My new F-Stop Black Box, eats my Sony a99 + Zeiss 135mm f1.8 for breakfast!

My new F-Stop Black Box, eats my Sony a99 + Zeiss 135mm f1.8 for breakfast!

What it takes to shoot ballet? main tech inside my bag.

What it takes to shoot ballet? main tech inside my bag.


I had great opportunity to drive to Savonlinna Opera Festival on new Lexus IS300h. Hera are some photos of this road-trip.

Olavinlinna (Olofsborg; literally St. Olaf’s Castle) is a 15th-century three-tower castle located in Savonlinna, Finland. It is the northernmost medieval stone fortress still standing.

Many years this magnificent castle is used as venue for renowned Savonlinna Opera Festivals. Now also for Dance Open ballet festival. This venue just makes magic to happen!

Does Sony HVL-60M overheat? PART II

So, yesterday I was not able to overheat HVL-60M indoor, using E-TTL HSS mode. But it overheated in when I provoked it, using full 1/1 power. Today I performed two tests: (1) out-door shooting, using HVL-60M as fill-in flash in bright daylight at 15 meter (16 yard) shooting distance and (2) indoor test, where I just fired flash in manual mode at 1/2 and 1/1 output levels.

Test 1, outdoor photography

My hypothesis was that using HVL-60M as fill-in flash at sunlight from long distance is pretty hard task because it has to compete with the highlight created by Sun, to fill in shadows.

So, I mounted Carl Zeiss 135mm F1.8 to my Sony SLT-a99 in order to provide space between the subject. Longer distance will stress HVL-60M even more, was my thinking. I abandoned to test the flash in real shoot, saving models. Instead of that I shot a tree :)

I shot mountain pine from 15 meters (16 yards). My camera was in P mode with fill-in flash, 1/160 sec, F4, ISO 100. I had camera in Drive/Lo. I just pressed the shutter button and waited. This as not a real-world situation. Camera just continued and continued, HVL-60M didn’t skip any flash. At least I did’t notice that. I shot 380 continious shots from the 15 m distance in sunshine until I overheated HVL-60M. So, it’s theoretically possible, but I really don’t believe that it ever occurs in my practical use.

Test 2

People from DPreview forum asked to count flashes-to-overheating at lower power levels. Due to time limits I did this test at 1/1 level two times and 1/2 leve also twice. For some reason, I had slightly different numbers, but here are the results:

at 1/1 25-41 flashes until overheating
at 1/2 58-64 flashes overheating


HVL-60M is not going to overheat in real-life shooting scenarios. You are able to provoke overheating, shooting 25-41 flashes at full power or 58-64 flashes at 1/2 power. But it’s not worse than Nikon SB-800, about 25 frames at 1/1.

Guide number 60 is an advantage and disadvantage at the same time. In most cases you need only 1/32 or so and the flash is very capable then, able to shoot 10 fps endlessly, no problem. But flushing all huge energy at 1/1, stresses output electronics and batteries. In this case heat is your enemy.

Would I buy it? No, but because of too high price. At 30-40% lower price, I’ll take it and will trust it in my shoots 100%.

Does Sony HVL-60M overheat?

I’m keen a99 shooter and I love my camera. I do lots of low-light-fast-movement performance shooting and my camera does excellent job. I never use flash, but one has to keep it in the bag. As there is no 3.-rd party flash units for new a99 ISO shoe, only Sony flagship HVL-60M left to my shopping list. Still, forums repeadetly warned about overheating. I decided to test that.
Yesterday I got HVL-60M from local Sony Concept Store for 3 days testing. These are my initial observations.

Summary: does it overheat?
Answer is Yes and No. If you really provoke it, then it does. Turn power to 1/1 and it overheats in 24 shots or so. Holy crap, you might think. No. In regular TTL use I was not able to overheat it.

How did I test

I charged my Panasonic 2100 mAh AA Li-Ion batteries. They were pretty warm, when I installed them into the flast unit, but this is real-world scenario.

I mounted flash to my a99, turned both to Manual. I selected 1/1 flash power from HVL-60M menu and started to take heavily overexposed photos:

Flash recovery is painful 5 seconds (or so) in 1/1 mode. But keep in mind, that it’s a powerful flash, with guide number 60. In real world you rarely or never need full power. After 24.-th shot, overheating icon appeared to LCD.

So, I waited 5-7 minutes or so, until flash cooled down and overheating sign disappeared.

In the second part I switched HVL-60M into TTL mode, letting flash determine power needed and started to shoot in Drive/Hi mode. HVL-60M did’t skip any single frame. Then I switched camera over to super-hi-speed 10 FPS drive mode, so called Tele-zoom Cont. Priority AE. Again, flash kept up with the pace. I shot 250 shots like that and got bored. There was no overheating whatsoever.

Tomorrow I take my camera/flash to outdoor photo-shoot and write about it.

These are my favourite lenses

135 mm F1.7 Zeiss : SAL135F18Z Sonnar T* 135mm F1.8 ZA
85mm F1.4 Zeiss : SAL85F14Z Planar T* 85mm F1.4 ZA

They are heavy! Go to gym before 3-hour 2000-frame photo-shoot. And I guarantee, you still are going to break sweat.

These are my favourite lenses

135 mm F1.7 Zeiss : SAL135F18Z Sonnar T* 135mm F1.8 ZA
85mm F1.4 Zeiss : SAL85F14Z Planar T* 85mm F1.4 ZA

They are heavy! Go to gym before 3-hour 2000-frame photo-shoot. And I guarantee, you still are going to break sweat.

I was priviledged to test and try the road bike with “shock absorbers”, bike that won Paris Roubaix number of times. Specialized Roubaix

Conclusion: its pure road bike, stiff and precise. But it’s saving your back and avoid tires to explode in poor conditions. If you want to save your body, then get it. Highly recommended.

Sony RX1

Had a rare opportunity to test awfully 3k€-pricey Sony RX1. Its full-sensor, fixed lens compact camera. Probably meant for full-sensor DSLR owner, who needs small camera to-go.

As the Carl Zeiss Sonnar 2/35 lens is individually tuned for that specific 24MP sensor, the result is non-compromise solution. Image is insanely sharp and it’s possible to crop tele-shot fragments with huge detail. Awesome!

Conclusion: Buy if you have £££ to spend

Yesterday I had exclusive opportunity to listen superiour Estelon speakers, designed by Alfred Vassilkov and built in Tallinn, Estonia. As Estelon is heading to Europe’s largest specialist trade fair for high-end entertainment High End Munich, they had 2 models for listening: Estelon XB and most affordable 16 000 € Estelon XC (all photos are Estelon XC model).

We took relaxed 1 hour to go through Alfred Vassilkov’s favourite tracks, most of my personal taste. First thing you notice, that sound field and imaging is absolutely translucent. There is a concert hall, church, jazz club or studio, but not speakers — when you close your eyes. Second observation is, that you start to feel the emotion behind the music — all the meaning of ones piece is “tele-ported” to listening room with no loss of feeling. Third observation was that I started to notice imperfections and naturalness of instruments. Natural-natural-natural are 3 words how to characterize Alfred Vassilkov’s masterpiece.

Estelon speakers have exquisite component selection, but what makes it really special is cabinet material. It’s made in a special casting process, the use of a proprietary marble based composite and the extensive use of sub-structural stiffening spars breaks up resonance nodes and creates an internal acoustic chamber of non-parallel sidewalls that is all but immune to unwanted standing waves that can cause a colored sound. To develop the cabinet material, having all needed physical characteristics, took years. The result is, that the cabinet is heavy, bigger XA model weights over 80 Kg, and has virtually “dead material” properties.

Stay tuned, after the High End Munich, I’ll be back at Estelon and shooting their 80 000 € diamond-tweeter flagship model.

How to shoot the moon?

Sony a99 + 500mm F8 Reflex + tripod;
Manual mode, AF, 1/15, F8, ISO 400

How to shoot the moon?

Sony a99 + 500mm F8 Reflex + tripod;
Manual mode, AF, 1/15, F8, ISO 400

How to get rid of chromatic aberration in Lightroom

Lately I tested pretty good camera with cheap kit lens. It wasn’t big surprise, that I found pretty bad chromatic aberration there. But if you use Lightroom, it’s easy to get pretty much rid of them.

For regular family snapshots Samsung 18-55 III is OK lens, but not for landscape photography. This shot is directly from the camera. I shot RAW, full 20Mpx resolution. There is lack of sharpness at f22 and severe chromatic aberration in the corners.

Sony a99 + Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 1,8/135 ZA

Sony 50mm SAL50F14 50mm f/1.4 Lens

Pretty soft full open, but at f1.7 it’s sharp. So, do not open it up! All photos shot by Sony a99 RAW, not processed, just cropped. Looking forward to get Sony 50mm f/1.4 Carl Zeiss Planar T* ZA Lens, available in July-Aug 2013.

All portraits shot at F1.4 - F1.7 - F2.5.

Sony VG-C99AM vertical grip for Sony SLT a99

Doubles nicely all controls to exactly the same positions to shoot in portrait. Adds 2 additional Sony NP-FM500H infoLithium batteries, makes possible to switch them during shooting :) Whenever it’s needed. Extends usage in theory to 1500 shots without battery replacement (be conservative). Batteries are depleted sequentially. Running battery is magnified, onm the left. First a99 uses #1, then #2 bettery from the grip and only then the one in the camera body itself. So, its possible to change batteries in the grup when shooting the last battery in the body. a99 on steroids ;)