January 07, 2017  •  1 Comment

Did you grow up in the 70s,80s or 90s and miss going to the arcades to play video games (or "playing vids" as we called it)? Well MISS NO LONGER! There are several ways to play actual arcade games today!

Depending on where you live you might still actually be able to play arcade games on actual, real old school arcade game machines. Where I live in Indy (Indianapolis, IN) we have many opportunities. We still have games at some pizza places like Pizza King in Greenwood, IN. There they have a few machines including a combo machine that plays Ms. Pacman & Galaga. However, the BEST PLAY in the IndyMetro is Tappers Arcade Bar. 

At Tappers all the games are set to FREE PLAY so if you go make sure you buy a drink or a snack. They do have some pinball games that cost a quarter or two since those are harder to fix and maintain.

    Tappers Arcade Bar view of pinball machines through the front window

At Tappers the games are all around the outer edges of the room and they have a TON! I enjoyed my all times favs like Donkey Kong & Jr., Galaga and Time Pilot to name a few. It even SOUNDS like a full fledged arcade (b/c it IS one!).  We are moving downtown in a week so expect a more fuller review of Tappers soon (#downtownliving). The whole list of the arcade coin-ops they have are listed on their website linked above.

    A Centipede fan at Tappers with his arcade groupies looking on!

If you have some MONEY TO SPEND there are places like Family Leisure (in Indy) where they will sell you a real arcade game for your game room (or living room if the spouse is up for it!). Most games have more than one game included and they even sell Skee Ball and Super Shot games. See the full offerings and prices (ouch!) at the link above. These are legit licensed games with actual, real high quality arcade controls!

Finally you can spin your own arcade games at home. If you have a Wii or Playstation, XBOX or PC you can buy legit arcade collections too. Check out Gamestop or Steam online for a few options.  Also you can grab a free copy of M.A.M.E. (Multi Arcade Machine Emulator) and some ROMs from the internet to have a near, real arcade experience. I have played Tempest on here with a hurricane spinner and it is nothing short of amazing! Also you can save your 'state' (or place in the game) so you can come back to it at any time to continue. Try that in the arcade! Also you can set the games for free play (like at Tappers) and extra lives, etc. to further help you get through the levels you could never beat when you were pumping quarters into these beasts!  I used to work at Minsky's Pizza Joynt & Arcade in Council Bluffs, Iowa and after hours we'd crack open the games and reprogram them like this. I would go home at 2:00 in the morning with Stargate's (the Defender sequel) graphics and sounds blasting in my head when I tried to close my eyes and go to sleep. Ah the life of a 19 year old in 1981!


They even have arcade controllers you can buy from under $30 to over $300 to use with this for an actual experience from the comfort of your own home.


Finally my old high school best friend Alan Boucher said it best: "It's not how good you are, it's how many quarters you spent."  Ain't that the truth. So spend some time and get out there or do it at home - reliving the arcade game playing part of your youth!