Washington 2010

This year's US trip involved an experiment: comparing the Sony alpha 550 camera with the Nikon d5000. Both are DSLRs, both are in the same price range. The Nikon had a Nikon 60mm f/2.8G AF-S ED Micro lens and the Sony had a Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro lens.

First experiment: cup fungus. These were about 1mm in diameter (that's moss in the foreground). Depth of field is pretty small at this size, not quite able to get the side and rim of the cup in focus at the same time. The Nikon is able to get in a little closer, but that's attributable to the lens. The shots are not the same but are of comparable quality.

cup fungus nikon cup fungus sony

Second experiment: Mycena sp., entire mushroom is about 1 inch tall, cap is about 5mm wide. The colors are slightly richer in the Sony shot, but mainly the difference was that I was able to get the shot in a few seconds with autofocus on the Sony, but it took several minutes of fiddling with the Nikon to make it focus on this tiny subject.

mycena nikon mycena sony

A Douglas Squirrel comes by to swipe some of the mushrooms and store them away for later. Unfortunately the Sony was still in manual focus mode, so the photos from it didn't really come out very well.

douggie nikon douggie sony

Witch's Hair lichen in the water. Less glare on the Sony shot.

lichen nikon lichen sony

Water splashing over a rock in the stream next to our campsite. The Sony did a better job of freezing the motion, although I expect I could get the same effect with the Nikon by manually adjusting shutter speed.

water nikon water sony

Moss on a rock next to the water. While the pictures are not identical, both are equally good IMHO.

moss nikon moss sony

This was the group of shots where the Nikon and the Sony really behaved differently. The result isn't dramatically different, but both Eric and I were able to get good shots with the Sony within a few seconds. After several minutes of fiddling, Eric still couldn't get the Nikon to do what he wanted, and I had managed to get one shot that I was happy with.

LBJ nikon LBJ sony

And this shot never worked at all in the Nikon, but was easy on the Sony.

LBJ sony

Similar shots on the flowers.

flower nikon flower sony

Both did OK on the landscape, although the Sony in Auto mode overexposed the shot a bit.

landscape nikon landscape sony

The Nikon shot is framed better, but looking carefully at the details I think the shots are nearly equal.

river nikon river sony

This shot shows that the two cameras are doing really different things with their colors. Given that the sky is greenish in the Sony shot, I think the Nikon did better here.

trees nikon trees sony

More color variation. The Nikon shot is a little too blue but captured the bone-white of the tree, the Sony is a little too yellow but captured the reds in the dead needles and rocks.

dead tree nikon dead tree sony

A difficult shot: bright foreground, deep shadows, glittering water. Here the Nikon wins, freezing the motion of the water even in the deep shadows.

stream nikon stream sony

There were matched pairs of each of these shots too, but they were nearly indistinguishable. So I'll give you the inside/outside view of a pair of hatching Amanita muscaria instead.

a. muscaria inside nikon a. muscaria outside sony

The twisted inside of a false truffle. There are very similar fungus in photos labeled Geopora cooperi and Hydnotrya michaelis. I considered its identity to be doubtful, and left it in the woods. There was no doubt about the identity of the bright yellow Ramaria bursting from the hillsides, but being familiar with the amount of dirt which is embedded in its tiny branches, I left them for the squirrels too.

false truffle nikon ramaria hill sony

The Nikon refused to get any closer to these tiny (~1mm) blue flowers. Much better shot with the Sony.

blue flowers nikon blue flowers sony

Eric took these close shots of an anthill. There are ants in both shots if you look closely. They are shiny.

anthill nikon anthill sony

Again, the matches shots were nearly identical for these two photos. On the left, tiny orange cup fungi with the Nikon. To the right, a great cluster of huge morels, which were unfortunately beginning to decay before we found them. We left them to spread spores for the next generation.

cup fungus nikon morels sony

In low light, there is no doubt which camera is the winner. The Sony managed this shot in Auto, the Nikon would have nothing to do with it.

Eric campfire nikon Eric campfire sony
yellow gilled mushroom

And, as a parting shot, this strange little yellow-gilled mushroom. In stature it is like a Tricholoma, but it has these tantilizing little reminants of veil tissue around the margin. Tricholomas generally lack veils, although some of their relatives (notably the Matsutake) have veils. The brilliant yellow of the gills is also captured well in this photo.

Bonus: photos of Sue's mask

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