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Sony A7s - New Low-Light Camera - Wow!

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#426 chasing photons

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Posted 27 September 2014 - 10:47 AM

 

I'm very much an astro-imager, i.e.: I still believe the best way to generate a high quality astro-image is to shoot multiple subs, align and stack them, and postprocess the heck out of the stacked image to get the best end result I can produce.

 

However, I also like to roam the heavens and watch the results on my hires monitor with 30sec (sometimes 60sec, sometimes 10sec) high ISO exposures.

 

I did both at the Alberta Star Party last weekend with an A7S and A7R, and a variety of lens and scopes.  I used the A7R for deep sky shots (both single images, and images from several aligned, stacked and processed subs) primarily because it is full spectrum modded as well as the fact I was using a fairly short focal length telescope and wanted the highest resolution I could capture.  I used the A7S (unmodded) for a variety of daytime and night shots with a 28-70mm zoom because it is the most versatile camera I own (or have ever owned).  I've had a number of people comment that I must have shot most of the sky images at dusk or just after sunset to capture the brightness shown.  Most the images were shot well after dark and it is simply the technology built into the A7S that makes it look like day, such as here, here or here.

 

I'm currently finalizing an album of single exposure images off the A7S using a Canon 200mm lens.  This will give you a pretty good idea what the A7S will do as an EAA camera, and it has great potential...

 

bwa

 

I look forward to seeing the results of all of that.

 

Can you also give us some more info on a couple of things ... 

- how you use the hi res monitor (and what monitor it is)?

- the work flow you use to handle the camera between viewing on the monitor and capturing some of the great images?

 

I think a discussion of the "how" part can fit in well with the EAA forum (something I hope there's more of for all the cameras used).

 

 

 

+1

 

I find this very interesting for EAA.  I would also like to understand your work flow with the Sony A7S and a separate monitor.  Also, do you use a remote control, either tablet or phone via Wi-Fi, or a wired intervalometer?  If you operate the A7S remotely, what are the various camera functions that are available?

 

Thank you, bwa, for your valuable contribution to this forum.



#427 bwallan

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Posted 27 September 2014 - 02:18 PM

 

I'm very much an astro-imager, i.e.: I still believe the best way to generate a high quality astro-image is to shoot multiple subs, align and stack them, and postprocess the heck out of the stacked image to get the best end result I can produce.

 

However, I also like to roam the heavens and watch the results on my hires monitor with 30sec (sometimes 60sec, sometimes 10sec) high ISO exposures.

 

I did both at the Alberta Star Party last weekend with an A7S and A7R, and a variety of lens and scopes.  I used the A7R for deep sky shots (both single images, and images from several aligned, stacked and processed subs) primarily because it is full spectrum modded as well as the fact I was using a fairly short focal length telescope and wanted the highest resolution I could capture.  I used the A7S (unmodded) for a variety of daytime and night shots with a 28-70mm zoom because it is the most versatile camera I own (or have ever owned).  I've had a number of people comment that I must have shot most of the sky images at dusk or just after sunset to capture the brightness shown.  Most the images were shot well after dark and it is simply the technology built into the A7S that makes it look like day, such as here, here or here.

 

I'm currently finalizing an album of single exposure images off the A7S using a Canon 200mm lens.  This will give you a pretty good idea what the A7S will do as an EAA camera, and it has great potential...

 

bwa

 

I look forward to seeing the results of all of that.

 

Can you also give us some more info on a couple of things ... 

- how you use the hi res monitor (and what monitor it is)?

- the work flow you use to handle the camera between viewing on the monitor and capturing some of the great images?

 

I think a discussion of the "how" part can fit in well with the EAA forum (something I hope there's more of for all the cameras used).

 

The monitor is an old ASUS computer monitor with an HDMI connector.  It's default resolution is 1920x1200.  I simply connect it directly to the HDMI output port of either the A7S or A7R.  When connected it becomes the LiveView screen.  I'm sure you could use an audio/video capture cable to feed the output from the camera directly into the USB port of a computer much the same as you would capture video off a Mallincam camera or any other video camera.  I know HDMI capture cables exist but don't have one.

 

The A7S also outputs 4K video directly to 4K compatible recorders/monitors.  This would be the ideal option for viewing the video output from the A7S.  But I'm not too sure if you gain anything from this approach regarding LiveView??

 

I also used to have a battery powered, el cheapo, flat screen monitor I used at star parties (when I didn't have access to 110volt power).  Being "el cheapo" it didn't last very long but worked liked like a charm with my Canon 60D camera while operational... :(.

 

Work flow...  Not really anything special and it varies greatly depending upon how serious I am.

 

EAA Scenario:

- setup and roughly polar align my Celestron VX mount.  I normally just use the polar scope to get a reasonable polar alignment.  Not much accuracy required for 30-60sec images.  ~10 min. setup.

- I have a StarSense unit on the VX mount which does the mount's alignment automatically.  So when it is complete its cycle I'm good to GoTo any target in the sky with targets nicely centered in most of the lens/scopes I normally use.  ~3 min. setup.

- I then GoTo a bright star such as Arcturus, Altair or Vega and focus the lens/scope I'm using with a Bahtinov mask.  ~2-3 min. setup

- I use Starry Night Pro and/or SkySafari Pro (on an iPad) for planning.

- I acquire targets in a number of ways:

     - Simplest is to use the GoTo function built into the hand controller on the mount BUT it can be limited as to the target(s) I want, such as the IC catalog.

     - Wired connection to a laptop running Starry Night Pro allows me to skew to any object in Starry Night's huge database.

     - Wireless connection to my iPad running SkySafari Pro using SciFi to control the mount; my favorite remote approach, i.e.: allows me to roam the skies from a comfortable lawn chair.

- I normally use a wired remote timer.  For EAA I simply push the shoot button to take a picture.  I also have a wireless remote which allows me to shoot while in the lawn chair mentioned above.

     - Of course, when I shoot a picture it is automatically saved to the memory card for later viewing/editing, etc.

- The monitor replaces the LiveView screen so I see everything I do on the camera on the monitor.

 

Imaging scenario:

- almost identical to the above, except I program the remote timer to take multiple images.

 

- I also have a pier mounted, drift aligned, PEC programmed Sky-Watcher Az-EQ6 in an observatory that I normally use with higher powered scopes, i.e.: Celestron 8" Edge HD, Astro-Tech 8" RC, Televue 102 and a few others, when I want to get really serious about longer exposures and collecting multiple images for later pre/postprocessing.  And I still shoot longer exposures, 2-10 min., on occasion at lower ISO's (800-1600) when I'm really serious about keeping noise levels at the minimum or want to go after some really, really faint object like the Cassiopeia A Supernova remnant (shot with Mallincam Universe).

- I also own a couple of CCD cameras for astro-imaging BUT haven't used them once since I acquired the A7R and A7S.  The Sony A7 cameras are really SO good and much more convenient!  Anyone who hasn't used an A7R or A7S for astrophotography simply does NOT know what they are missing!  And most dedicated astrophotographers simply cannot get their heads around the fact the A7's (and similar cameras) have forever changed their world!

- prior to acquiring the A7's I guided almost every astro-image I captured, primarily because I was shooting 5-20 min. exposures.  My guide system is currently collecting dust :).

 

Just a few thoughts on the state of astro-whatever...

 

bwa



#428 bwallan

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Posted 27 September 2014 - 02:31 PM

It is very interesting to see the potential of the different type of equipment.

Most of the time I have been using an 11" OTA and a camera with a 1/3" sensor. That pretty much determines the objects that I can go after.

The huge sensor of the Sony, combined with the smaller aperture lenses offers an entirely different perspective of a different range of objects of the universe.

Until now I accepted the fact that we need to own several different OTA's to get proper views of different types of celestial objects. Now it seems that also having different cameras will add an entirely new dimension to our appreciation of the universe.

--Dom

I used to own an 11" SCT but found it a monster to lug around and swapped it for an 8" Edge HD...

 

The A7S and A7R (full frame) both work quite nicely with the 8" Edge HD at f/10; however, I really like the A7's with a 0.8x reducer on the 8".  A focal length of 1200-1600mm just seems to be my sweet spot for higher powered imaging.  This combo yields almost a full frame image with just a bit of vignetting in the corners.  Selecting APS-C format off the camera works perfectly.

 

And you see a lot more stellar real-estate than with a 1/3" sensor :).

 

bwa



#429 chasing photons

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Posted 27 September 2014 - 03:01 PM

bwallan quote:

 

"- The monitor replaces the LiveView screen so I see everything I do on the camera on the monitor."

 

End quote

 

What happens to the LiveView on the camera or monitor while in the middle of a 30 second exposure?  Does the LiveView go blank?  Does it show the last, short exposure view that LiveView was displaying prior to starting the exposure?  Or does it show the last completed image that was previously taken?  In other words, are you always looking at a completed image, or does the display go blank (with or without camera settings displayed) until the next exposure is completed?  And can you look at a completed image for as long as you want, or does the A7S want to shut itself off after a period of time to save on the batteries?

 

If you are using a simple remote, do you have to use the buttons on the camera to change exposure length and any other settings?  I think my preference would be for a full featured Wi-Fi remote control app on a tablet to control the A7S and view the images and LiveView. 

 

Thank you for the information.



#430 Relativist

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Posted 27 September 2014 - 03:33 PM

Your making me want to sell everything to buy one lol. Thanks for the posts bwa, I have the same questions as Todd does.



#431 bwallan

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Posted 27 September 2014 - 08:42 PM

bwallan quote:

 

"- The monitor replaces the LiveView screen so I see everything I do on the camera on the monitor."

 

End quote

 

What happens to the LiveView on the camera or monitor while in the middle of a 30 second exposure?  Does the LiveView go blank?  Does it show the last, short exposure view that LiveView was displaying prior to starting the exposure?  Or does it show the last completed image that was previously taken?  In other words, are you always looking at a completed image, or does the display go blank (with or without camera settings displayed) until the next exposure is completed?  And can you look at a completed image for as long as you want, or does the A7S want to shut itself off after a period of time to save on the batteries?

 

If you are using a simple remote, do you have to use the buttons on the camera to change exposure length and any other settings?  I think my preference would be for a full featured Wi-Fi remote control app on a tablet to control the A7S and view the images and LiveView. 

 

Thank you for the information.

The monitor replaces the LiveView screen.  When the monitor is plugged in the LiveView screen is blank.  I sometimes would like to have both operational at the same time but haven't found a setting to allow this.

 

I shoot a lot of images using multi-frame noise reduction.  Until the 1st image of the four(4) is complete the LiveView screen/monitor is blank.  The 1st image captured is displayed while the remaining three are being captured.  The four images are then processed and displayed as the completed image.  You can set the image preview time to off, 2, 5 and 10 sec.  I normally use 10 sec; allows a reasonable time to review the image.  I have the A7's configured so I can press the C2 button to zoom into the preview image being displayed with the back wheel allowing zoom in/out.  If the preview times out it is a simple matter to press the image preview button to bring up the last image captured; an image displayed in this fashion does not time out.

 

You can set the A7's to go into sleep mode after being idle 10sec, 1, 2, 5 or 30min.  I use the default of 2min. to conserve battery power.  A click of the shutter button on camera or remote brings it back to life.

 

With a simple remote you do have to make all your adjustment on camera.  But there are at least three other options:

1) Use Sony's Remote Camera control.  This allows you to set almost everything on the camera, runs on a laptop and connects to the camera via a USB link.  The only thing really missing from this control is the option to display the LiveView screen on the laptop.  I've used this to control the camera while outputting the video port to a monitor.  Works well.

2) Use Sony's Smart Remote Control Camera app which allows camera control and image capture via WiFi using a smart phone or tablet app.  The camera control is a bit limited at present but is adequate for general shooting.

    This is the Camera app I would like to see greatly enhanced for astrophotography.

3) I use Sony's Time-Lapse Camera app a fair bit; nicely replaces a remote timer if you're only interested in shooting exposures of 30sec or less.

4) TriggerTrap now has a dongle for the A7's.  Works very well with my iPad.

5) I also like Sony's Star Trail Camera app; fun product.

6) Sony's Direct Upload Camera app might also be of interest to EAA types?  Allows direct uploading of images off the camera to various internet sites.

For details on Sony's Camera Apps check out the Play Memories website.

 

Lots tech out there...

 

bwa



#432 bwallan

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 04:17 AM

A few more single shots off the Sony A7S:

 

Sony A7S single shots off Celestron 8" EdgeHD w/ Televue 0.8x reducer (1600mm focal length, f/8.0)

 

One of the images:

Dumbbell%2BNebula.jpg

 

Enjoy!

 

bwa



#433 Chris A

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 08:34 AM

A few more single shots off the Sony A7S:

 

Sony A7S single shots off Celestron 8" EdgeHD w/ Televue 0.8x reducer (1600mm focal length, f/8.0)

 

One of the images:

Dumbbell%2BNebula.jpg

 

Enjoy!

 

bwa

Very nice single image of M27 at F8! Brian what was your exposure time please using the A7S and the ISO setting?

 

Chris



#434 RandyC

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 09:16 AM

Brian, very nice. I bet Sony worked hard to get rid of the sheen or ringing associated with HDMI images. You might see this in the A7R where you can't adjust the image because the pixels meld into each other. All of the HDMI converters I tried with Rock's camera had this issue. So did all of the video processors using the HDMI interface. Something in the conversion of a NTSC/PAL video signal from RCA to HDMI, no matter what the resolution.



#435 bwallan

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 07:58 PM

 

A few more single shots off the Sony A7S:

 

Sony A7S single shots off Celestron 8" EdgeHD w/ Televue 0.8x reducer (1600mm focal length, f/8.0)

 

One of the images:

Dumbbell%2BNebula.jpg

 

Enjoy!

 

bwa

Very nice single image of M27 at F8! Brian what was your exposure time please using the A7S and the ISO setting?

 

Chris

 

Per the Photo Details in the album:

 

Date taken 09/28/14, 11:00 pm UTC
Dimensions 1200 x 904
File name Dumbbell Nebula.jpg
File size 655.24K
Camera ILCE-7S
Lens ----  Not shown but: Celestron 8" EdgeHD
Focal Length ----  Not shown but: 1600mm
Exposure 30s
F Number f/1 Not correct: f/8
ISO 12800



#436 bwallan

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Posted 29 September 2014 - 08:17 PM

Brian, very nice. I bet Sony worked hard to get rid of the sheen or ringing associated with HDMI images. You might see this in the A7R where you can't adjust the image because the pixels meld into each other. All of the HDMI converters I tried with Rock's camera had this issue. So did all of the video processors using the HDMI interface. Something in the conversion of a NTSC/PAL video signal from RCA to HDMI, no matter what the resolution.

I'm not too sure of what "the sheen or ringing associated with HDMI images" is?  I know I never got a good image off my Mallincam Xtreme but I thought this was simply due to capturing a low quality video image and trying to present it as a still or are you talking about something different.

 

I know you can do frame captures from good quality HDMI video with excellent results, per the panorama (created out of Autopano Giga from two HDMI video frames):

Phantom%2B500ft%2BPano-1.jpg

 

And I've used frame captures from HDMI video off both the A7S and A7R with good results as 1920x1080 still images.

 

bwa



#437 bwallan

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 01:53 AM

Not a good night for imaging but still a good use for the A7S:

Moonlight.jpg

Panorama of two images created in Autopano Giga

Dimensions 1178 x 1000
Camera ILCE-7S
Lens FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS
Focal Length 28 mm
Exposure 15s
F Number f/3.5
ISO 3200

 

Enjoy!

 

bwa



#438 bwallan

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 03:10 PM

A slight change of pace w/ an Aurora from early this morning:

Select%2BAurora-2.jpg

Picture details:

Samyang 14mm @ f/2.8, Sony A7S, tripod

Exposure 10s, ISO 3200

 

If you're interested, you can watch a time-lapse of the Aurora and clouds over a 20 minute period at:

Aurora Time-Lapse

 

Enjoy!

 

bwa



#439 RandyC

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 03:44 PM

Brian, Nice. What do you have to do to get >30sec exposure? Is it put the camera in Manual mode? The USB connection transfers the image files but you need the separate HDMI cable for video?



#440 bwallan

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 04:16 PM

Brian, Nice. What do you have to do to get >30sec exposure? Is it put the camera in Manual mode? The USB connection transfers the image files but you need the separate HDMI cable for video?

>30sec: Select Bulb exposure mode and use a remote control / timer (or hold your finger on the shutter button) for the time you want for the exposure.  You can pretty much shoot exposures longer than 30 sec in any camera mode.

 

To capture/output live video you need an A7 HDMI cable.  Of course you can capture HDMI video to the memory card and transfer it via USB just like you would an image file.

 

bwa



#441 chasing photons

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 04:56 PM

bwallan quote:

 

“2) Use Sony's Smart Remote Control Camera app which allows camera control and image capture via WiFi using a smart phone or tablet app.  The camera control is a bit limited at present but is adequate for general shooting.  This is the Camera app I would like to see greatly enhanced for astrophotography.”

 

I see that the Smart Remote Control app has been temporarily removed from the list of available Sony camera apps.  I wonder if that was done to fix major software bugs in the app, or maybe because a significant upgrade or replacement is about to be released?  It would be nice if it was the latter.  Do third parties author some of these apps?  If so, the chances of an astrophotography/EAA specific app being developed might improve.

 

What do you think of this idea for a Sony Wi-Fi EAA app?  In the LiveView mode, allow for exposures (the update rate of the LiveView display) to go up to 30 seconds or maybe longer.  Dial it down to 2-3 seconds to help find and center the object and then turn it up to pick out more detail in the DSO.  During this time, the LiveView is constantly being updated at the desired rate (exposure length).  When you are happy with the exposure length, if you want to improve the view, tap a button on the tablet screen to take a multi frame noise reduction image, or tap another button to take a high dynamic range image.  The final image is displayed until you wish to go back to the LiveView.  Relevant functions like ISO, histogram, zoom (crop) and other useful camera controls would be available during LiveView or when a final image is displayed.  You would also have the option of saving an image to the tablet.  Do you think this would be technically possible with the Sony A7S?

   

Here is a link where you can apparently offer ideas for new Sony camera apps.

 

http://community.son...p/163239/page/2



#442 RandyC

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 05:10 PM

In the video world there was a need for a good live software. Since all EAA is doing is taking video stills of an extended exposures, this is really imaging. It's just done with a video camera.

 

Sony A7s is same, just a JPG. There are post processing applications (available for free) that have an extensive range of photographic adjustments. All you would do is load the JPG into a photoprocessing program and hit "Auto-adjust" or use the sliders such as contrast, saturation etc. There really is no difference, you are post processing either way. I know Sony has some programs available in its LiveView program. But am not sure if there is  way to feed directly into processing program. 

 

I never stack, so I am talking about simple adjustments like Auto, and a couple sliders. The HDR function in the camera stacks 4 images internally. I think storing and stacking images externally is becoming extinct. It's too complex.

 

I get better detailed resolution on my cell phone screen than my computer.



#443 bwallan

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 06:11 PM

bwallan quote:

 

“2) Use Sony's Smart Remote Control Camera app which allows camera control and image capture via WiFi using a smart phone or tablet app.  The camera control is a bit limited at present but is adequate for general shooting.  This is the Camera app I would like to see greatly enhanced for astrophotography.”

 

I see that the Smart Remote Control app has been temporarily removed from the list of available Sony camera apps.  I wonder if that was done to fix major software bugs in the app, or maybe because a significant upgrade or replacement is about to be released?  It would be nice if it was the latter.  Do third parties author some of these apps?  If so, the chances of an astrophotography/EAA specific app being developed might improve.

 

What do you think of this idea for a Sony Wi-Fi EAA app?  In the LiveView mode, allow for exposures (the update rate of the LiveView display) to go up to 30 seconds or maybe longer.  Dial it down to 2-3 seconds to help find and center the object and then turn it up to pick out more detail in the DSO.  During this time, the LiveView is constantly being updated at the desired rate (exposure length).  When you are happy with the exposure length, if you want to improve the view, tap a button on the tablet screen to take a multi frame noise reduction image, or tap another button to take a high dynamic range image.  The final image is displayed until you wish to go back to the LiveView.  Relevant functions like ISO, histogram, zoom (crop) and other useful camera controls would be available during LiveView or when a final image is displayed.  You would also have the option of saving an image to the tablet.  Do you think this would be technically possible with the Sony A7S?

   

Here is a link where you can apparently offer ideas for new Sony camera apps.

 

http://community.son...p/163239/page/2

I believe the Smart Remote Control Camera app is inherent in the A7 series.  I have it on both the A7S and A7R and see no way of removing or upgrading it.  It may not be available as a downloadable camera apps as a result?

 

Your idea is technically feasible.  You just have to convince someone to write the app...

 

bwa



#444 Chris A

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 07:59 PM

bwallan, on 29 Sept 2014 - 8:58 PM, said:

 

Chris A, on 29 Sept 2014 - 09:34 AM, said:

 

bwallan, on 29 Sept 2014 - 05:17 AM, said:

A few more single shots off the Sony A7S:

 

Sony A7S single shots off Celestron 8" EdgeHD w/ Televue 0.8x reducer (1600mm focal length, f/8.0)

 

One of the images:

Dumbbell%2BNebula.jpg

 

Enjoy!

 

bwa

Very nice single image of M27 at F8! Brian what was your exposure time please using the A7S and the ISO setting?

 

Chris

 

Per the Photo Details in the album:

 

Date taken 09/28/14, 11:00 pm UTC
Dimensions 1200 x 904
File name Dumbbell Nebula.jpg
File size 655.24K
Camera ILCE-7S
Lens ----  Not shown but: Celestron 8" EdgeHD
Focal Length ----  Not shown but: 1600mm
Exposure 30s
F Number f/1 Not correct: f/8
ISO 12800

 

Okay thank you Brian sorry about that.

 

Chris



#445 chasing photons

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 08:07 PM

Here is what Sony currently says about the temporary suspension of the Smart Remote Control (see 09/11/2014).

 

https://www.playmemo...maintenance.php

 

 

 

It looks like the Sony Camera Remote API is rather limited in supported functions for the A7S.  But maybe with the functions that are supported, a remote app that is more useful for EAA could still be developed by a third party.

 

https://developer.so...evelop/cameras/



#446 bwallan

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 08:18 PM

Here is what Sony currently says about the temporary suspension of the Smart Remote Control (see 09/11/2014).

 

https://www.playmemo...maintenance.php

 

 

 

It looks like the Sony Camera Remote API is rather limited in supported functions for the A7S.  But maybe with the functions that are supported, a remote app that is more useful for EAA could still be developed by a third party.

 

https://developer.so...evelop/cameras/

Maybe they're going to bring out a brand new, wonderful version of the Smart Remote Control!?  As you note, the current version is pretty limited in functionality but it works as general remote (and for party tricks)...

 

bwa



#447 A. Viegas

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 09:23 PM

Good point about why limit the A7s NRT viewing to just video mode? We are using multiple second exposures of 3-90s using existing Mallincam or AVS cameras so why not showcase what this A7s can do with 20,30 or 60s exposures??

Al

#448 Chris A

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 10:08 PM

Good point about why limit the A7s NRT viewing to just video mode? We are using multiple second exposures of 3-90s using existing Mallincam or AVS cameras so why not showcase what this A7s can do with 20,30 or 60s exposures??

Al

Yes cannot argue with that and very good point Al.

 

Chris



#449 bwallan

bwallan

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Posted 30 September 2014 - 10:49 PM

Good point about why limit the A7s NRT viewing to just video mode? We are using multiple second exposures of 3-90s using existing Mallincam or AVS cameras so why not showcase what this A7s can do with 20,30 or 60s exposures??

Al

Yupp, that is probably the way to go!  Video at 1/4sec (4 fps) and super high ISO's is not going to cut it for deep space objects BUT 30sec at a reasonable (some would say insane) ISO of 3200-12800, or even a bit higher, is pretty darn good!  Combine this with a fast lens or scope, i.e.: Hyperstar or such, and sit back and watch the show...

 

bwa



#450 RandyC

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Posted 01 October 2014 - 07:28 AM

There is no difference between using any one of these free 240 photo programs and a live editor. Unless you are stacking and the camera does that now.

http://en.softonic.c...are-windows-7/2


Edited by RandyC, 01 October 2014 - 07:28 AM.



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