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June 19, 2013

Future Plans for SonyAlphaLab and Photos of the “Lab”!

Lab Under Construction

I just wanted to touch base with all of you on the future plans for, and show you the progress on the Lab. I wrote an article similar to this a while back, and it really seemed to be a popular one, so here it goes again.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately with the whole website thing, camera technology as a whole, and what I actually want to do? I enjoy reviewing cameras and helping out where I can with questions and answers, but I always want to take things to the next level. How can I do that?

A Quick History Recap – for those in need..

As you may have read on the About SAL Page, or if your a regular reader for a while, I used to be a Pro Photographer using all Canon gear. In short, the photography business grew so fast, Michele and I could not keep up with it and our full time jobs. To be honest it became so taxing it was no longer enjoyable. The customers were getting harder to deal with, because more time was required and we simple did not have it. The choice needed to be made weather to leave the great job with full benefits ect.. for the so-called “dream”.

To help with the decision, Layla popped into the picture πŸ™‚ It quickly became clear it was not a good time to leave the great job with benefits when a baby was on the way. So, we closed up shop, so to speak, and finished all our obligations. Since then I’ve been reviewing cameras and creating video tutorials for my YouTube Channel (Click Here) in my spare time. I found Sony alone the way when I first reviewed the SLT-A55 – Ebay Auctions >>, and was amazed with the technology. I thenΒ Reviewed the Sony Nex-C3 (Click Here) and was sold on the Sony technology, design, and image quality! SonyAlphaLab was official born, and JHPVideoTutorials was let go.

Present Time

Fast forward two years or so and here we are. I have reviewed and tested a lot of Sony photography gear in the last two years as you can see by the website content, and mostly focused my efforts on the Mirrorless Nex Camera System and some Alpha and cyber-shot cameras in between.

What Are My Future Plans??

I currently still have all my Canon pro gear, studio photography equipment, the Sony Nex-6 and a few Sony E-mount lenses, lens adapters, and old school Minolta lenses. The downstairs of our home, aka “Future Lab”, is really close to completion! What does this mean? Hardcore testing, much better quality control and consistency on reviews. I’m also thinking about reviewing some Fuji, Samsung, and Olympus Mirrorless Cameras if the demand is present based on the polling I will do. If you guys want me to review something, please let me know!

As I said above, I still have all my Pro Canon gear, so what is the deal with that? Well encase I lose my job or Michele loses here job, I need to be able to fire up the photography business immediately as a fall back, and I need a full assortment of gear to get the job done. I just can’t afford not to have something solid to fall back on with the family ect.. That being said, I could sell the Canon gear and replace it with Sony, but the SLT-A99 did not justify the amount of time and effort that would require in my opinion. The new full frame mirrorless Sony cameras coming in early 2014 may just be what I need though! I’m seriously considering starting to part with some of my less needed Canon gear. I pretty much never use it anyway, but Michele loves the Canon 5d Mark II, as do I. It’s hard to part with such an awesome camera and set of full frame L lenses when it’s all payed for. We shall see!


The Lab Progress

I made provisions in the Lab to set-up a full size studio lighting area with various lighting configurations, backdrops, floors, ect… This will allow for professional quality portraiture, commercial/ product photography, or anything else I want to do really πŸ™‚ I plan to show you all exactly how I do everything with the Sony equipment. This way you can do the same thing if you want with ease, and create your own style of photography with a nice head start so to speak. If your already a professional, then you will benefit from the much better quality testing I will be doing on Pro Sony gear that is coming out in early 2014. I have a ton of A-Mount lenses to test and I still have not reviewed the full frame Sony Alpha A99 (slt-A99), or Sony DSC-RX1 for that matter.

The Lab is all primed and has the ceiling paint done, but still needs the actual wall paint, and then carpet/tile, molding, trim ect.. I can start using the lab now, but I don’t want to clog it up with stuff only to have to move it the next day for painting or whatever. So, I only have a little product photography set-up as you will see below. Once all the painting and carpet is done, I can get to serious business!

First, the before:

Future -SonyAlphaLab Studios

Future -SonyAlphaLab Studios

Future -SonyAlphaLab Studios

Future -SonyAlphaLab Studios

And I just took these next photos about an hour ago as I write this.

Lab Under Construction

Lab Under Construction

Lab Under Construction

Lab Under Construction

Lab Under Construction

Lab Under Construction


Lab Testing Thoughts and Ideas

I want to design some kind of camera and lens test chart that is unique. I’m thinking of something 3-demmensional with the ability to test sharpness, color, and the out of focus bokeh area produced by various lenses all in the same frame. In order to do this I plan on using a large 4×8 foot table with a square shelf unit that sort of resembles a ladder or the letter H. I want to have that set-up perfectly level and on the same plane as the camera and lens. I can then have the table about 10 feet from a wall which can be used for creating various out of focus renderings depending on what I use.Β  The design is only in my head right now, but I will put something down on paper and sketch it up soon. I can then test all lenses and cameras with this same set-up for easier comparisons between cameras. Using studio lighting and calibrated white balance, will insure the colors are as accurate as possible every time. I will still do real world photography, don’t worry! This will just give a nice concrete ‘Lab Testing’ area for each review.


Closing Remarks

As you can see the Lab is nearing completion and I am super excited about that. It’s going to be awesome to be able to just run downstairs and do a quick test on a lens or camera. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining out, daytime, nighttime ect.. A few more weeks and we should have the carpet guys coming in. Most likely were going to be doing kids portraiture for the most part, so the carpet base is a good thing to have on top of concrete I think. I can then use a backdrop on top of the carpet, and not have to worry about the kids getting hurt when they fall. I also plan on having a portable floor I can slide around on-top of the carpet for when I need something like that.

This weekend we should get a lot more work done hopefully. Layla will be helping and be covered in paint no doubt, so I’ll grab a few snapshots for laughs πŸ˜‰

Your support is also greatly appreciated, so thanks for checking in and all the continued comments, shares, and emails!

Have a goodnight everybody,


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  1. It’s looking great, buddy. Are you leaving those walls white or are you hitting them with mid-grey?

    I can’t see any valid reason to sell the Canon gear as long as it continues to work. Especially when both of the people using it are so familiar with it, more especially seeing as how you’ve already got all the best glass in that ecosystem.

    There’s nothing you won’t be able to do with it. Also, don’t forget rule #1 with new technology – leave it to the early adopters and fools who can afford it, then when the bugs are ironed out get second or third generation. That’s even more important when your livelihood (or potential livelihood) depends upon those tools for work.

    • Jay

      Thanks Alan for the comments!

      I’m going for a light gray over the white primed walls, but the ceiling will remain white.

      Such great points on all accounts as it relates to the Canon gear. Sadly you 100% correct and I should just keep it. I’ll just save for a while and buy the new camera before I sell the Canon. It’s the smartest move financially, and security wise. I’ll just by the camera body only and review lenses with it first while I save for each lens I want. Build it over time the smart way as I can afford it. Dam Al, this common sense reality talk is killing me!!

      More great points on the new technology. I will definitely review before I buy, but if the new full frame mirrorless cameras blow away my Canon 5d Mark II in performance, I will have to consider getting one for my upcoming Pro Portraiture work, and possible other commercial or product photography work I might do here and there.

      Any thoughts on camera and lens Lab testing?? So much is already done by DPReview and others I need to make it different and practical?

      Thanks again Al, and if your still awake have a goodnight over in Australia! Otherwise, good morning πŸ˜‰


      • Regarding the testing, I can only say what I find useful on other sites. The still life scene that DPReview use on every test is the most useful thing on the internet for me. Being able to compare the camera I’m looking at with the like results they’ve collected of every other camera over the years is extremely handy and informative.

        There’s also a standardised black & white test target – sharpness and CA? – that is frequently used. DPR have it behind the still life, I think the other guys just do straight shots of it.

      • Jay

        Thanks Al for the additional info and I agree about DPReviews standardized tests. That is why I want to have something similar, yet totally uniquw. The 3-d standardized scene will also help illustrate how the perspective changes do to sensor format, and/or lens focal length.

        Thanks again,

  2. Hi Jay

    I am a regular reader of Sony AlphaLab. I own a Nex-6 and lenses bought after reading you reviews.

    I am looking forward to read more reviews they really help me….. And I appreciate your notes when you give us references where to find additional information

    Thank you for your work . The site is very usefull !

    Paul L

    Pardon my english I am french Canadian

    • Jay

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for the kind comments and feedback on the website, I greatly appreciate it πŸ˜‰ Your English is probably better than mine, so don’t sweat it!


  3. David Stahl

    As regards other cameras to review, I’d vote for the Olympus Pen E-P5, and if it seems compelling, what Olympus announces this fall in terms of a hybrid.

    • Jay

      Thanks for the feedback David and I agree about the Olympus compelling product line worth review consideration.


  4. Joe Legeckis

    Great site, appreciate the timely reviews and information.

  5. Hey Jay, lab is looking great! Thanks for all the hard work you (and the rest of the team) put into the site. This is my #1 source for news about new NEX and Alpha gear – I would personally prefer it sticks to Sony gear (unless there is really compelling tech that Sony users must know about).

    • Jay

      Thanks very much Gavin for the comments and feedback on the reviews and information you find most useful! I greatly appreciate it πŸ™‚


  6. FlavioRoss

    I prefer it stick to Sony gear too. There are websites with tons of Canikon cameras and lens reviews, but not of Sony stuff. AlphaLab is already probably the most complete one now, and hope continue to improve πŸ˜‰

    I just miss new tutorials, I think the last one was back on February.. some about flash stuff, studio portrait, wildlife, video tips and so on. πŸ™‚

    • Jay

      Thanks FlavioRoss for the comments and detailed feedback on reviews and tutorials! I really enjoy making the tutorials, but find the time required hard to find these days unfortunately. I do plan on moving more in that direction though with the full incorporation of the LAB. I want to have an area where I can sit and have my laptop up and talk to the camera, like you may have seen in professional tutorials or Scott Kelby, ect..

      I also agree about there being plenty of websites covering Canonikon gear. Sony, Fuji, Olympus, and a few others are not as well covered though, and are often in direct competition with the Sony Nex cameras.

      That being said, I have very limited time, so I can realistically only branch out a little and maybe do a few compares vs the Nex-6 type of a thing. Between that, Lab Testing, and addition Photography tutorials, I think the Lab will be looking even better in the next year!

      Thanks again for the info,

  7. Gerard

    My two-cents worth is as follows:

    1) the “one review fits all” format of (seemingly) all reviewers seems to always fall short of the information that can make or break One’s pleasure with a purchase. I had questions when I purchased the A57 but I chose to take that chance. It would have been better if reviews had been broken down and done separately in a greater amount of (boring) detail.

    2) The ceiling does not look all that high. Are You intending to do any portraiture work there, or keeping it for a “lab”. With a while ceiling is bouncing light a viable option You figured in cuz that would be a good tutorial for lots of houses that might be used for studios do have low-ish ceilings?

    3) For the sake of the production of income, You and Your family’s livelihood into the future, I’d retain a Canon presence… especially in knowing that Sony has rather (very?) poor low-light focusing in comparison to Canon (especially the new… what is it, the 6D at 3-stops?).

    4) I got a whole buncha lotta flack at SAR for badmouthing DPreview since “the change”. If You are able to build on what DPreview use to be, and not on what they are now, I’d say You are going in the right direction.

    5) I hope the best for You and Your wife as You move forward.

    • Gerard

      Wow… in the “how did I end up typing that” department…

      What I might have meant to say is… “The ceiling does not look all that high. Are You intending to do any portraiture work there, or is this are just going to be a “lab”? With a white ceiling, is bouncing light off the ceiling a viable option You have already decided upon? Many houses that wanna-be portraiture photographers do have, do have low ceilings; How to use the low ceilings to an advantage could make for useful information to pass on in a tutorial (or two or three or whatever).

      • Jay


        No worries πŸ˜‰ The ceilings are low, and not ideal at about 7 feet. I’m really not that worried about it though because were going to focus on children mostly, and head shots can be done in the seated position if we do some of those. I can also do 3/4 shots no problem. The hard part is tall people standing or a group of people with some standing. For this to work I will have to get the camera higher than normal, and possible clone the backdrop a bit more on the top in photoshop. Sometimes it will get clipped in this situation. A studio we had a while back also had low ceilings. Otherwise, outside is a great option for family portraits and we live in a pretty good area. I do plan on creating some tutorials, but we need to get the carpet and paint done first. Hopefully this month!


    • Gerard

      This is a review I watched a while ago. Even though almost an hour long and pretty comprehensive in what was covered, it still falls short. There are many aspects of camera and many ways to use them. An all encompassing review of just one camera might be a several hours long. If this guy has over a hundred thousand views on this video, obviously there are people out there willing to sit through, watch, and listen to more than a simple several minute gratuitous marketing bit.

      Be what I said as I said it, the following review is pretty good (in comparison to so many others). If nothing else it may stimulate some ideas within You.

      • Jay


        Thanks for the link and that is an excellent review for sure! That guy is polished and using some seriously high quality gear as well.

        I’m curious what was missing for you on the slt-a57 reviews you read, and where did the above linked review fall short?

        Thanks again,

    • Jay

      Hi Gerard,

      Thanks for the comments and sharing your thoughts πŸ˜‰

      The one review fits all format is hard to do unless you have a team of people or endless hours of time. What happened to DPreview? I honestly don’t fallow it enough to have noticed a “change”. That being said, I try to do something different than they do. DPReview does a really good job with the consistent technical breakdown and image comparisons. DXOMark is great for checking out sensor performance and comparing that. I try to offer a more real world perspective and hands-on experience, because I know you can also go wherever and check that review etc.. I also try to offer a more question and answer friendly atmosphere. I’m honestly not sure how good that is working, but some reviews have a lot of comments.

      I’m keeping the Pro Canon gear for now, but will upgrade to something full frame or better in 2014 most likely. I will also expand my current Nex system with more lenses πŸ™‚ I hear a high quality zoom is coming out and a fast 85mm!

      I have not tested the full frame A99 in low light for comparison, but my full frame 5d mark II is significantly better than the slt-a77 or slt-a57 I used. Comparing full frame Pro grade to APS-C is not really fair though. Much more light coming in on the full frame and better hardware etc.. I should be getting the slt-a99 soon though, so I can do some real world testing and low light focus comparisons.

      I’ll address your other comments separate πŸ˜‰

      Thanks ,

  8. Bruce Wilson

    Hi Jay,
    I really enjoy getting your newsletter as I also have a Nex6,bought recently after reading your comments , i have a question about remotes – I want one to operate the camera on “bulb”.The RMTDSLR2 doesn’t support bulb ,the only other remote I can find that does bulb is a Vello remote through B & H video. Do you know anything about these remotes( IRM-P IR and the IR-M).
    Thanks ,keep up the good work.?

    • FlavioRoss

      The RMTDSLR2 support bulb. I have one and the NEX 6 too.
      First set the camera to BULB. Then in the drive mode set “remote”.
      To start the exposure press the shutter button of the remote, when you are done, press the shutter button again. Very easy.

      The Sony remote is ok, but most of buttons are useless, the only ones you are really going to use is the shutter, the 2 sec and the movie button. The others are only for when the camera is connected to a TV.
      There are some really cheap chinese remote controls (they have a Alpha logo and 2 buttons) on ebay, and for what I know, works just as fine. (I never tried theses through)

      • Jay

        Thanks for the info Flavio and saving me having to look it up πŸ˜‰ I honestly did not know off the top of my head!


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