The sheer prodigality and variety of blooms in this part of the country amazes me – Spring in Maryland and Virginia is a cornucopia of beautiful blooms in succession and just when the dogwoods were peaking and the redbuds leafing out, I suddenly started seeing cascades of lavender-purple flowers tumbling over fences, drooping over country roadways – most of these are hard to photograph, since it’s hard to pull over in the heavy traffic conditions.

Even when one is able to find a good spot close enough to park and walk over, the lighting may be just plain bad. The subtle colors of the wisteria require just a bit of warming sun to bring out the purple, otherwise the flowers come out looking overly blue. The best time is morning or late afternoon light, when there is a tinge of red present…

The best way to ensure that the lighting is okay is to mark your spots, preferably where one can park safely for a few minutes and return at a later time when the sun is just right. However, one can get lucky, as I did a couple of days ago on my way back from work. I spotted these magnificent specimens on Glenview Road and on Travilah road in Gaithersburg, MD. I had the Sony Alpha with the Sony 18-200 and a polarizer, and the zoom range of the Sony lens allowed me take these without leaving the car.


Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April

Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April
Wisteria in April

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700; Sony 18-200mm f/2.5-f/6.3 lens; Polarizer.



Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

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I’ve been so busy testing all my Olympus mount Zuiko and Kirons and Vivitars as well as the Minolta AF, Sigma, Tamron and Phoenix lenses on the Sony Alpha 700 that I feel that I haven’t really had a chance to use the Sony lens that I bought along with the Sony A700 body. It’s the Sony 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 lens, officially named the SAL18200.

Coming from the manual lenses world, I originally had some trepidation with regards to the extended 1:11 zoom ratio, but I have been pleasantly surprised. Prior to this, the largest zoom ratio lens I owned is the Kiron 28-210mm super-zoom (1:7.5 zoom ratio) for Olympus mount. The Kiron is an awesome lens, but it’s bulky and heavy.

There used to be a time when designing lenses with such large zoom ratios used to mean accepting that there would have to be a compromise in the performance, particularly at the shorter end of the zoom, but Sony has some how managed to make it work. Sony even has a lens with an even larger zoom ratio, the SAL18250 (18-250mm) which has a mind boggling 1:13.9 or 1:14 zoom ratio.

In 35mm format terms, this lens is equivalent to a 27mm-300mm zoom lens, which pretty much covers every shooting situation that one is likely to encounter in casual photography. It’s a very well built lens, but I admit I’d have been happier if the lens had a metal mount like all my beautiful Minolta AF lenses instead of a cheesy hard plastic mount. But such is life. Industrial plastics get tougher, lighter and stronger every year, so I’m not complaining too much, though.

The one thing I am really happy about is that the SAL18200 a Sony “Made in Japan” lens – I expect that the production will soon shift to their Chinese or Malaysian plant. The fact that the China plant didn’t pass the official Chinese quality inspection doesn’t leave me with a lot of confidence in the facility, so I was happy to pony up the few extra dollars for the Japan made label. Maybe I’m just being paranoid, but that’s me.

The brochure states that the lens has a close focus of about 18 inches, but I have found in practice that it can focus as close as 12 inches at full extension – that’s at the 200mm focal length (300mm) so it’s very useful for close-ups as well as any general photography.

The lens is short – about 4 inches or so, with a 62mm filter, so its about 3 inches thick at its widest point. It’s short enough that the lens barrel doesn’t obstruct the on-board flash even when focusing close. The lens gave me a petal hood as well, which mounts very easily, and I reverse the hood on the lens body for easy transport.

The lens has focal length markings at 18mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm, 100mm, 135mm and 200mm (APS format) which correspond to 27mm, 52mm, 75mm, 112.5mm, 150mm, 202.5 and 300mm in 35mm format.

Here’s a series of photographs taken at each focal length detent mark. These pictures were taken at Christman Park in Gaithersburg.

Sony SAL18200 18mm (27mm)
Sony SAL18200 35mm (52mm)
Sony SAL18200 50mm (75mm)
Sony SAL18200 75mm (112.5mm)
Sony SAL18200 100mm (150mm)
Sony SAL18200 135mm (202.5mm)
Sony SAL18200 200mm (300mm)
Sony SAL18200 the Menhir

Sony SAL18200 Lens- Christman Park
Sony SAL18200 Lens- Christman Park
Sony SAL18200 Lens- Christman Park
Sony SAL18200 Lens- Christman Park
Sony SAL18200 Lens- Christman Park
Sony SAL18200 Lens- Christman Park
Sony SAL18200 Lens- Christman Park

Photographed with a Sony A700, Sony 18-200mm f/3.5 –f/6.3 lens



Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

I headed off to the Great Falls park last Saturday (02/02/08) to hike along the river and photograph the falls. It was beautiful out there… about 50 degrees – perfect hiking weather, although the trails and towpath were still muddy. I was carrying my Sony Alpha 700 and 2 lenses – a Sigma AF 28-80mm and the Tamron 70-300mm. The Tamron was for closeup views of the raging waters. The Sigma is a recent acquisition, and I was trying it out.

It’s still early in February, and we’ve already had a lot of rain in Montgomery county – the average rainfall for February is about 2.85 inches here, and by the 2nd, we already had about 3 inches… which means, every stream in the county is overflowing and that the Potomac is running full already. Normally, we’d have to wait until the Spring thaws.

Since my intent was to photograph the falls, I did not mind lugging along the heavy Tamron, but on my way over there, I was thinking about the most desirable characteristics for a hiking lens – good zoom range, rugged, light, cheap, close up capability etc. At the same time, the optical characteristics of the lens should be good enough that you don’t regret the quality of the pictures when you get back.

The more I thought about it, the Sigma I was carrying seemed to be the perfect fit. After all, it had a zoom range of 28-80mm, which is a 42-120mm on the Sony A700. Besides, it has a plastic body, which makes it lightweight. Great optical quality with multicoated aspherical lenses, very cheap so it would not matter if it was damaged or lost – and it has a 1:2 Macro capability, for those occasional very close-up shots of interesting grass or moss or little critters that I might come across.

I would have liked at least 35mm at the wide-angle, but I’ve found that in the open woodlands and hilly areas of Maryland , even a 50mm is sufficiently wide, since one can always step back a few paces to include more of the scene. The Sigma 28-80mm definitely qualified as a Cheap Awesome Lens. Some may complain about the “cheap” build quality – it’s plasticky – but one can’t fault it optically for the price.

The 1:2 macro capability is only at 80mm f/5.6 (120mm f/5.6 on the Sony Alpha 700) and is is a matter of moving a switch on the lens from Normal to Macro position to lock it. Now, f/5.8 is pretty slow, I was able to get decent images even at 100 ISO. I’m not complaining, since I can always increase the ISO to compensate. However, in Winter, with no overhead tree canopy and bright sunlight, it beats carrying an extra lens for the rare occasion one might want to take a real close up.
Here are some of the pictures at the Falls and along the Towpath. The river is very impressive this week.


The Tamron is a beast on the Sony Alpha 700 – it’s equivalent to 105mm-450mm and fairly fast for such a large focal length f/3.5 at the shorter end, and f/5.6 at the 450mm end. Fast enough to handhold at 100 ISO on a bright day. It’s a macro lens as well, and goes to 1:4 along the entire focal length range, which is pretty impressive. This is another Cheap Awesome Lens.Tamron 70-300mm– Potomac River and Towpath.


Potomac River

Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River

Potomac River 1/5 sec exposure
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River

Sigma 28-80mm – Potomac River

Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River 1/5 second
Potomac River 1/5 second
Potomac River
Potomac River
Potomac River

Sigma 28-80mm Canal and Towpath

Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath – macro
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath

Sigma 28-80mm Great Falls Tavern

Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Tavern
Gate at Widewater
Great Falls

Sigma 28-80mm – Great Falls Tavern

Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern
Great Falls Tavern

Sigma 28-80mm – Canal and Towpath

Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath
Canal and Towpath

Sigma 28-80mm Macro Photos (approx 8-10 inches)

Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro
Sigma 28-80mm macro

Tamron 70-300mm


Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls
Great Falls

Tamron – Wildlife

Wildlife
Wildlife
Wildlife

Tamron

Lichens on Rock
Lichens
Wildlife

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700, Sigma 28-80mm f/3.5-f/5.6 Aspherical Macro 1:2 and Tamron 70-300mm f/3.9-f5.6, ISO 100, Circular Polarizer.



Creative Commons License
olympus/zuiko by Ajoy Muralidhar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
text and images © 2008 ajoy muralidhar. all names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympus/zuiko.

These were the first batch of pictures taken with the Alpha 700 – my wife took the camera to my daughter’s school for the obligatory Santa visit. She just used it on the full Auto setting, letting the camera do it’s thing. This is pretty much right out of the box, and she did not even have the chance to even go through the “quick” version of the manual. We’re both familiar with the operation of our Minolta Dynax 800si, and that was enough.

The lighting in the building was Fluorescent, but she did not compensate for that in the White Balance – this is just the Alpha 700 doing its thing. The lens was the Sony 18-200mm. The Auto setting used ISO 800. As can be seen, it’ll take a while to get to learn and use all the menus and features, but the camera can be used pretty much right out of the box (allowing for a little time to at least partially charge the battery, of course!)

Santa’s Visit
Santa’s Visit
Santa’s Visit

Photographed with a Sony Alpha 700 and Sony 18-200 f/3.5-6.3 Lens. Camera was set to AUTO mode (ISO 800) with Image Stabilization ON, Auto White Balance.


text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. all product names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympuszuiko, have a great day!

I thought I’d share my experience regarding the Alpha 700 firmware update.. I was updating from Version 1.0 to 3.0, and I was a little nervous (naturally), but I need not have worried. It went smooth as silk. I took the precaution of using a new CF card though, and I formatted the CF card ‘in camera’.

I then downloaded the executable to my computer, and doubleclicked it to get the APP file. I transferred the APP file to the formatted CF card using my computer and card reader device.

The update procedure is very simple – just put in the Card in the camera CF slot, close it, and turn the camera on while holding the menu button down. The camera reads the card, and opens the upgrade dialog. Select OK and the upgrade starts. It takes a couple of minutes, and then the camera reboots. That’s it. Its upgraded to Version 3. Happy shooting!

P.S. – I was just reminded by Matt Barber that I should remove the APP file from the CF card after the upgrade. I forgot to mention that I reformatted the card again before using it. :). Thanks, Matt. Also, I do have a couple of M42 lenses, but the bulk of my old manual lenses are Olympus mount. They should keep me busy for a while…


Text and images © 2007 ajoy muralidhar. All product names, websites, brands and technical data referenced are the copyright or trademark of their respective owners. thank you for visiting olympuszuiko, have a great day!