Sunday, February 25, 2007

Is Sony offering the best out of box Infrared Camera Yet?

There is a strong rumor floating about a soon to be released Sony H9 model.

Following on the heels of the widely regarded H1, H2, and H5 super-zoom line, the H9 is generating a particluar Buzz in the IR Photographer Community.

Yes, it's true that the very best quality Infrared Images are made with a DSLR and Quality Glass, but, you have to be a very dedicated IR shooter to invest in the DSLR, the Glass, (hopefully you already have a substantial Glass collection for your Color Photography), and about another $300-400 to have the camera professionally modded for IR dedicated Photography.

Yep, it takes some dedication to the craft to mod your DSLR, void the warranty, and restrict it to IR, no more color shots from it. It's a route that many of us have taken, the author included.

It's widely known and acknowledged that the Sony line of cameras that have the Nightshot Feature are perhaps the best "out of the box" choice for IR work. Buy a roll of black electrical tape, an IR Pass Filter, and a couple of ND filters and you are in business. No long exposures, or professional modifications are necessary to achieve stunning IR results.

Of course we are speaking of the Sony Cybershot line, the DSC-F707, DSC-717, DSC 828, DSC-V1, and the DCS-V3. All having the Nightshot IR feature which moves the internal hot mirror out of the light path, effectively modding the camera on a temporary basis for IR, and allowing the photographer to switch back to the normal Visible Color modes at the flip of a switch.

Sony owners interested in Infrared Photography all eagerly peruse each new camera announcement from Sony, looking for Sony to introduce a new camera with Nightshot, or an equivilent capability to facilitate IR Photography. Many forum posts have pleaded with Sony to bring Nightshot back

Well, has Sony been listening? If you look closely at the list of features on the included image, there, right in the middle, it states Nightshot! The first time in a long time.
(click on the image for a full size view)

Is it true? Is the H9 a reality? I suppose we won't know for sure if this is just a rumor or if the camera really will be marketed?, and if Nightshot will be implemented or not? We certainly hope so!

There are a number of distinct advantages to shooting IR with a Sony Cybershot. The Carl Zeiss branded glass is widely known for it's exceptional quality. You get the almost priceless advantage of the real time EVF and LCD display in IR, enabling you to preview your image in real time. With the modded DSLR, the photographer is forced to view the scene in Visible Color, forced to guess how the image is going to finally look in IR. Anyone who has any IR experience under his/her belt, knows what an advantage this can be. IR Compositions can really only be seen in real time, even with a lot of that experience.

The question that will leave all of the Sony IR shooters breathlessly waiting for the final announcement will be "Will Nightshot continue to be Crippled?".

Due to concerns that Nightshot could be used as an "X-Ray" camera to look through certain types of clothing fabrics, Sony decided in the past to avoid the controversy althogether by crippling the Nightshot feature, imposing shutter and aperture limits. This allows the photographer no control of either setting. The 7x7's have a shutter speed max. of 1/60 sec. and F2 or F2.2 aperture. The other models are further limited to 1/30 sec. as the fastest shutter speed available, and all are set automatically. Quite limiting, and many times requiring usage of a tripod and some ND to control exposure in bright sunlight. Still, even with these limitations, Nightshot was and is much more capable than the multi-second manual exposures of all the rest of the un-modded cameras.

If Nightshot were not crippled on the Cybershot Line, these models would have had most all the capabilities of a modded DSLR camera. In fact, many Cybershots have been modded to gain back the exposure controls, but at a substantial cost. Results of this mod have produced a very capable IR tool.

So I guess this leaves us with the questions???:

Will Sony offer Nightshot as a Real Feature again?

Will Nightshot continued to be Crippled?

Is the H9 REAL, or just a rumor to generate a vast amount of speculation?

I suppose we will all have to just wait and see.

-=- Jerry -=-

Update -- 20 Mar 2007

I found a link to a PDF of the Sony H7/H9 User's Manual.

Sony H7/H9 Manual

The H9 will have the Nightshot Feature which has been used so successfully by IR Shooters who own the earlier Sony DSC models that have Nightshot. This will be good news to those who do not want to step up to the DSLRs for various reasons, not the least of which is overall ownership costs.

In typical Sony User Manual fashion, what is not said in the manual is much greater than what is said.

The main question on our minds is whether or not the H9 Nightshot implementation is crippled (preventing any real exposure control) as it is in the DSC lines.

The PDF states "While using the Nightshot function, the camera will be in auto adjustment mode, wherever the mode dial is set, and settings available will be limited".

This statement sounds like the H9 will be limited to only certain Shutter Speed and Aperture settings, the details of which, so far, are still not known to the consumer.

Some people are reporting that they have "pre ordered" the H9, but I have seen no reports of anyone actually having one to work with. I suppose we will have to wait until someone takes delivery, or we can find one in a retail store to check it out directly.

Even "Crippled" the Sony DSC lines are formidable IR tools. I suspect strongly that the H9 will be adopted by a whole new group of IR shooters, and will continue the Nightshot IR tradition, producing stunning results.

Once again, we are left waiting for the details.

Stay tuned!

-=- Jerry -=-


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