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Sony a65: the new standard in digital photography

The Sony a65, premiered during the summer of 2011, alongside the a77, is a step forward for Sony. Offering a 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor, 10 fps continuous shooting rate, full-time live view and phase-detection AF as well as numerous other features that it shares with its higher end sibling. The a65 is unique in its market segment. On paper, the a65 is a significantly more interesting camera in some respects than its peers like the Canon EOS 7D and Nikon D7000.

Of particular interest is Sony’s SLT (single lens translucent) design, with its ability to offer DSLR-style autofocus in live view, having eliminated the need for a prism and flip-up mirror. As a result, this allows for a higher shooting rate and a more silent operation, as well as real-time live view. In addition, without the mirror/prism design of traditional DSLRs, the A65 pushes the technology considerably further, with the introduction of a high-resolution XGA OLED electronic viewfinder.

Having used the Sony a65 during the past year, in a variety of shooting situations, with a number of different Sony lens, I have come to admire its competent capabilities. The camera feels superbly in the hand, the electronic viewfinder (EVF), with its excellent refresh rate, is brighter and clearer than an optical viewfinder, and the on-board menus are clearly displayed. It’s the perfect blend of camera and computer in one package optimized for the aspiring photographer.

Here is a video of the Sony a65:

Hirshhorn Museum

Modern art at the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC.

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Happy Hour

On a recent Friday evening, a friend asked if I wanted to attend happy hour at a nearby establishment. Since I’m not usually into the bar scene (been there, done that), I was pretty ambivalent about going to another gathering of strangers to make superficial small talk at the end of a long and tiring work week.

The term “happy hour” always seem weirdly strange to me. Are the people who attend really “happy” or is this type of gathering ever limited to an hour?

From what I’ve read, it seems that the idea of holding “happy hours” is an attempt by restaurant owners to attract customers to frequent their establishments during the slower times of the day between the lunch crowd and the evening dinner crowd. Therefore, during the 4 pm to 8 pm time slot, owners would entice customers with reduced drink and appetizer prices.

According to Acton, Adams and Packer (2006), in their book, Origin of Everyday Things, the term “happy hour” originated with the United States Navy in the 1920s, when boxing and wrestling matches were scheduled on-board ships to entertain sailors on long voyages.

During the Prohibition years (1920 – 1933), the manufacture, sale, transportation, importation, and exportation of intoxicating liquors within the United States were prohibited.  As a result, citizens began operating illegal drinking establishments to produce, distribute, and consume illegal alcoholic beverages. Therefore, people could still enjoy a few cocktails before going to dinner at a restaurant where alcohol could not be served.  These illegal drinking establishments held “Happy Hours” for citizens who were daring enough to break the law.

After some mental deliberations, I decided to attend this particular “happy hour”, in part, because I wanted to try out a new lens. The lens is the Sony DT 35mm F1.8 for APS-C sensors, providing the full frame equivalent of 53mm. As a DT lens and a member of the Sony “easy choice” lens range, it is very affordable, turning in a stellar performance. Check out the excellent review here.

This particular happy hour was held at Jackson’s, in Reston, VA. As I approached the place, I sensed the cool and dry evening, with the sun beginning its journey below the horizon. As I train my eyes on the establishment, the mob of bodies was clearly visible a block away, like a gathering of assorted animals at a water hole in the arid Serengeti Dessert; there were big ones and small one, short one and tall ones. Some were colorful, while others were quite drab. The odor of pheromones was not too noticeable, though certain peer-to-peer stereotypical behaviors were easily observed.

Walking through the front door, I had an uneasy feeling in my gut, scanning the scene for the leader of our pack. After a few minutes of wandering around, I settled among a group of familiar people.

The evening turned out better than I had anticipated. Although the liquid refreshments never wavered from the usual, the local food in this section of the Serengeti was quite satisfying. I met a number of interesting denizens, providing me the opportunity to test my lens. A couple of us broke away from the masses to sample the local flora and fauna.

             Sesame Crusted Tuna

85mm F2.8 Lens

On a warm sunny April day, I had a chance to venture out for a brief experiment with lighting and bokeh. I used an 85mm lens, opened to its maximum aperture of F2.8. Although wider apertures, such as F1.8 and F1.4, are available for the 85mm lens,the F2.8 lens represents a significant savings. The typical cost of the F2.8 lens is less than $300. This is quite a savings compared to the $500 to over $2000 price tag for the same focal length lens of F1.4 or F1.2.

Although a bit slower, F2.8 still falls within the fast lens range, and shooting in daylight, this lens works great. On a cropped sensor (APC-S) camera, the 35mm equivalent would equal to approximately 127mm, producing a nice bokeh effect as seen in the image below of a wood post supporting a fence ringing Fort Ward Park, in Alexandria, VA. At F2.8, the depth of field is quite narrow, as evident from the sharpness of the fence post, with out of focus areas in the background and foreground.

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