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Field/Site Testing the A550

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Post Options Post Options   Quote gil2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Field/Site Testing the A550
    Posted: 12 November 2009 at 20:17
Finding faults with the A550 is easy if one is looking for it. Online write ups and forum critiques are already celebrating its doomsday features like small/tunneling VF, protruding LCD, two-tone body colorings at least for the U.S. version, no video, control/buttons lay-out, new off/on switch configuration and placement, no joy stick in the 4-way controller, no MLU, no program shift, etc. On the other hand, the growing number (anything more than 1 could be considered as growth) of users are highlighting its better high ISO noise control, live view, AF, colors, etc performances as endearing experiences in their continuing adventure with the A550. Cost-wise, it seems to be a good value too.

Since I consider the camera as a tool in my pursuit of the enjoyment of nature; I will note the apparent, perceived or real deficiencies but at the same time will aggressively exploit its advantages, if any. All test shots were done in JPG, hand held and some quick PP just to illustrate briefly a potential. Shooting conditions were from sunny to cloudy/overcast and locations were from my backyard to my favorite birding area and walk trails.

Performance observations with test shots are in the responses below. The observations are only true to the copies of the body and lenses I used and can’t be considered a generalization.


Edited by brettania - 13 November 2009 at 01:28
 



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gil2 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gil2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 November 2009 at 20:22
A550 Test: Could it do BIFs?

This is the first question in my mind since I do about 75%-80% birding shots with roughly 80% of it in BIF. Its announced 5 fps seems to be working well and comparable to the A700 (based from feel and responses). The 7 fps in shutter priority mode is mostly for static or same focal length subjects as the focus and exposure locks only on the 1st frame. I tried it in a BIF pan hoping the focal length stays briefly in the moment of capture but only 2 in 10 shot burst captures seems to be usable.

It has 9 point AF point with center cross while the A700 has 11 ADF points with double center cross. It seems this difference is what was giving me some focus hesitancy from the A550 when there is busy background during BIF capture using center AF point (of course canít use wide AF or the AF locking would be everywhere). This is a constant observation with the Bigma but with the prime Tokina 300mm f4 and Sigma 300mm f2.8, the hesitancy was lesser. It looks like A550 loves prime lenses (we might say that for every camera body but my A700 copy performs well with zooms, primes, manual and cheap lenses). For good light condition and less busy background, the AF seems to be on par with my A700. Low light condition performance appears to be a bit better but I have not taken that much low light situation with the A700 to have a good feel.

From medium birds to big ones (small ones are always a challenge) BIFs, the A550 could do well.

American Coot (aka Mudhen) One of the 8-9 burst shots. Originally under exposed as I was metering for the American White Pelicans when it flew in front of me. Cropped and some PP.


Brown Pelican in a diving mood. The only one processed from about 40 shots. Will process some more.


Green Heron about to land. The background was actually the reeds/grasses reflections in the lake bank.


American White Pelican about to land. Also got many shots but only few processed as mostly were basic flight shots with either wings up and down flapping. Big and slow, one of the easiest BIF to do but need to watch out for your exposure.



Yellow Rumped Warbler aerial feeding. Pic below is in relation to the frame. Other link to the original size below.


Links to the original size for details of the Yellow Rumped Warbler above. Taken with the Tokina 300mm f4. Similar shots available.
http://art4less.smugmug.com/2009-Images/A550-Test-Shots/10222328_yKE8z#711183574_9RooV-O-LB

http://art4less.smugmug.com/2009-Images/A550-Test-Shots/10222328_yKE8z#711183662_5YjVf-O-LB

http://art4less.smugmug.com/2009-Images/A550-Test-Shots/10222328_yKE8z#711183626_uX8sy-O-LB
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gil2 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gil2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 November 2009 at 20:24
A550 Test: High ISO Noise Performance?

Long time ago, when it is overcast/cloudy, I donít go birding unless I am caught while in the field but even in the field, I might take some shots for practice but oftentimes would go home early. My KM5D gave me some tolerable ISO 800 before which I didnít find in the A100 or the A700 (my testing of the A900 and A850 did not involve high ISO). From some field shots, it looked like the A550 high ISO BIFs is workable up to ISO 1600. I could have lowered a bit the shutter speed in the sample shots below to further improve noise but will need more play time.

(Double Breasted ?)Cormorant: No PP


With quick/basic PP


Emergency shot with quick/basic PP


Grebe: Emergency shot with quick/basic PP. Should be at 1/1600 only for shutter speed.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote gil2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 November 2009 at 20:27
A550 Test: Fun, not so Fun Stuff and Others

The built-in HDR is a fun stuff. Since I basically a manual setup person where I just adjust shutter, aperture, ISO and WB around 80% of the time, the HDR setup shift would save me several steps finding the right combinations for low light or against the light situations. Also resulting HDR seems to have lesser noise and a quicker PP could be applied, reducing workflow timing.

For flower shots, the 14MP is an overkill as a 4MP setup is very much usable unless one wants to get as much details as possible.

The live view and articulating LCD is not that fun for me for my style of shooting at 100% hand held. For my low level flowers and macro shots, using the LCD forces me to keep it at a distance disengaging a bit my arms from a clipped position against my body side. Furthermore, it takes some steps to position the LCD to the desired angle. Note as well that I often use manual lens for flower shots that I really need to look closely in the LCD for focus check. The built-in manual focus check is another extra step that I find cumbersome. My right angle finder works well and faster for me.

The small tunneling VF is actually not an issue for me as I am mostly interested in the center area only. The thicker black borders actually serves like a painters view finder where one can easily confirm extent of composition without having the eyes travel to the edges.   

A quick HDR backlit indoor snap. Should be daylight WB. Now need to find outside model as the daughter wonít pose and the wife keeps on volunteering. No PP. Snaps like this on the A700 would take a while to get the right settings and would generally be noiser.


Another HDR snap. Saves me time. Small movements though creates ghosting.


Might be landscape worthy as the details is more than good enough for me but maybe not for others.


Two stacked TCs in here with the Sigma 300mmm f2.8. Hand held. Used the Sigma 1.4X EX DG TC which did not register on top of the 2X Vivitar TC which registered; thus, exif will only show 900mm vs. 1260mm actual (inclusive of crop factor). Image was downsized as there was already degradation at larger size. Maybe good for image stacking. Quick/basic PP here.


Flower shot with a $25 manual lens (Schneider Kreuznach Tele-Xenar 135mm f3.5 in Exacta mount)




Stills are also ok. Green Heron at f3.5


A pair of American White Pelicans in morning light (thus the warmer cast).


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Post Options Post Options   Quote The-Maxx Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 November 2009 at 20:38
wow!
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Turerkan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 November 2009 at 02:13
what a review.. and astounding pictures.. as the maxx said, "wow!".
 



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Post Options Post Options   Quote Roger Rex Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 13 November 2009 at 07:36
Thanks so much for taking the time to post this highly informative thread - a mini tutorial with some wonderful shots. I am not a frequent BIF shooter but always try when the opportunity presents itself. Your images/text where enjoyable to follow and helpful as well. The last shot is especially nice, more so if the rock wasn't there. Again, thanks for taking the time to share your test results with us.   
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Frankman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 November 2009 at 16:04
Excellent review. Your images show that in capable hands, the camera performs well. It's always a pleasure to see your work Gil.


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Post Options Post Options   Quote samyboy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 November 2009 at 16:16
Nice to see a picture of a brown pelican. Just this week it was taken off the Endangered Species List by the US Govment.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Micholand Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 November 2009 at 19:31
Thanks for putting in the time and effort to make this available for us
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Post Options Post Options   Quote dilettante Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 November 2009 at 19:37

That green heron (both shots) is a handsome bird!

Thanks for the review and great images.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote napo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 November 2009 at 11:46
I missed this post but thanks to the exhibition (green heron) a saw it today. Wonderful photos gil2!! Thanks for posting and testing your new toy and sharing it with us........
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Post Options Post Options   Quote LuisLopes320 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 November 2009 at 12:01
Very good results man, very nice indeed. Sony still delivers. And you too, nice hand ;)
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Post Options Post Options   Quote hnz Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 November 2009 at 12:08
Great pictures and a great review

Thanks a lot!
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