A manual focus 800mm telephoto lens for mirrorless cameras: Review of the Tokina 400 SD AF400 AT-X with an Olympus OM-D E-M1
The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature in Jordan is offering a 5 day, 4 night Rift valley mountain trek between September 17th - 21st.
The Rift valley mountain trek is a long distance hiking trail connecting Dana Biosphere Reserve, with the proposed Shobak protected area and Little Petra which is part of the larger Petra Archaeological Park. Components of the trail include hiking through a wilderness areas, cultural landscapes in the rural countryside, and through several thousands of years of history.
I have hiked the day 3, Al Bustan to Shobak Castle (15 km), and the day 5, Gbour to Little Petra (15 km) sections. I strongly recommend completing the hike in one trip.
The day 3 section is a 15 km hike that begins from the Al Bustan area to Wadi Tartar and ends at Shobak Castle. I found the first half of the hike along the mountain slopes to be epic, with the mountains of Dana Biosphere Reserve behind me as we followed the deep canyon of Wadi Tartar. We left Wadi Tartar and followed a countryside trail that meandered through the picturesque hills of the Shobak cultural landscape. We walked through orchids, alongside shepherds grazing their goats, and passed numerous abandoned cave dwellings and other archaeological sites, some of which are several thousands of years old, until we reached the imposing mountaintop crusader castle of Shobak.
The day 5 of the section is also 15 km. After camping at Gbour Al Waidat on the outskirts of Little Petra, we started hiking along the open plains of the Petra Archaeological Park with a slow uphill ascent to one of the highlights of the trip, a grand overlook of Wadi Araba which is part of the Rift valley. The remaining hike was relatively easy with a long descent through stoney plains until we reached a narrow wadi, as we entered Little Petra from the back.
Petra and Little Petra were built to impress. There is an unforgettable euphoria about entering the majestic Nabataean settlement after spending hours or days of walking. One can only imagine how the trade caravans must have been awed after seeing Petra for the first time after a journey of several weeks or more. The ending in Little Petra was certainly an exclamation point to the trip.
The battery life on the Sony RX100 III is OK. The battery life is rated at 320 photographs, but drops at to a dismal 230 photographs when using the pop up viewfinder. I would suggest purchasing at least one backup battery with an external charger. The camera comes with a USB charger that charges the battery while in the camera. I prefer an external battery charger so I can use the camera while another battery is charging. In practice, I was able to get by on most days with a single battery, but there were a some days in which I used two.
The 24-70 mm focal length is a versatile range for a travel lens and was fine for most of my photographic needs in Istanbul, Turkey. I mostly used the 24 mm wide angle focal length but there were a few times I did wish for a longer focal length of 80 mm, 90 mm, or even 100 mm to better isolate architectural subjects. However, with practice, one learns to mentally compose photographs within a given focal length.
This Sony comes with a popup viewfinder which is an unique feature for pocketable point and shoot cameras. Although the viewfinder is not on par and much smaller than other electronic viewfinders of the larger micro four third cameras, the viewfinder is still useful when composing photographs in bright sunlight. I found the viewfinder especially useful when photographing into the bright sun to compose photographs incorporating flare. I really like using flare and if used properly can create some unique, signature photographs. Some of my strongest photographs in my book, Sinai: Landscape and Nature in Egypt's Wilderness and calendar, Sinai, incorporate flare as part of the composition.
Istanbul, Turkey is an amazing place to visit with its world class museums and attractions, history, good food, and hospitable people. If a pocket-sized point and shoot camera with a fast 24-70 mm f1.8 - 2.8 lens and high image quality in low light is important, then the high market price of just under $800 and around $600 used/refurbished camera may be justified.
History becomes alive when visiting the Aya Sofia, one of Turkey’s artistic, historic and architectural wonders and considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. I wanted a photograph that told the story of Hagia Sophia’s transitional history by including symbols of its changing history, from its origins as a church and center of the Byzantine empire, then a mosque under the Ottoman empire, and finally a museum under the modern Turkish republic.
In order to focus on the composition, while photographing the outside perimeters and dimly lit interior, I set the camera to AV mode at F2.8 and Auto ISO, minimum ISO of 125 and maximum ISO of 3200. After experimenting with different ISOs the previous days and examining the image quality at 50 % and 100 % magnification, I was really impressed with the high ISO image quality and noise. I felt comfortable using this camera regularly up to ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 when needed, which is impressive for a point and shoot.
After spending more time with the camera, I also started feeling more familiar with the menu system and finally figured out how to customize the button functions. I also found that the accessory hand grip, which does not change the profile of the camera is a must for handholding the camera with one hand, and should have been included, given the high price of the camera.
Although the Aya Sofia's interior is dimly lit, the natural framing elements and different shades of light make the Aya Sofia a must for any photographer to visit.
One of my favorite things about living in Jordan is that I am close to so many ‘once in a lifetime’ dream destinations.
There are regular charter flights from Amman to different cities in Turkey. Istanbul has always intrigued me because it is the only city to span two continents and the capital of numerous empires. Its history is extensive. I visited a bookstore in Istanbul and the section on Turkey’s history alone was larger than the history sections of other bookstores I have visited elsewhere.
My only photographic tool for this trip was a Sony RX100 III point and shoot camera.
I chose a point and shoot because this was a family vacation first. I would traveling with three kids under the age of 10, including a 2 yr old who has occasional, spontaneous episodes of running away into a crowd or onto towering objects to climb. I needed a camera that I could shove into my pocket when I gave chase and not be carried over my shoulder as I would likely be carrying tired children during long walks.
The first place to try out the camera was the Sultanahmet Park and Sutlanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), one of Turkey’s most famous attractions and largest mosques.
I am always amazed how many of the world’s largest and most religiously significant mosques have parks or extensive courtyards for families to relax or picnic.
This camera has the best high ISO image quality of any point and shoot I have used. The ability to use wide open apertures and high ISOs with relatively low noise is important when photographing indoors.
The interior of the Mosque is a photographer's delight. The photographic compositional elements of light and eye leading lines are an integral part of the Mosque architecture, which inspire awe. Eyes are drawn by the mammoth columns up, symbolic of looking up towards the heavens, where all lines lead to a central, radial point. The different levels of windows softly illuminate the interior and representative of the heavenly lights.
My initial thoughts on the Sony RX 100 III
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