Thursday, December 29, 2016

Why I Repurchased the Same Sony A99 That I Sold Last Year

Sony A99 with Battery Grip and Minolta 50mm f/1.4 lens.

The same Sony A99, a year later, minus the battery grip, now sits back on my shelf.

This is the complete package that I sold last year including Sony 70-200mm f/2.8, 
Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 and Sony 28mm f/2.8 plus other goodies.

I recently jumped on an unusual opportunity to buy back a camera that I had sold on eBay not that long ago. The price was right and although I certainly didn't "need" to buy the camera back, I felt like the opportunity was too good to pass up. But why would someone buy back a camera that they had only recently sold (within the past year)? 

The Sony A99 was my first full frame camera, and while it wasn't my first serious DSLR (the Sony A77 takes that distinction) but it was my first truly professional level rig. And I went all-in with it, I had some serious lenses to go along with an equally serious camera including the Zeiss 24-70 f/2.8 and the Sony G 70-200mm F/2.8, that's some serious glass. As for the camera itself, the Sony A99 features a 24.3 megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor and complete manual controls. It's good for fast action, shooting at 6 frames per second. It also shoots full HD video at 1920x1080. I shot a lot of great images with it but as I reflected on my switch to the E Mount system, I just felt that I never really got to most out of it and sold it far too soon.

The body of the Sony A99 is big and robust. It is built to handle the rigors of a photographers life in the field with a weather-sealed body made of magnesium alloy. At the time I sold it, I was under the impression that my days of shooting military photos was a thing of the past. But shortly after I arrived to my new unit here at Fort Bliss, Texas in early 2016, I was again assigned to public affairs and BAM, I soon found myself taking rough, bumpy rides in a Humvee back out to the dirty, dusty and muddy training areas to shoot pictures for the Army one more time. 

My Sony E Mount cameras are all fantastic shooters, but they aren't necessarily built to withstand the kind of rigors shooting photos for the Army requires a camera body to take. The Sony A99 features a 3 inch, fully articulated LCD screen, which comes in handy because whenever I find myself in an austere environment, I can just turn that screen around and not have to worry about it getting damaged. The same cannot be said for any of my Sony E Mount cameras. So, that's the primary reason for buying it back, but it's certainly not the only reason.

As I scrolled through some old folders of images, and as I recollected the memory of looking through the viewfinder of the A99, I recalled that there is a texture and richness to the images that I think is unique to DSLR's. I shot most of my landscapes and long exposures with the A99 and loved the results. 

Needless to say, the Sony A99, which was first announced back in December of 2012 and released in early 2013, cannot stack up against the new Sony A99II, what with it's insane 42 megapixel sensor. But the original Sony A99 is still one of the best DSLR cameras in the world. And it actually tops the A99II in a few categories such as battery life, weight, pixel area and by a large margin in price ($1,998 vs $3,198 new). 

But what about the lenses? I sold most of my Sony A mount lenses when I sold my A77 and A99, but I did keep a few like the Sony G 70-400mm zoom lens, which is great for wildlife and sports photography, the Minolta 100mm f/2.8 macro lens (also a fantastic portait lens) and the Sony 16mm fisheye lens which is a highly specialized lens which I only use once in a while. But I needed some good, everyday, general purpose lenses if I was going to get the most out of my A99. I found a good deal recently on another Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8, which is one of the best lenses I have EVER shot with, however, at the moment, I had to refrain from spending the money on a zoom lens like the Sony 70-200mm f/2.8 because I just bought a house. So I filled out my A mount inventory with the affordable Minolta offerings such as the 50mm f/1.4, 28-85mm f/3.5, 28mm f/2.8 and the infamous 70-210mm f/4 "beercan" zoom lens. 

I'm happy to have my A99 sitting back on my shelf and have already taken it out a few times for Army work. Stay tuned to my blog for my new A99 photo galleries. In the meantime, you can see some of the images I took with this very A99 that was with me last year while I was in South Korea.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My Sony RX100 IV Travels to Camp Shelby, Mississippi

When I received orders to report to Camp Shelby, Mississippi for a week-long course, I had to decide on which camera to take along. I wasn't sure how much free time I would have to shoot photos, or what I would take photos of, but as the saying goes "Everything is a Picture".

I always travel as light as possible and despise checking in a bag, but this time I had no choice due to the amount of military gear I had to take. As a result, I also checked in my backpack, why carry anything at all since I have to wait at baggage claim anyway? With this in mind, I decided to bring along my Sony RX100 IV.

The Sony RX100 IV is so small, it fits easily and comfortably into ANY pocket. It's the perfect travel camera. The best part about sticking this mighty might in your pocket is that you don't have to sacrifice quality for size. The Sony RX100 IV packs a 20.1 megapixel sensor and captures the images with a BIONZ X image processor. The lens is impressive for a point and shoot, Zeiss 24-70mm f/1.8. The video this little camera captures is super good. I was searching for better words to describe the 4k video but "super good" works just fine. I recently shot an import car video, the majority of which I shot in 4k with the RX100 IV.

Now, about Mississippi. Coastal Mississippi is quite beautiful. I arrived early in the day, any picked up my rental, but myself and another fella had to wait for a third guy to arrive later that evening as we were all ride sharing. That left me and my new friend the entire day to explore Gulfport and Biloxi.

Once we checked in at Camp Shelby, there wasn't much to capture other than what was going on at my class, so you'll get a glimpse of a little military training, I also shot some pictures at the Mississippi Army Museum.

My little Sony RX100 IV remains one of my favorite cameras and is definitely my favorite travel camera, although, next time out, I am going to take my Leica D-Lux (Typ 109) and see if it can give the Sony a run for it's money.

My Sony RX100 IV sit atop a 19th Century era cannon at the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Camp Shelby.

The best BBQ I enjoyed all week was at Murky Waters in Gulfport. This bar and grill features live blues on the weekends and also features some fabulous photography by a local photographer named Neil Ladner. 

The images adorning the walls of Murky Waters are by Neil Ladner. They are quite impressive and add a distinct local flavor to the restaurant. See more of his work at his web site

Fishbone Alley is a local spot for night life and features some colorful artwork and graffiti.

I had the brisket and pulled pork. It was AMAZING!

Coastal Gulfport features some impressive colonial/plantation style homes. The homes pictured here are located directly across the street from the Gulf of Mexico and sit on high ground.

Head East on Hwy 90 along the coast from Gulfport and you'll end up in Biloxi, Mississippi. Home to Keesler Air Force Base. The base is home to a private dock where we took in a lovely sunset.

The deep South hosts some amazing sunsets. The Sony RX100 IV captured it in all its glory.

An M60 Patton Tank at the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum.

A view of the sunrise from inside Camp Shelby.

The barracks, my home for the week.

We did some good training and the cadre were nice enough to let me shoot photos for the day.

This training simulated a raid on a village. Our job was to evaluate the training.

Sony RX100 IV shown with optional red leather cover and Grippie hand grip.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Video and Photos - Custom 2016 Audi A6 Supercharged!

Those of you that know me well, know that I will never turn down a request from any of my life long friends, so when my friend of 15 years asked if I would edit a video of some footage that he shot of his awesome Audi A6, I did what I always do, I gave it my best effort. Matt had recently purchased a gimbal stabilizer for his cell phone and shot some video of his car along with our other dear friend Amir. But there wasn't enough good raw footage to make a decent video and I just felt an undeniable urge to get my ass out to California and shoot a proper video for him.

This was no small undertaking, it involved loading my Prius C with all my gear and driving from El Paso, Texas to La Quinta, California, a trip of 1400 miles round trip, 10 hours each way. With driving taking up 2 days, it left me only 2 days to scout locations and shoot as much raw footage as possible.

The Coachella Valley offers stunning views in every direction you gaze. The San Jacinto mountains are breathtaking, Joshua Tree National Monument is only 30 minutes away and is famous for it's colorful Southwest fauna, picturesque Box Canyon is found on the road from Joshua Tree to Salton Sea. I ended up shooting at all of the aforementioned locations and threw in a few shots of highway 74, which winds it's way up and down the mountains into and out of Palm Desert.

Matt's Audi is a 2016 A6 3.0T Supercharged, with customization by Boden Autohaus. The 21 inch amber toned, forged wheels are by Vossen and the air suspension system is supplied by a hard line AccuAir system. The end result is a gorgeous European luxury import that turns heads every where it goes.

The focus of the shoot was video, not photos, but naturally, I'd flip my camera out of video mode and snap a few shots. I hope you enjoy the video and photos of this marvelous automobile.

Cameras and gear used on this production:

Sony A7RII
Sony AX33
Sony Action Cam AS100 and AZ1VR
Sony RX100 IV
Beholder MS-1 3 axis gimbal
CAME Steadi Cam Rig

2016 Audi A6 3.0T on the road leading into Joshua Tree National Monument.

Photo location: Hwy 74 scenic view, Palm Desert, Ca.

The air suspension system allows the car to be raised and lowered by remote control or smart phone app. The wheels recess into the wheel well and seemingly disappear. 

Mother nature lent a helping hand with a stunning sunrise on day two of the shoot.

One of the ideas I had for a scene in the video was to feature a classy and sexy female model to accentuate and match the stunning lines and curves of the Audi. We ended up only using two short video clips of the model in the final video edit, however, you'll be able to see more of her when I post the behind the scenes/making of video coming in a couple weeks. Stay tuned. (Model: Patrica Cromwell

The crew: (L to R) Amir Afsar (, model Patricia Cromwell, car owner Matt Rifkin ( and photographer Felix Mena (me).

Special thanks to Matt for these behind the scene photos.

The sunrise sequence and time lapse required a 4am wake up plus a 45 minute drive out to the Salton Sea location. But the effort was well worth it as the sunrise was one of the most spectacular I have ever seen. 

Photography can be extremely rewarding and I feel fortunate to be able to capture and share.

Some of the best shots of the video were captured with my DJI Phantom 2 Vision Plus drone. However, in the future, I will employ Matt's new DJI Mavic which has a ton of new, useful features.

View of the shoot from inside the car.

The sky was sort of blown out and dull at sunset during the model shoot but I had no choice but to make the best of it. Most of these shots did not make the final cut in the video.

Thanks for reading my blog and I hope you enjoyed the video. You can see more of these shots and some additional video clips from this shoot on my Instagram at