Tools - jphelps2630


Moonrise over the Labyrinth


I don't really like to have a lot of camera gear to carry around. For a long time, I had a Nikon D300 within 18-200 zoom lens. It worked great and was incredibly durable. But it also weighed about as much as a half-gallon of milk and didn't really work that great for just walking around. It was big, heavy and conspicuous.

When Sony came out with the NEX-7, I had to give it a try. I thought there's no way it's going to replace the Nikon but it would be a good camera to have as a backup. The Nikon ended up on the shelf and didn't get used again. Finally sold it a couple of weeks ago. The Sony weighs about one third as much and is arguably a much more capable camera.

It seems like D300 was designed by camera guys. It could just as easily have been a film camera. Digital seems incidental. The NEX-7 seems like it was designed by computer guys with a clean slate. It's incredibly capable with built-in capability for panoramas, HDR, bracketing and lowlight modes. Big improvement in creative potential.

Tamron has a great 18-200 zoom lens that fits Sony E mounts like the NEX-7. It's light, sharp and image stabilized. It's also not too big to cart around all day long.

Needing a backup camera for a photo workshop, I picked up a Sony A6000. It cost half as much as the NEX-7 and is even better. Much better thought out controls and menuing. Incredibly fast focusing.

The only other thing I've got is a 10-18 zoom lens which gives me lenses from 10 mm all the way out to 200.

So bottom line, two small mirrorless cameras and two lenses.

Computers and software

Recently upgraded to Photoshop CC from CS5. I've got Lightroom 5 but actually prefer ACDSee Pro. It seems much more intuitive generally easier to use. Don't think you give up anything in terms of quality or functionality.

Use Photomatix for HDR images and often work with Topaz Detail, Simplify and ReMask. The picture that comes out of the camera is usually just a starting point. It's rare for me to use it as is. At least half the fun is teasing an interesting image of something with promise that just needs a bit of work in Photoshop.

All this software runs on a custom-built system with an i7-2600k overclocked to 4.4 GHz. It's running Windows 7 64-bit and boots from a Samsung Pro 256 GB SSD. The graphics card is an Asus Nvidia 750 driving two Dell monitors – 27" and 24". The 27" is an Ultra-sharp which covers something like 99% of the Adobe 1998 standard color space. I've also got in Microsoft Surface Pro 3 for traveling.