sony, apple, and google, oh my! — use what you have #2

Abstract Dumpster
Dumpster Colors — iPhone 11 Pro Max, iOS 16.3.1

Today I’ve got an eclectic collection of images made with the NEX-5N, my iPhone 11, and a Google Pixel 4a. I’m leading off with a dumpster photo, as apposed to a dumpster fire. This was taken with my iPhone, which is going on four years. I did a fair bit of post processing to over-saturate the colors, bring out details in the yellow plastic, etc, etc, etc. In other words this ain’t straight out of camera.

Ruby Asks “What are you doing?”
Ruby — iPhone 11 Pro Max, iOS 16.3.1

This second photo was taken with the iPhone. This time I pre-configured the camera app for the 16:9 aspect ratio and monochrome. And then I waited for one of Ruby’s side-eye looks at the cats. I swear I believe Ruby wonders if the cats are crazy or not. This photo was straight out of camera.

Beau and Danï

This photo is straight out of the Sony. I like this because I managed to capture Beau and Danï sharing one of the cat beds together. Beau is everybody’s favorite resting buddy. Beau likes to groom everyone, which precipitates the occasional hairball around 3 am, along with the subsequent mess I need to clean up the next morning, assuming I don’t step in it while I’m just waking up and walking towards the kitchen. Yes, stepping bare foot into cat puke. There’s a thought…

And now the finishing photo.

Den of a Geek
Den of a Geek — Google Pixel 4a, Android 13

This is my seat of power, my den of geekdom. This photo was taken with a Google Pixel 4a. The aspect ratio is exactly what the camera produces. The photo is in color, but I chose its vivid color pallet. I’m surprised at the level of detail and the control of noise in the photo. Comparing it with what my iPhone would produce, using this same scene would still look okay with the iPhone, but I think I would prefer the Pixel photo. I’m not going to declare Android a winner over iOS, but I will say without hesitation that with the same level of care (not that much, really) that a contemporary Pixel phone (meaning something more recent than the 4a) will more than provide equivalent decent photographic results compared to a contemporary iPhone and iOS. Which I found surprising today. Who would have thought?

Here’s why I’ll keep my Sony (and Olympus and Panasonic cameras). I can set any purpose-built camera to a given set of parameters, and I know that if I turn that camera off and pick it up the next time I need it that assuming the battery is still good that it will come back on exactly as I set it up. If I preset my iPhone, for example, and turn it off, there’s a really good chance that when I bring the app back up again that it will have been reset to its full set of defaults. I’m talking about the Apple default camera app. Maybe there’s another camera app in the App Store that does what I want, which is remember what I set it to between uses. I won’t install it because either it costs or else because I don’t want yet another app on my device. My iPhone has too many apps on it already. And that’s with a lot of paring of apps I really didn’t need.

The only problem with using a purpose built camera is getting the images from the camera onto the phone and then out to the social media sites. I have a Lightening to SDXC adapter I can use to get my Sony images (and Olympus and Panasonic) onto my iPhone and iPads, and from there onto Flickr and other places. The friction that way is minimized. But that means I need to keep track of a dongle, and I’ve misplaced it from time to time. Some may still consider it too much trouble and live with the smartphone camera, since it’s all right there in one convenient package. I have used apps that have allowed me to wireless transfer from my Olympus and Panasonic cameras to my iPhone, but that’s still some extra effort, although I don’t need the dongle.

For me the extra effort is still worth it because my 12-year-old Sony can still produce superior results to my 4-year-old iPhone, at least to my eyes. Perhaps the iPhone 14 is superior (finally!) to the image quality of the Sony. Perhaps. But I’m not in the mood to spend the money to find out. I have a “work flow” that I can live with, and the Sony is just so much more easy to use than a contemporary iPhone or Android phone. I mean, as long as the Sony is nearby at hand I can grab a photo a lot faster with it than a cell phone.

“Aren’t you done yet?”

use what you have — the sony nex-5n

The genesis of this post was an earlier post by Marc Beebe ( ) where he mused about camera G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome) and if he should and how he would afford it, or even why. That got me thinking about all the gear I’ve got scattered around my home, and how I’ve collected it over the decades going back to the 1970s. I won’t go back that far. I’ll limit my personal musings to digital only, specifically with my lone Sony camera, the NEX-5N. It was released in late 2011, a good 12 years ago.

I’ve written about this camera before, back to when I purchased it and used it a bit before it wound up sitting on a shelf in my cabinet. I purchased it as a closeout sale from Amazon, with the 18-55mm all plastic Sony kit zoom. I later picked up a pair of Sigma primes, a 19mm/2.8 and a 30mm/2.8. They are all plastic with metal mounts, and they were on sale for $99/each. They’re not the fastest focusing, and at a maximum of f/2.8, not the fastest for gathering light. But they’re still quite good for what they offer, which is a lot. And for $400 total for the camera and three lenses, it didn’t produce a budgetary hit the way other camera bodies and lenses do. The only other cameras that good and that inexpensive were the few Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras from that same period, the E-PL1 to E-PL3. For me, that period in time from 2012 to 2015 was a golden age of digital photography when you could buy quite good cameras for very little money. It reminded me of the film days from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s.

So I pulled out the 5N and checked the batteries. Yep, the batteries were all discharged. I have three, one being an original Sony NP-FW50, the other two being Wasabi BTR-FW50-JWP. Let me say right now that the Wasabi batteries are absolute junk. They might be less than half the cost, but you get what you pay for; they’re less than half the Sony batteries. I was able to fully charge the Sony battery, but neither of the Wasabi batteries would charge to 100%, and I could watch the Wasabi batteries discharge right before my eyes by just turning on the camera and looking at the rear LCD. While the original Sony battery is still good, I’m going to pick up a second from a local store and recycle the two Wasabi batteries. These are the last Wasabi batteries I still have. I had the same bad experience with Wasabi batteries for my Olympus cameras.

So let’s get into a bit of photography. These are all black and white, out of the camera, not post processing, and JPEG. I’m tired of RAW processing, and in spite of all the “expert” opinions from the “influencers” across YouTube, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the quality of those black and white JPEGs. Sony was really beginning to hit its stride with regards to image processing, and they’ve never ever gone down in quality since, only up.

Sweet girl Ruby
Nicholas Behind the Furniture
Nicholas Behind the Outdoor Furniture
Zoë Says “Boo!’
Zoë says “Boo!’
Beau Entranced
Beau Entranced

If you’re wondering why the odd aspect ratio it’s because I like 16:9. That’s a kinda-sorta cinematic aspect ratio, and it’s something I’ve just gotten used to over the decades. I like to compose in that aspect ratio. As is typical of my photos these days they’re various snaps of the little characters around the house. Ruby was taken with the 30 mm, all other photos were 19 mm. All of them were wide open at f/2.8. I have center auto focus enabled because I learned early on that Sony’s adaptive autofocus made decisions I was never happy with. Exposure and sharpness are Good Enough all around.

Sony NEX-5N
Sony NEX-5N with a Sigma 19mm

As you can see the camera with lens, compared to my hand, is quite compact. The fact it’s an interchangeable lens camera is amazing, even now in 2023. It’s not blazingly fast with regards to autofocus, and from 2011 it’s not the most accurate, but I can put it in manual mode if I have to and stop it down and use zone focusing to take the photo. That’s what I would do outside in an urban or field settings. And to be blunt, a maximum aperture of f/1.8 to f/2 is about all I really want. I’ve paid for my fast lenses and while they’re good, I’ve come to the decision they weren’t worth the speed price premium for me. The two Sigmas are remarkably sharp wide open at the center third. In dark situations I’m more than happy to trade shutter speed or higher ISO to make the exposure.

This entire setup is my Mary Poppins camera, practically perfect in every way. Not in absolute terms, but in practical affordable terms. I’m quite satisfied with that.