Building my new PC for Lightroom with Ryzen 7 (Part 3: Overclock and Lightroom performance)

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After tons of preparation, comparison and assembly work, the new PC is finally ready. It takes more than a week to solve the hardware, software, drivers and Win10 problems, that’s totally out of my expectation while previous build only takes me only 1-2 days only.

Overclock (OC)

Ryzen 7 1700 has higher performance/price ratio when compared to Ryzen 7 1800x. Tests have shown R7 1700 can be overclocked to 3.9GHZ easily without any heat or stability issue. On the other hand, if you don’t want to overclock and prefer to preserve the default working environment of your CPU, R7 1800x will be a good choice for your.

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You can find demonstrations of different OC methodology in youtube and personally I have tired two different methods (1) with BLCK boosted and (2) without boosted BLCK. Per my experience, I can OC my system to 3.9GHz using either method (1) or (2). Finally I opt for method (2), because the RAID Card (PCIe) is not working properly in method (1). Maybe I push the BLCK too high (>110, while default is 100), although it posts successfully, the system cannot recognize my RAID card if BLCK is boosted.

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So the system runs at 3.9 GHz and Ram speed is 3200 (dual channel).

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RAID

As mentioned in previous post, the x370 chip of MB has been equipped with RAID function. I have compared the performance of between (1)RAID by X370, (2)Win10 storage device or software RAID and (3)Independent RAID card. The result shows that an independent RAID card is leading in I/O speed. Therefore a RAID 0 setup (strip) of 3 x 2T HDD= 6T has been built. IMAG1439.jpg

CPU utilization and LR

This build is primarily aimed to increase the efficiency of using LR. Unfortunately Ryzen has been revealed in many tests that it is not LR friendly.  Why?

Well, the answer is unknown !!

However Ryzen user has commonly observed CPU utilization is always below 50% when running LR export.

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SOURCE

So, if we can improve the CPU utilization, the LR efficiency should be improved too.

I follow some sharing on the web and it significantly helps to improve the CPU utilization as shown below:

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Still, LR can’t reach 100% throughout the whole export process but with 8 core-16 thread works at 80% or above is good enough for me.

Conclusion

This new build is not perfect but it does meet my expectation to boost the system performance especially in using LR.

The raise of Ryzen is a good news to photographer who today relies heavily on PC for post processing and file management. Lightroom has announced a new version is coming and beta testing is undergoing. I hope LR can address the speed issue and fine tune the system not only for Intel but AMD platform.

I think this report has come to an end, let’s re-cap some points:

  1. Overclock R7 1700 to 3.9GHz – > improve overall performance
  2. AMD compatible Ram (3200) – > improve CPU infinity fabrics
  3. Choose a mother board with good power supply design – > provide a stable platform for overclocking.
  4. Disable Win10 HPET – >unleash the full potential of CPU
  5. Use independent RAID card – > alleviate the loading of MB chip
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Building my new PC for Lightroom with Ryzen 7 (Part 2: MB, RAM, RAID and more)

Last post has shared why I finally opt for Ryzen, not Intel.  Now I am going to go a step further, sharing the info I gathered from google search.

Ryzen model

1There were three Ryzen models I was considering; Ryzen 7 1700, 1700x, 1800x. All three of them are from the Ryzen 7 family, their design and architecture are similar.

Initially I prefer 1800x, the “x” implies higher capacity for overclocking. However I was wrong again……

After reading a detailed review on 1700, I think this is the one I am looking for:

Text version: https://www.gamersnexus.net/hwreviews/2827-amd-r7-1700-review-amd-competes-with-its-1800x

Per the review above and my own experience, the Ryzen 7 1700 can easily be overclocked to 4GHz, also it can sustain a 24-7 operation as well as stress test. The overclocking capacity of 1800x seems failed to meet my expectation which can mostly achieve 4.2GHz (max). Of course, if you do not prefer overclocking, 1800x should be a good choice, the payoff is additional 50% premium price.

Motherboard and OC

Three motherboard chipsets are offered by AMD namely X370, B350 and A320. Well B350 should be fine for most user and there should be no observable difference between X370 and B350 in overclocking performance. However most overclocking enabled MB have been positioned as the tier-one MB by manufacturer, so if you go for OC, then very likely you will need to buy the most expensive model, i.e. the X370 MB.

I choose the ASUS Crosshair VI Hero (aka C6H). For an OC MB, I will pay special attention to its power phase design which is critical to maintain sustained system stability. How is this C6H compared to other brand? Honestly I can’t tell. I have been using ASUS MB for years since I build my Intel Core2Due system, so far so good.

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By the way, the average MB price of Ryzen family is significantly lower than that of Intel family. So if you plan to build an Intel system, be prepared to pay more not only for your CPU but the MB.

RAM and AMD’s Infinity Fabric

Be award of the dual channel design of AMD Ryzen architecture. For example, if you install 32G DD4 Ram in Dual Channel+Dual Rank +8G x 4, then the max memory speed support is 1866. In Ryzen, memory speed is related to Infinity Fabric, in short RAM speed will have direct influence on Ryzen CPU performance.  So pay attention when you decide what memory to be installed.

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Source: 

There are growing test revealing the impact of Ram speed on Ryzen CPU performance.

DDR4 Memory Scaling on AMD AM4 Platform – The Best Memory Kit For AMD Ryzen CPUs http://www.legitreviews.com/ddr4-memory-scaling-amd-am4-platform-best-memory-kit-amd-ryzen-cpus_192259

Unlike Intel, Ryzen is new to market therefore some users report compatibility issue on Ram. It seems the issue has been addressed with bios upgrade however I still prefer those models with tested compatibility, just make sure nothing will go wrong. I pick the Gskill Flare DDR4-3200 (F4-3200C14D-16GFX) and the system successfully posted with no extra setting is needed, the MB just recognize this 3200 RAM automatically.

Remark: RGB Ram murdered !!
The design of Ram should be CPU neutral, technically speaking the compatibility issue on Ryzen does not exist. However for RGB Ram, some users have reported RAM killed by Ryzen system. As told, after installed for several days, the motherboard suddenly fails to recognize the RGB ram and apparently the ram is dead !!!!!! You can find out more cases on youtube. Finally the reason has been revealed: It seems some setting within the RGB ram have been altered by the system (software?) and it finally leads to compatibility issue. It can be fixed by revising the SPD info of the RAM however this procedure takes extra time and cost.

Cooling

For OC player, an advanced cooling system is a must. I use Corsair Hydro Series™ H100i GTX which is migrated from my old PC. Before the migration, I realize that the latest Ryzen is not supported by my cooler without a new socket (AM4) mount. The service of local dealer is good and it offers me a new mount for free however it takes me a week to wait.

M.2 and RAID

In Ryzen architecture, the M.2, PCIe x16 (2 lanes) and USB port (some) communicate directly to the CPU and bypass the MB chip. Even-though I have no proof, I expect this arrangement implies a higher transfer rate of those devices. Therefore I install the OS (win10 pro) on M.2

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SSD is good but still cannot replace traditional HDD which can provide several TB storage in an affordable price. For a photographer, there are tons of files to be handled and we need every measures to speed up the file management process. In this regard, RAID has been the common solution. The HDD RAID system can be setup either by hardware controller (i.e. MB chip X370) or software controller (Win10, storage device function). I uses to setup my RAID system via the MB chip.

Remark: tedious RAID setup in ASUS C6H
Like many other user who suffered from loop of failure in setting up the RAID system in C6H, I have spent days to figure out the solution (http://www.tomshardware.com/answers/id-3395597/setting-raid-ryzen-asus-crosshair-hero.html). The system will keep showing the blue screen with warning “inaccessible device”. There is no way to setup the RAID without a clean installation of win!! Alright so a clean installation is done and the RAID 0 has been setup successfully. Unfortunately, my win10 pro fails to recognize the two SSD (SATA connected) installed. Freaked out!!

When the system is growing, there are many more peripheral devices to be installed (e.g. HDD). I want to alleviate the loading of my MB chip and hopefully promote the RAID speed a step further. Therefore a dedicated RAID controller card is installed.

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After days of effort, the system is ready finally !!
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I think that’s enough for hardware selection. Next post will be about the performance of this new setup and some tricks to push the Lightroom to her limit.

Building my new PC for Lightroom with Ryzen 7 (Part 1: LR and CPU)

My current PC system was built in 2 – 3 years ago and it worked fine.

Current system config
CPU: Intel i7 3770k (OC to 4.5GHz)
MB: Asus P8z77
RAM: DDR3 32G
Storage: up to 10T (3T RAID 0, 256 SSD and 6T HDD)

As the resolution of camera is climbing, the file size (I shoot raw) is gaining too. Storage is gradually occupied and the system becomes too slow. That’s why a new build is planned.

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(a) System design tailored for Lightroom

Lightroom is picky. Even your system scores beautifully in bench-marking software, Lightroom may not exhibit the same level of efficiency in practical use. For example, Lightroom is not optimized for multi-core CPU therefore a 4-core 4GHz CPU may outrun a 8-core 3.5GHz setup.

Reference:

https://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/Adobe-Lightroom-CC-6-Multi-Core-Performance-649/
https://orpheuslau.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/lightroom-6-%E5%8F%AF%E4%BB%A5%E5%BF%AB%E4%B8%80%E9%BB%9E%E5%97%8E-%E5%AF%A6%E6%B8%AC7%E7%A8%AE%E4%B8%8D%E5%90%8C%E6%8F%90%E9%80%9F%E8%A8%AD%E5%AE%9A/

Lightroom is my primary software for post processing therefore the design of my system must be tailored for it.  Based on review and sharing, here is the suggested PC setup in response to different essential Lightroom procedures:

File Import: It is not a CPU demanding procedure. Using faster storage media (e.g. SSD, USB 3.0) the better.

Building preview: During post-processing, e.g. using brush, we need to zoom in 1:1 so that we can see every detail of the image. However it usually takes a couple seconds to zoom in one single image (e.g. A99ii raw). If you have considerable number of images to be processed, you can imagine how frustrating it can be. Therefore some people uses to build 1:1 preview when importing. This idea of batch processing can save you time however this process can still take 20-30mins or more depending on your PC. Again using a multi-core CPU has no significant effect on zooming in instead it wants a CPU running in higher clock speed (GHZ).

1:1 zoom in: Instead of building 1:1 preview for all imported image, once files are imported, I will screen and move them into quick selection first. Post-processing will be done within the quick selection category. Using GPU acceleration can speed up the 1:1 zoom-in. With the acceleration enabled in my GTX980ti, I can zoom in a A99ii Raw file instantly. However this acceleration only applies in Develop module.

Reference: https://helpx.adobe.com/lightroom/kb/lightroom-gpu-faq.html

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Export to jpg: This is the most time consuming part. Per previous test result, the size of lightroom cache and location of catalog have no significant impact. On the other hand, this process can be benefited by multi-threaded processing and higher CPU clock speed. CPU utilization can maintain at 100% during the export therefore this procedure is CPU demanding.

(b) Intel or AMD?

The analysis above suggests CPU plays a vital role in an efficient system. So what we are looking for is a CPU with (1) High clock speed, (2)Multi-cored, Six Core or above. After years of waiting, there is another CPU brand other than Intel in the market.

Long story short, however, Intel is still a preferable choice.

Reference: https://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/Lightroom-CC-2015-10-1-CPU-Comparison-Skylake-X-Kaby-Lake-X-Broadwell-E-Kaby-Lake-Ryzen-7-973/

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The latest Intel 7800x Kaby Lake is a 6C 3.5GHz CPU (~US$375) which shows impressive result in most Lightroom tests. Another choice comes from AMD Ryzen family. The Ryzen series, on the other hand, shows the highest C/P value:

Ryzen 7 1700X, 8C 3.4GHz, US$ 300
Vs
Intel 7800x, 6C 3.5GHz, US$ 375

Although Ryzen 1700x outperforms Intel 7800x in many CPU benchmarking test, in Lightroom that’s totally different story .

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Source: https://www.pugetsystems.com/labs/articles/Lightroom-CC-2015-10-1-CPU-Comparison-Skylake-X-Kaby-Lake-X-Broadwell-E-Kaby-Lake-Ryzen-7-973/

There are also some real demonstrations in Youtube

Those reviews repeatedly come to one conclusion “Intel is a better choice for Lightroom”. As everyone knows,  Intel has been the only PC CPU manufacturer during past several years; so I guess the programming of Lightroom is optimized for Intel chip. That explains why Intel CPU shares substantial advantage over AMD in lightroom test even the later one is doing much better in most CPU benchmarking.

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So, if you want to choose the latest Ryzen family, you must look for some other measures to compensate the software(Lightroom) preference. Luckily, i do. Through CPU overclocking, ram selection and system tuning, I am convinced that Ryzen can be a good choice for my PC system. So how to do it? Details will be shared in Part II, stay tuned.

D850: a very brief hands-on sharing

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Photo source

Longed for many years, Nikon has finally responded her supporter with something impressive. Months before the arrival of D850, Sony released another pioneering product A9. It unveils the true potential of mirroless who not only be attractive in size but also capable to keep up the fast moving subject like DSLR.

So what Nikon can offer? It is pretty obvious that the next Nikon Flagship must processes distinctive feature by integrating extra high pixel count and fast shooting ability.

Before D850, Sony A99ii is the only DSLR equipped with extra high MP (>40MP) and fast shooting ability (e.g. 12fps). Now D850, is the only rival that can compete with A99ii head to head in the market.

The stock of D850 runs out immediately when it arrives HK, unless you are willing to pay additional 30% premium. So, like many other D850 enthusiast, the only place that I can feel the D850 is the official Nikon showroom. After testing for 30mins, I think I have acquired some basic and preliminary understanding to this new gear.

1. It is bulky
Bulky and heavy are the first impression that D850 gives me. I recall, the last big-guy I use is D810 but D850 definitely weights more. There is no way you can ignore this when you hold it in your hand even without a vertical grip.

Per my experience of D810, her specially designed hand grip improves the hand-held experience alot. However if you shoot intensively, the heavy weight of D810 still hurt. That’s why I pay extra attention to the ergonomic design of D850 who weighs even more than D810. The hand-grip of D850 is shadow when compared to D810, and personally speaking, the design of D810 is the better in this regard. However if you have a big hand, the weight and hand grip of D850 may not be a problem to you.

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Photo source

Maybe some people will not seriously value the ergonomic design like me. However, as an outdoor and sport camera, each shooting session may last for half or even a day. Therefore I need to make sure if D850 is a feasible gear for me in light of physical strength and habit of shooting (I don’t use tripod/monopod when birding)

When compared to A99ii (849g), the D850 (1,015g) weights around 20% more. Of course D5 is the real beast which i finally gives up considering the weight which I can’t handle.

2. Excellent AF that you can trust
In my perception, the AF system of DSLR is always trust-worthy and D850 is no exception. Accuracy and speed are both excellent. Her 3D tracking is very snappy too. Although the 153 AF point of D850 cannot cover the whole screen like A9, it is good enough for photographer to compose and capture fast moving subject.

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The shutter sound is gentle like D500. It is not completely silent even shooting in silent mode. I think it is okay, complete silence is not a must for everyone.

Without the vertical grip, D850 can continuously shoot up to 7 fps. This limit can be pushed to 9 fps when paired with vertical grip. 7 fps is being on the low side when compared to the other sport / action camera. The leader is A9 (20 fps) while D5(without vertical grip) and A99ii both can do 12 fps. I think 7 fps is marginally enough for action shooting. However, for birding, I think pushing to 9 fps is needed despite this will lead to extra weight on your system.

3. Live view, flipping screen with touch 

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Live view shooting has become an inevitable part of DSLR today. The flipping screen of D850 makes low angle (e.g. pet running) shooting accurate and easy.

However, when switching to liveview, the AF response will obviously be slowed down. In addition, during my liveview test, the D850 will apparently freeze between shots. Although it only lasts for 0.5s – 1s approximately, that’s enough to miss some precious shots. Therefore, if you are working on an action shooting,  liveview mode is not a preferred choice instead traditional OVF is a better option to go.

The laggy respond in liveview seams so common across DSLR. Personally, I encounter such delayed respond in D500, 6II, 5D4 as well as the latest D850.

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Sony A99ii

On the other hand, A99ii performs seamlessly in liveview shooting. In fact such comparison is not fair, A99ii as a mirrorless camera, is designed to shoot liveview natively while OVF is stills the primary option of DSLR.

 

Conclusion

D850 is a great camera. Her image quality, high MP and AF system are top of the line. As an user of Nikon, I am glad to see the innovation and dedication in it.

The development of DSLR has come to a crossroad, there are lots of uncertainty whether camera manufacturer will invest continuously in DSLR or shift to mirrorless. Recent years, mirrorless has proved to be the way to go that’s the fact undeniable.

 

As the stock of D850 is limited, it seems review from user will come a bit later. I have found some useful review on the web produced by some renowned KOL, they should give you some idea how this camera is working in real.

“NIkon D850: Best Wildlife Camera EVER?” from Tony & Chelsea Northrup

 

“I used the Nikon D850 and lived to tell about it!” from TheSnapChick

試玩 Canon 6D MarkII = 失望再失望

170629_6d2_01今日上左SHOWROOM把最新的 CANON 6D MARKII 試玩了半小時.

失望, 基本上是難以用來表達我離開SHOWROOM時的心情.

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Source: dpreview

試問這4年來相機的技術已經翻了幾翻, 但6D MARK II 的SPEC竟與上一代 6D(2013年的科技)的差不多, 實在是難以說服自己入手. 我沒法理解CANON廠方的想法, 等了4年只是換來一些小修改, 作為用家, 這與侮辱無疑.

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4年前, 6D是的我作為全幅的入門機, 是叫做認認真真學影相的重要一步. 作為6D的前用家, 它過去的確給我不少快樂的攝影體驗. 直到今天, 我都認為6D的SPEC是可用的, 尤其作為全幅入門機:

(1) 像素雖少, 但一般使用是足夠的, 不放大, 不曬大相就可以了.
(2) 只有中心一點的十字對焦, 其餘就只有11點AF POINT, 不過作為新手, 多用中間對焦易於構圖亦是合理的.
(3) ISO 一般在 ISO 6400或以下都是不錯的.
(4) Dynamic Range 比同級的相機要低, 這是明白的亦不是6D獨有的, 基本上這是C記的硬傷.

聽起來6D著實不錯, 但問題的癥結在於
“是否值得用2017的價錢去買一個2013年的數碼單反機技術 ??”

公平一點, 6D MARKII 還是有值得一讚的地方: 就是這一個 FLIP MONITOR !!

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Source: dpreview

我一向都喜歡 FLIP MON帶來的方便, 而且是次6D MARKII用了 DUAL PIXEL AF技術, 以LIVE VIEW來對焦時的反應+準確度都是中上的.

但不要開心得太早.

我反覆試過每一次以LIVE VIEW拍完一張相, 相機會有大約半秒左右的 “點穴” 時間, 不能反應. 所以它的LIVE VIEW用來影景物/靜態攝影是可以的, 要連拍或者追焦或高速主體就不行了, 這點與無反機相比, 就有大幅被拋離的情況. 是記憶卡的問題嗎? 我不清楚因為SHOWROOM將卡槽封死, 不準打開更不準換卡; 但我只是拍了一張相 (RAW), 不是連拍, 若果一張RAW就已經足以令相機 “點穴”, 恐怕以今天的標準來說是不能接受的.

另外6DII只支援UHS-I, 單卡 !!! 什麼, 雖然前年出產的D750都是支援 UHS-I, 但一早已經是雙卡設計. CANON作為牙膏廠, 果然名不虛傳 !

nikon-d750-sd-card-slots-dual-sandisk
source: d750.org

小結
失望, 失望再失望.

作為全片幅入門機, 我可以說6DII是可以勝任的, 但我相信絕大部份的CANON用家都不能同意廠方以 “夠用就好了” 的哲學來營運, 尤其對手NIKON 上一代的D750, 都是全片幅入門級卻只賣港元 $10,000左右, 但方方面面她都比 6DII (港元 $14,000左右) 來得好. 科技的追求就是在追求進步, 在2017年的今天要用家硬接受2013的科技其實是要用家逆來順受. 我就早就決定了不會再忍受, 你呢?!

Re-visit Sony A99 Mark ii (Part 2: AF)

AF-C performance (Tracing in low light situation)
A99II is perceived to be a combination of best image quality (A7RII) and AF performance (A77II). The following is a typical test for AF-C performance. Focusing on a fast approaching subject at night is very challenging even for top-ranked action camera.

Referring to the following GIF sequence reveals, A99II is not perfect, some of the pictures are slightly out of focus. However under such challenging situation her keeper ratio still maintains around 70% which should be good enough for most photographer. Besides A99ii hunts and misses several shots when the truck is turning, I think it is having a hard time to struggle a focus point.

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You may visit my flickr to view the full-size sequence

Selecting the right AF mode 
There are six AF modes in A99ii namely Wide, Zone, Centre, Flexible spot, expand flexible spot and Lock-on AF. If you are Sony A-mount and E-mount user, those AF modes should be familiar to you. Here is my experience:

AF

(1)Wide: It gives the widest AF coverage and surprisingly its AF accuracy is higher than I expected (same as Dpreview finding). However you leave the camera to decide where to focus thus it is only useful when (1) background and subject can be clearly separated e.g. blue sky & flying Black kite (2) In urgent situation if you have no idea where to focus or even unable to use the viewfinder, then you need to leave A99ii to decide the AF point.
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(2)Zone: This mode will divide the entire AF coverage into 15 zones. Unless your subject is large enough to fill the zone area or otherwise this mode will often lead to misfocus as it may incorrectly focus on the surrounding. A similar mode called Group AF can be found in Nikon system however its accuracy is much higher than Sony. The zone mode is not useful for me.

(3)Centre: Practically it is a centre spot AF. If I need a spot AF, I will rather choose flexible spot.

(4)Flexible Spot: It gives the highest AF accuracy and flexibility because you can choose precisely where to focus e.g. eye ball. However (1) the spot area covered is too small and will lead to hunting or even misfocus if the contrast of that spot is low; (2) although the newly introduced joystick of A99ii helps alot, it is impractical to shift the spot during high speed shooting. I found this mode very useful in taking still and portraiture.
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(5)Expand flexible spot: It is a flexible spot mode with 8 surrounding AF points expanded. As the name implied, the AF area is expanded so that you will have higher opportunity to acquire focus on your subject. The drawbacks are (1)same as zone AF, misfocus will happen if your subject is not large enough to fill the expanded area; (2) it seems to me the AF calculation will be averaged among the expanded AF points so that it can’t give a 100% sharp image.
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(6)Lock-on AF: This mode is supposed to be an outstanding feature inherited from A77II. It works great and the AF accuracy is reasonably high. However when compared to D500, the 3D tracking capability of Nikon DSLR still prevails. Personally I still prefer manual (e.g. pan shot) over the automatic tracking function provided by camera because the former choice gives me better control.

AF mode summary
I use Flexible spot AF mode extensively, that is my favorite mode. Unlike A7 system , where you can choose the size of the AF spot (L / M / S), the spot AF in A99ii lacks the flexibility so that shooter can’t choose the best size for various subject.

The Zone and Expanded Flexible spot are not very useful somehow. Instead of a precisely focused subject and sharp image, these two modes probably give you a barely focused area, it makes the image looks blur.

Overall speaking, the AF capability of A99ii meets my expectation however the design of AF mode is the Achilles heel of the entire system. That said, the shortcoming of Flexible spot AF can be overcame, I just need some time to get used to it and more practice.

Shifting from D500 to A9 ??

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I must admit, the latest Sony A9 is very tempting. Her AF capability is very impressive, not only as a mirrorless camera but compared to a top-grade DSLR.

After testing it in a showroom, a devil voice speaks to me “Do you want to shift from D500 to A9?” Well definitely I want to say “Yes I do”.

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Both of them are designed for action shooting, so which one has better AF-C performance, A9 or D500 ? However I can’t tell because I am not able to do an AB test. Besides, the more camera I use, the more I believe there is no 100% objective method to determine which AF system out-performs the other.

I know there are lots of figures and reviews showing the A9 is the king, even better than Nikon D5. I am not going to challenge those reviews and I believe their results are genuine. However, in reality, AF performance is situational, many factors can change the result significantly e.g.  lens, subject distance, tracking method (e.g. Pan shot), AF-mode selection (e.g. Wide, Group or single spot), lighting and even weather (e.g. raining).

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So I am not going to test and prove, which I can’t, whether A9 or D500 is better. What I want to find out is “Can D500 do the job?”. I am not a professional photography but I still love a responsive camera which is capable to capture action (e.g. my little son)

In recent months, I have been using the D500 intensively. I am happy with it and it never fails me even under challenging lighting (e.g. Concert), bird photography (e.g. black-kite), running pet (e.g. Dog) and long-distance shooting (e.g. planes). Therefore I want to put the D500 into another test; a complicated scene with background and multiple subjects mixed together.

This year, there is a program called “Summer Max” in ocean park of Hong Kong. Here are several sequences I capture with my D500 & Nikon 24-70 ED G lens.

Sequence 1
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Sequence 2
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I do pixel peep all raw files one by one, although not 100% in-focus, I feel very much satisfied. I am not sure if A9 can do better, I just know D500 is good enough for me.

Will I shift to A9 later, yes, if the following hindrances are removed:

1. Limited lens choice: Fast Telephoto prime lens, e.g. 300mm – 500mm, is still lacking in the E-mount family. I can’t unleash the full power of A9 without a matching lens in birding.

2. Responsiveness: in my perception, D500 is still a bit more responsive than A9 (e.g. camera turn-on, change setting etc). In addition, the buffer of D500 apparently won’t fill up (XQD version). Therefore, in critical situation, you can shoot without any hesitation, that gives your extra confidence and makes D500 to be my most trust worthy companion.

3. Lens Price premium : In fact camera body of A9 is already cheaper than D5 or 1Dx markII but in general the price tag of E-mount lens is 30% – 50% higher than her DSLR counterparts. So, in overall, the spending on E-mount system will be much higher than that in C or N family.

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D500 is an APS-C camera, so intrinsically speaking, it is no match with Full frame in light of dynamic range and noise control. However for daily photography, it can do landscape and portraiture too.

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Re-visit Sony A99 Mark ii (Part 1: Overview)

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The first question is: Why A99ii? Before I make my decision, I have been considering several factors seriously. Although it is not a perfect camera to look for, this new camera should be able to enrich my user experience by enabling me to do my work smoothly and, most importantly, happily.

1.) Positioning
A99ii is a combination of A77ii and A7Rii, the former one has been proved to be excel in action shooting while the later one is renowned for her image quality. The positioning of A99ii is a multi-purpose camera which suits the need of professional as well as prosumer.

Personally I still prefer D500 for action shooting i.e. Bird and sport while I need a second body for daily use. Hopefully that can be quick enough to focus, easy to handle and most importantly produce superb image with high pixel count.

Here it comes the A99 Mark II

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First of all, even A99ii is my choice, I won’t say it is perfect. There are pros and cons of each model however I will rather consider the camera as a part of my photography system. There are a bunch of factors such as function, lens, handling and price etc to be considered.

2.) Lens choice
Considering size and weight: Fast E mount Zoom lens, e.g. Sony GM 24-70 f2.8, shares no advantage in size and weight compared to her DSLR counterparts. Therefore I use to attach prime lens only on my A7RII. Also I feel kinda weird to attach a big lens on a small A7RII body, that makes the combo so bulky (as DSLR) and difficult to handle (balance).

Price is also another hindering factor which you can see the price tag of latest Sony E mount lens is 30% – 50% higher than other lens which share the same spec. It seems this pricing strategy will continue endlessly.

Although Sony E mount family is growing quickly, I expect a few more years to come before the E mount system is mature. On the other hand, the A mount system has been developed more than a decade ago therefore the availability and variety of A mount lens, including Sony Native and third party lens, are superior than E mount. Some of the A mount lens stills performs pretty well with superb image quality, e.g. Sony Zeiss 135mm f1.8, you can find them in second hand market asking for only 50% of the Sony E mount lens with similar spec. However the development of A mount is apparently stopped when Sony has focused on A7 production. Worry is growing whether new A mount lens will be produced, or…

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3.) Live view, flip monitor
The first feature of a99ii comes to my mind is “Flip live view monitor”. What? I use to shoot kids and dogs and low angel shot can help to illustrate the world from their perspective. After years of shooting, I can only say the flip live view simply makes life much easier. Most DSLR like D500 also has flip live view monitor however when shifting to live view mode e.g. in D500, the AF performance is significantly dropped, that is just not capable to freeze a running kid.

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4.) Focus linked spot metering
When shooting a fast moving subject, Soccer game for example, the players will shift their position abruptly. Therefore the tradition mode of metering, e.g. Matix, centre or spot, can sometime fail to give an accurate exposure especially in contrast lighting. The focus linked spot metering can make sure the focus point is properly exposed. This feature has saved many precious pictures of my kid. This focus linked spot metering function has been incorporated in the latest Model Sony A9 but not A7RII.

5.) AF performance
A99ii adopts the Hybrid AF system which combines the design of A77ii (79 dedicated phase detection points) and A7Rii (399 focus plane phase detection point)

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The hybrid design leads to extensive coverage of AF point (especially cross-type), that significantly enhances AF capacity of A99ii. After months of practical usage, I am confident to say that A99ii is generally capable to capture fast moving subject although D500 stills prevails in this area.

The outstanding AF capability is a distinctive feature of A99ii which makes it outperform his elder brother A7RII. Both of them share the same high quality 42MP sensor but A99ii gives you a higher opportunity to capture an action scene. Besides, D500 which is excellent in sport shooting, only processes a 20.9 mega pixel sensor while A99ii gives you more than double of pixel count.  higher pixel count does not necessarily means better image quality but it certain enables your capacity to make large print and post processing.

Unfortunately the hybrid AF system only works on Sony native lens, if you are using third party lens you can only access the 79-points dedicated AF system (same as A77ii) and her AF capacity is halved.

The continuous AF tracking ability also depends on the lens you use. If you want to unleash the full potential of A99ii (12fps tracking), you will need (1)Sony native lens and (2) Set aperture to f/3.5 or lower f value.

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So is it capable to track action scene? I will show you same samples in Part II.

To be continued

Is Sony A9 the ultimate gear for action and sport?

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DSLR is dying, yes we all knew that.

Camera manufacturer can hardly ignore the fact that DSLR market is shrinking. At the same time, the Mirrorless product is gaining her momentum. Action and sport photography, the last edge of advantage of DSLR, could possibly be taken over by the coming Sony A9.

No. of AF points? fps? or what
Generally speaking, more AF points especially cross-type AF point, better will be AF performance. This has become an indicator to determine if a camera is capable of shooting action like tracking fast moving subject.

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Few years ago when A7RII comes to market, people were stunned by the overwhelming number of AF points (399 AF points) showing on her focal plane. Compared to the Flagship DSLR like Nikon D5(51 AF points), it seems DSLR should be trashed several years ago. The reality is, until today, the majority of sport and action photojournalist still hold their DSLR in their hand, why?

I am a owner of A7RII and I am sure you will have a better understanding on her performance for fast moving subject if you have tested it in the field. Don’t make me wrong, I still love my A7RII, she is doing brilliantly except for shooting action. Maybe some will challenge by posting several precisely-focused action photos of A7RII, for me that means nothing.

Simply put, it is all about the successful hit-rate. You can use a manual-focused film camera to shot a flying bird, that’s absolutely possible we all see that happening in past century. You may refer to my previous testing and see how frustrating to use A7RII to shoot a moving subject.

The 693 AF points of A9 is convincing but that’s not enough.

20 Frames Per Second
That’s very embarrassing, the flagship Nikon D5 can only take up to 14 frames per second but A9 can do 20, that’s 43% more. fps (Frames Per Second) is critical, for example you are taking an action completed in one second. For A9, a 20 fps camera, you will have captured that action by 20 pictures however for D5 you only get 14, theatrically the D5 shooter has inevitably missed some moments.

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I am not an engineer, I can’t tell if DSLR can boost their fps like mirroless camera does. Personally I guess the mirror box system hinders the max fps that it can reach. If this is so, this short coming of low fps of DSLR is inherited and hardly be fixed unless it gives up the mirror box system(that simply makes it a mirrorless camera by definition)

AF system
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Although the A99ii the latest A-mount camera shares the same image sensor as A7RII, the former performs much better in action photography. I will not go into detail  comparing between A99ii and AR7ii. Instead I simply want to point out that AF system is a crucial factor that reviews use to overlook.

Honestly I can’t perform a 100% objective test between DSLR and Mirroless, only I can share, as a user of A7RII, A99ii, D810 and D500, the reliability of DSLR AF system is still higher per my experience. Again this is my two cents only, you may share a different view.

To me, the reliability of AF system is the strongest reason that keeps DSLR in our hand. Th knowledge in AF system is the valuable know-how accumulated from decades of experience. However, the mirroless technology is advancing tremendously. From time to time it has beaten their DSLR counterpart surprisingly, no one can tell if A9 can breakthrough this time.

Price, lens and user habit

Recalling the pricing of recent Sony camera such as A7, A7RII, A99ii and A9, we are all expected to be stunned by the  new technology embedded in A9. However the price of native Sony mount lens are significantly higher than DSLR counterpart who shares a similar spec. So there are lots of considerations (and cash) before decided to swap from one system to another.

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Sony e-mount system is building up her lens family gradually. For an action shooter however the coming 100-400mm lens is the only choice to be available.

Summary

Sony is doing good ! It successfully changes the game.

As a DSLR and Mirrorless user, my feeling is complicated. I am glad to see the advancement of technology which enabled photography to be more effective and efficient.

On other other hand, I am quite confused and hesitated to make any move. For example my beloved A99ii, a few months ago i have been told it is the solution of Sony for action photography. Now the A9 is coming…… can you imagine how I feel….haven’t mentioned that new A-mount lens are still missing which are promised to be in the market very soon when I buy my A99ii.

So A9 is around the corner, but maybe an A10 will be shown a few months later …who can tell ??!!

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Since several years ago, we already foresee that DSLR is dying, it is only a question of when.

Source of photo

http://ilovehatephoto.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/ilovehatephoto.com-sonya7rii-pdaf-hybrid-autofocus-399-point.jpg
http://www.nikon.com.hk/tmp/Asia/4016499630/3857477713/365508689/3015334490/1054978028/2206162141/365508689/3189484821/777676291/168901113/168901113.jpg
https://www.spill.hk/article/1492662297/149266250550017.jpg
http://briansmith.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Sony-a99II-vs-a7RII-42-mp-Showdown-1.jpg
https://1.img-dpreview.com/files/p/E~TS590x0~articles/3259521271/lens.jpeg