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Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS

SONY HAS RELEASED not one, but two 600mm lenses, the longest full-frame lenses in its range. In addition to a prime 600mm f4 lens, which will undoubtedly be expensive and possibly pushing $20,000, the more versatile FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS, at a little over $3000, (we expect) is much more affordable!

Add in a 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverter and you now have up to a full-frame 1200mm super-telephoto! So, why the 200-600mm and not the 600mm prime? We have no doubt the 600mm prime will be superior optically, but how much resolution do you need? And if the 200-600mm is anything like Sony’s 100-400mm, you’ll be more than happy with the resolution and clarity on offer. We think this is a great Sony lens for sport and wildlife photographers – the perfect lens for Antarctica or the Arctic!

The 200-600mm has built-in optical stabilisation with three different mode settings and the overall length of the lens does not change while zooming. However, at the 600mm end of the zoom range, the maximum aperture will drop to f6.3, so you may need to push the ISO up a stop or two to compensate, maintaining the fast shutter speeds that will be needed, even with image stabilisation in operation.

Inside, five ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass elements and an aspherical element are arranged in a new optical design that minimises chromatic aberration. An 11-blade circular aperture mechanism is claimed to produce beautiful bokeh (out-of-focus blur), and Sony’s original Nano AR coating should suppress unwanted reflections, glare, or ghosting in images.

The lens is equipped with Sony’s DDSSM (Direct Drive SSM) focusing system, which is claimed to be remarkably fast, accurate and exceptionally quiet. Sony understands the need for quiet on the set, especially in wildlife situations!

The lens is built to be dust and moisture resistant while a fluorine coating on the front element is said to resist dirt and fingerprints. By the time you read this, the lens should be available for purchase and we’re guessing between $3000 and $4000, depending on exchange rates!

For more information, visit www.sony.com.au

Looking For Foregrounds

Evening Storm on the road to Copacabana, Bolivia
Phase One A-Series 150MP, 23mm Alpagon lens, f11 @ 1/400 second, ISO 50

I find it happens quite a lot - the inverse square rule for great skies! You're driving along and you watch the sky change, the light drop and the atmosphere build. The heavens look fantastic, but there's nothing in the foreground and, the better the sky, the worse the foreground!

On our trip through Bolivia recently, we were up on the Altiplano heading towards Lake Titicaca and the real Copacabana. Over the distant ranges were some wonderful storm clouds, the crystal clear light was mesmerising, but we struggled to find an interesting foreground. Looking at the map on my phone (I use Guru Maps), I could see our road was about to turn away from both the mountains and the clouds - and then we'd have nothing! So we stopped the bus and bundled out.

We had two options. The first was to shoot the sky and add it to a sky library, not worrying about the foreground. If you're wondering how to drop in new skies to existing landscapes, go and check out Luminar 4 as it does it for you automatically. And I did exactly this as a safety step. Might as well capture it!

The second option is to look more carefully and think about how you can simplify the foreground. The side of the road had lots of busy little fields, which created a really messy foreground, but by walking a couple of hundred metres out, I found a cleared field with a cairn of rocks in the middle. The field wasn't big, but by using a wide-angle lens and getting in close to the cairn, the foreground was easily simplified. And simple is best.

Whether you're capturing photos for competitions or just for pleasure, thinking through your options at the time you're 'on location' makes a lot of sense. By all means take a few safety shots you can play with later on in post-production, but if you can nail a good composition in camera, so much the better!

The Green Is Evil!

Laguna Verde, Bolivia
Phase One A-Series 150MP, 23mm Alpagon lens, f11 @ 1/125 second, ISO 50

That green is real! And it's not very nice. Laguna Verde up on Bolivia's dramatic Altiplano is full of arsenic and hence, I'm told, its green colour. Laguna Blanca just next door is blue and the flamingos happily wade there, but not in Laguna Verde.

When we arrived, low cloud was skirting the Licancabur volcano on the Chilean border and the wind was howling, creating an acrid spume on the shore. It made a great foreground, although it left the legs of my tripod covered in a salty residue! The technique used to capture this image is a combination of focus stacking and a time exposure.

To ensure the foreground and background are tack sharp, I focused on four points in the foreground (the bottom half of the image), with an aperture of f11 so there's already a lot of depth-of-field keeping things sharp. I then focused on infinity and took a safety shot at the same exposure, but then switched into time exposure mode. On the Phase One IQ4, it's the exposure averaging feature, but you can achieve the same result with a neutral density filter. The exposure is the equivalent of 15 seconds for this one, although I experimented. As the clouds were moving so quickly, I didn't need such a long exposure to achieve a suitable blur.

It's interesting to note how with changes in technology, new ways of shooting are opening up, but at the end of the day, we still need a strong, simple compositions - at least, that's my view!

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