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Full Frame Mirrorless

Although I have been a longtime user of mirrorless cameras, I’ve been sitting on the fence about moving to a full-frame model. What was holding me back was my reluctance to make a sizable investment for a new set of lenses.


This past February while attending the Wedding & Portrait Professional Conference & Expo in Las Vegas, Sony introduced a new camera – the Alpha 7 III. In case you’re curious about it, see my previous article about the WPPI Expo here.

A couple of features of the 24 megapixel A7 III caught my attention. First was the camera’s autofocus system. Using 693 phase detection AF points focusing was fast and accurate. Second the camera’s Eye AF which identifies and tracks the subject’s eye as the focus point. Third was its high continuous shooting speed – up to 10 frames per second. And forth was the comfortably adjustable LCD screen. And I saw that the A7 III had dual SD card slots. I spent about 30 minutes inspecting the camera and bouncing questions off of Sony rep Dave Rhodes. I left the expo with a very positive opinion about Sony’s brand new model.

After returning home from WPPI, I pre-ordered the camera with a 28-70mm lens. Along with it I ordered an accessory that would allow me to use my collection of Canon lenses with this new model. This device is the Metabones Smart Adapter.


Last week Sony released the first batch of A7 IIIs and my order arrives by courier, but due to my workload I wait a few days to open it. When I finally free up some time I find that the package contains the body, lens, USB charging cord, shoulder strap and instruction manual. Strike 1 on Sony. I see that the package does not have a battery charger. Instead I have to use a USB cord to connect to the camera body to charge the battery.

Now I think that I’m ready to take a few shots so I attach the lens, insert the battery and a blank SD card and turn on the camera. Strike 2 on Sony. The battery is not charged so I cannot power on the camera. Disappointed, I unwrap the USB charging cord only to find that there isn’t an A/C adapter for the cord. Strike 3 on Sony. It would be nice for Sony to al least supply an A/C adapter for the USB cord.

After striking out, I have to take a break. I hunt around for an A/C adapter and then proceed to charge the battery (in camera) for a couple of hours. After the battery is charged, I head outdoors to take a few shots.


my first photo with the A7 III

still – landscape

close up autofocus

action autofocus

high speed frame rate

auto white balance

While there isn’t anything remarkable about the photos, I want to see the camera shoot still, close auto focus (branch), action (runner), high frame rate (duck) and auto white balance (indoor).


I’m right-handed. The camera grip feels solid. Overall the body is compact without miniature features. The electronic viewfinder is bright and crisp. The LCD screen is adjustable making it easy to compose your shots whether they are overhead or low to the ground..



convenient and customizable control

the A7 III next to my Canon 6D

I like this camera’s dedicated exposure adjustment dial. A control wheel on the rear and another on the front are useful for changing exposure combinations. There are four buttons that let you customize the settings to your preferences. For those in a hurry to share photos, one of the controls lets you send images to a smartphone by Wi-Fi. And compared to my other full-frame DSLRs, the A7 III is noticeably smaller and lighter.



To be honest, I would not have purchased the A7 III had not the Metabones adapter been available.

This accessory allows me to use my full-frame Canon lenses with Sony full-frame FE-mount bodies including the A7 III. Having read dozens of reviews of the Metabones adapter beforehand, I was convinced that it was the only way for me to afford a new A7 III without having to buy a new set of lenses.


the A7 III, Metabones adapter and a Canon E-mount lens.

the A7 III with the Canon 24-105mm F/4L lens attached.

As part of checking out this new camera, I tested all of the Canon lenses in my collection with the A7 III using the Metabones adapter.

I was pleasantly surprised. The adapter worked with all of my lenses. Additionally the lens information (ID, shutter speed, f-stop, focal length) was transferred to the images’ EXIF data (two lenses were incorrectly identified).

Below are images made using those respective lenses.



135mm F/2L

35mm F/2

75-300 F/4-5.6 @75mm


75-300 F/4-5.6 @300mm

24-105mm F/4L @24mm

24-105mm F/4L @105mm


50mm F/1.4

8-15mm F/4L Fisheye @8mm

8-15mm F/4L Fisheye @15mm


17-40mm F/4L @17mm

17-40mm F/4L @40mm

85mm F/2


100mm F/2.8 macro

Sigma 20mm F/2

24mm F/3.5L TS-E


100-400mm F/4.5-5.6L @100mm

100-400mm F/4.5-5.6L @400mm

All of these photos were taken from a distance of about eight feet except for the two 100-400mm photos which were taken from a distance of about 16 feet. In short, the Metabones adapter lets you use Canon EF-lenses on Sony FE-mount bodies.

Sony E-mount lenses (designed for the smaller APS-C size sensor) can be used on the A7 III. My E-mount 18-200mm lens worked perfectly. However using an E-mount lens reduces the image resolution from 4000 x 6000 pixels to 2624 x 3936 pixels.


 
 

One neat feature that I am going to use for portraits is coined Eye AF. Long ago I was taught that for portraits it is important to focus on the subject’s eye. With Eye AF activated, the camera identifies the subject’s eye and makes it the main focusing point even if the subject moves. Eye AF worked well with the several subjects that I photographed.

I should mention that there’s an app on my iPhone that lets me grab images from the A7 III. The app is called PlayMemories Mobile and lets me download the images (JPGs only, not the raw ARWs) from the SD card to my iPhone. Having used the app with other Sony cameras previously, I’ve found it to be easy and very reliable.

I should also mention that PlayMemories Mobile also lets me record location information for the images. Using the smartphone’s GPS capabilities, the app sends the location coordinates via Bluetooth to the camera as it is capturing the images onto the SD card. Again, in my short time using this feature, it worked reliably. Bravo Sony.

I use the classic version of Lightroom to perform most of my image editing. To be exact, I’m now using Lightroom 6.14 but it’s my understanding that Adobe will not be making any further upgrades to this version. Therefore it’s unfortunate that I am unable to edit the raw ARW files with my copy of Lightroom without performing an extra step. Luckily I’ve found a way to fool Lightroom into believing that the camera’s raw ARW files were created with the previous generation Sony A7 II camera. Still this “fix” is an inconvenience before editing with Lightroom.

Despite my initial frustration (lack of a charger, uncharged battery, etc) out of the box, I remain very positive about its impressive features and performance. Having spent a few hours “playing” with this new mirrorless, I’ve used only several of the features that first attracted me to this camera. There are many more that I plan to become familiar with and use. Additionally, there are a large set of features that should be of interest to the movie enthusiasts. Admittedly, I’m not deep into moviemaking so I will cede the reviews on this aspect of the camera to other photographers.

In the mean time, if you’d like to learn more about this new model, Sony has an extensive description of the Alpha 7 III features here.

The suggested retail price of the A7 III is $2000 for the body or $2200 for the body with 28-70mm lens and is now available.
 
 

Written by: Arnie Lee
 
 



 
 

Sony Alpha 7 III

23rd March 2018

The Newest High Performance Mirrorless


As the cold winter weather wares on me, I look forward to escaping for a few days. My destination is the Wedding & Portrait Professional International Conference and Expo in warm (usually) Las Vegas. There photographers can attend any of several hundred seminars, classes, workshops covering the gamut of the photography world. I especially like the expo where I can seek out the makers of new equipment and accessories. And so for this article, you’ll see that I stopped at Sony to have a look at their upcoming A7 III mirrorless camera.

Sony is the leading maker of mirrorless cameras. Early on I was attracted to Sony’s NEX series owing to their compact size and weight. I now own three of Sony’s mirrorless APS-C sensor models. For the past two years, my walk-around “goto” is the Sony Alpha 6000 with which I’ve taken many tens of thousands of pix.

I’ve been holding off upgrading to a full frame, but Sony has been dangling some impressive features in their newer models. The A7 III is Sony’s latest iteration of full-framers and I had some hands-on at the WPPI Expo.


Pick up the camera and it’s lightweight (compared to full-frame DSLR) but solid. The body is made from a magnesium alloy and is sealed to keep out dirt and moisture. The handgrip is comfortable (I’m right handed) as I tested it with the 24-105mm G lens. I cozied up to the bright, crisp viewfinder. Although I was in a lower light indoor setting, the speed of autofocus seemed to be very snappy. I counted four customizable buttons – a plus for fast working in the field. There are also two convenient dials for changing shutter speed or aperture and a welcomed dedicated dial for exposure adjustment.


Among the A7 III’s impressive features are:

 

  • 24.2 MP full frame sensor with ISO from 100-51200
  • Bright 2.3MP electronic viewfinder
  • Advanced AF with 693 phase detection and 425 contrast points
  • “Eye AF” detects and focuses on subject’s eye
  • continuous shooting up to 10 frames per second
  • in camera 5-axis image stabilization
  • high capacity battery provides 700 shots per charge
  • dual SD card slots supports high speed UHS-II
  • tilting LCD screen with touch-screen capability
  • high resolution 4K HDR video

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    At the WPPI Expo, Sony rep David Rhodes demonstrated a new feature for me. Using your finger tip, you can use the touch screen to instantly change the focus point. The LCD screen also tilts up and down for easier viewing from different angles. While I wasn’t able to try it, the A7 III is capable of shooting 10 frames per second while maintaining autofocus.


    In the past, some critics pointed to the dearth of lenses for full-frame Sony mirrorless cameras. Sony has been rapidly developing and introducing new lenses and now has a decent stable of prime and zoom lenses – I counted about two dozen lenses.

    Additionally, Sigma recently announced the support the Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras. While they are not yet available, Sigma will be producing the following prime lenses for Sony E-mount cameras:

    14mm F1.8 DG HSM Art
    20mm F1.4 DG HSM Art
    24mm F1.4 DG HSM Art
    35mm F1.4 DG HSM Art
    50mm F1.4 DG HSM Art
    70mm F2.8 DG MACRO Art
    85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art
    105mm F1.4 DG HSM Art
    135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art


     

    The A7 III is on target for release about mid-April. The suggested price is $2200 with a 28-70mm lens. For more information and detailed specifications, please visit Sony A7 III.

    For more information about the upcoming Sigma lenses, please visit Sigma.


    After my hands-on test and after talking to the Sony rep David Rhodes, I’ve decided to pre-order the A7 III. The two features that pushed my decision are the speedy and more accurate autofocus, the 10 fps shooting capability and the availability of a larger selection of lenses. I look forward to its arrival – I’m told in a couple of weeks. Hopefully, I’ll have a review of the new equipment in the near future.

    Note from April 10, 2018: I just received delivery of the A7 III that I preordered a couple of weeks ago. I hope to have a review shortly.

     
     

    Written by: Arnie Lee
     
     

    Canon’s Latest Mirrorless


    This past February at the Wedding and Portrait Photography International Conference & Expo, I stopped at the Canon booth to take a look at the company’s new M5 mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.


    Canon is best known for their full featured DSLR cameras. Although I own several high end DSLRs from both Canon and Nikon, I’ve been a devoted user of mirrorless cameras for at least five years owing to the compact size and electronic viewfinder that I highly value.

    Sony has been a leader in the mirrorless realm with Fujifilm, Panasonic and Olympus close behind. Canon has been playing catch up with its M series for a couple of years. I now consider the M5 a strong contender.

    The new M5 now uses a 24MP sensor with Dual Pixel AF for faster and more precise autofocus. This is Canon’s first M series with built-in viewfinder. The M5 combines in-camera digital and optical lens stabilization. The tilting LCD has doubles as a touchscreen. And the camera has a built-in flash.


    This is the Canon M5 with the 18-150mm EF-M lens.


    The tilting LCD also functions as a touchscreen. Touch the screen to activate focus manually.

    As you can see the M5 has a convenient, dedicated exposure compensation dial.

    The M5 also captures full HD 60p movies in MP4 format. The touchscreen can be used during video operations to affect focus.

    The camera includes Wi-fi and NFC capabilities as well as bluetooth to send images to a smartphone.

    The suggested price of Canon M5 with 15-45mm EF-M lens is $1099. The suggested price of the Canon M5 with the 18-150mm EF-M lens is $1479.

    For more information about the M5, please visit Canon.


     

     
    Written by: Arnie Lee

     

     


     

     

    Sony A7 II

    22nd March 2015

    New Full Frame Mirrorless

    I’ve been using several of Sony’s mirrorless cameras for three years or so. The three models that I regularly use are the NEX5, NEX7 and A6000 each with an APS-C size sensor. All three are compact and lightweight. Both the NEX7 and A6000 have viewfinders – a necessary feature that I expect in an advanced camera.

    The A6000 has been my “go-to” camera for the past year. The quality of the images match up to those from the Canon 7D and Nikon D90 but with the added convenience of a noticeably smaller piece of hardware.

    With this previous experience with mirrorless equipment, I went to the Sony booth at the Wedding & Portrait Photographers International Expo to have a look at the new full-frame Alpha 7 II.



    The A7II has a full size 24MP sensor in a body that weighs a mere 21 ounces. This compares to the Canon 5D MkIII at 33 ounces or the Nikon D800 at 35 ounces. The physical size of these three cameras are (W x H x D) A7II is 5″ x 3-7/8″ x 2-3/8″ Canon 5D MkIII 6″ x 4.6″ x 3″ Nikon D800 5.7″ x 4.8″ x 3.2″

    The A7II shares many of the same features of the A6000 including sweep panorama shooting mode, built in HDR, on board wifi connectivity, electronic viewfinder displays real time adjustments and tilting LCD screen. Unfortunately the A7II does not have a built-in flash as does the A6000. However the A7II records 4K video, sports fast “hybrid” autofocus and 5-axis image stabilization and 5fps still capture.

    As far as lenses are concerned, Sony’s mirrorless versions (designated as FE-mount) do not share the same size and weight savings as the A7II body. But given that the body is about a pound less and considerably smaller in size, I felt that the weight savings would be a definite advantage for the type of shooting that I do in the field.

    Sony also announced the release of these three lenses for full frame mirrorless:



    The Sony rep also mentioned an upcoming 28mm f/2 lens that will also accept a 16mm fisheye converter and a 21mm ultra wide angle converter.

    The suggested price is $2000 and is available about May 1st. For more information about the A7II, please visit Sony.

    The bottom line – if you’re looking for a camera that provides the high resolution that only the mid-size format were able to deliver, the Canon 5DS (and 5DSR) has now lowered the entry price by thousands of dollars.

     
     
     
    Written by Arnie Lee
     
     


    The Sony A6000 Mirrorless

    14th August 2014

    My 6300-Mile Field Test

    On our recent vacation, my camera of choice was Sony’s newest mirrorless camera. While I also brought a much larger Nikon D700 conventional DSLR, I relied mostly on the the Sony A6000. As a comparison, I captured about 150 images with the Nikon D700 and more than a thousand images with the Sony A6000.

    My setup was the A6000 coupled with Sony’s 18-200mm lens. This combination is lightweight and compact, produces quality images and just happens to fit beneath the driver’s seat for fast, convenient access.

    Hopefully, the following photographic sampler illustrates the A6000’s versatility. I’ll add a few techie details afterwards.



    The A6000 is smaller than a conventional DSLR so it’s both lighter and more compact.

    You can compare the sizes of the A6000 next to the conventional Nikon D700 DSLR.


    The A6000’s high resolution 24MP sensor renders scenics with very high detail.

    Additionally, the camera can capture subjects that have a wide range of exposure levels.


    The A6000’s articulated LCD makes it easy to capture stills and closeups.

    The much improved focusing system works well for wildlife shots.


    With the 18-200mm lens, I can keep dry while still in on the action.

    Here’s some quick, responsive focusing


    The A6000’s bright viewfinder makes it easy to compose and frame in bright sunlight.

    The electronic viewfinder previews the scene with the camera adjustments applied.


    It handles action shots well and can capture up to 11 frames per second.

    The exposure system works quite well with a wide variety of subjects.


    I used the camera’s sweep panorama feature often to automatically produce some very pleasing large images.

    I suppose it doesn’t matter than I traveled 6300 miles with the camera other than I used it under a variety of conditions.

    My “film” was a 32GB SD card, but I never filled it with the 200 pictures a day (the camera was set to record simultaneous RAW and JPG images). All in all, I’m very happy with the images that the camera produced. The one small gotcha is that the A6000 has a short battery life – probably due to the electronic viewfinder. Thankfully, I had an extra battery that I carried along.

    Since this is my third Sony mirrorless camera, you can safely assume that I’d recommend this camera to others. In fact my daughter must have agreed with my assessment and purchased one.


    For those interested, here’s a few of the technical specs for the A6000:

    Sony A6000 os a mirrorless with a 24MP sensor. One of the reasons for choosing this camera is its fast and accurate hybrid focusing system that allows up to 11 frames per second capture. Other proven features are its “sweep panorama”, automated HDR capture, easy exposure bracketing, and Sony’s proven video recording.

    List price for the A6000 body without lens is $650. The 18-200mm lens cost $850, more than the body but this single lens allowed me to enjoy the scenery without clutter of additional lenses.


     

     
    Written by: Arnie Lee


    Sony Alpha 6000

    17th April 2014

    Sony’s Newest “MILC” – Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera

    I’m apolitical when it comes to camera brands. I use equipment from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, etc.

    When traveling for assignments I carry a quality camera and several lenses. For the past few years I’ve gravitated towards the smaller and lighter cameras. What’s more is that lenses for these cameras are also smaller and lighter too so packing is easier.

    My go-to camera is now a Sony NEX7 which is half the size and weight of the Canon 6D or Nikon D800. But the one downside of the NEX7 is its slow focusing speed and accuracy in low light situations.

    Naturally I was interested in seeing the new Sony A6000 at the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International Expo last month. This new model addresses the focusing issue by using “hybrid” phase detection for fast response combined with contrast detection for improved accuracy. Sony claims that the A6000 can record an amazing 11 frames per second with continuous autofocus. Whether shooting still or video this is a welcome and impressive feature packed into a camera this size and cost.

    The A6000 is similar to my NEX7 in many respects including a 24 MB APS-C sensor and an electronic viewfinder (EVF). I find the EVF essential when using any of the interchangeable lenses rather than relying on the rear facing LCD screen especially in bright light. Another advantage of the high resolution EVF is that it displays a preview as you make exposure and/or white balance adjustments.

    The bright, tilting LCD lets you shoot from a low viewpoint without having to kneel or from a high viewpoint without having a ladder.

    The A6000 at WPPI was equipped with a 18-50mm lens. Sony calls it a PZ “power zoom” in that it has a small button which automatically zooms in and out when depressed. When retracted this camera/lens combo is quite compact, yet it fits comfortably in my hands. The specs say that the camera body weighs less than 13 ounces – how’s that for a weight saver?

    The A6000 has most of the same features of the NEX7 such as in-camera HDR, sweep panorama and multi-frame noise reduction. For me a bonus is the built-in wifi for transferring images to a mobile or computer device and the downloadable apps (for an additional charge) such as time lapse, automatic backup, photo sharing.

    The Sony rep told me that the A6000 will be available about April 23rd. Price for the A6000 body is $649; for the A6000 with 18mm-50mm PZ lens is $799.

    I have an A6000 on order and am looking forward to this as an upgrade to my NEX7.

    Written by: Arnie Lee
     
     


     
     

    PhotoPlus Expo – Sony a7

    05th November 2013

    Full Frame Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera

    At this year’s PhotoPlus Expo, I made it a point to visit Sony’s booth to have a quick hands on their newly announced Alpha 7 camera. But first, here’s a little background that may help to explain why I take such an interest in the a7.

    In 2010, Sony introduced the Alpha A55 with its unique translucent mirror. The non-movable mirror enables Sony to pack many innovative features into a space-saving SLT body that are missing from conventional DLSR cameras – accurate and continuous autofocus, real time electronic viewfinder, sweep panorama, multi-frame noise reduction, more. Since then I’ve been a user of two models – the A55 and a more advanced A65. Both produce excellent images. And since they are considerably smaller and lighter than the competitor’s equivalent models, they are less burdensome in the field.

    These two SLTs cultivated my fondness for lightweight equipment. So I was very intrigued when I learned about Sony’s NEX series of compact camera. With an APS-C sensor, a NEX camera body is half the size of a DLSR yet accommodates interchangeable lenses owing to its mirrorless design. I soon acquired a lower-end NEX 5 to see if it met my requirements. I found it has image quality but I was not comfortable using the LCD finder with longer lenses. I then purchased the NEX 7 that sports an electronic viewfinder. Since then this has been my camera of choice owing to its excellent image quality, innovative feature set, compact lens size in an extremely lightweight package.

    Several weeks preceding the PhotoPlus Expo, Sony announced the Alpha 7. It’s a direct descendent of the NEX series. Yes, it has a full frame sensor but its mirrorless design has been proven by several generations of the APS-C size NEX cameras.

    You can see the thinness of the camera body with 35mm lens attached.

    Specs: 24MP sensor, hybrid phase detection/contrast-detection autofocus, bright 2.4MP electronic viewfinder, articulated LCD, full HD video, Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, E-mount and full E-mount lens compatibility.



    the a7 with Carl Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 lens attached

    dedicated mode and exposure compensation dials


    I asked Meagan, the Sony rep, if the very compact E-mount lenses are compatible with the a7. She told me that they can be used but the view is shrunk to cover only the central 16MP of the sensor.

    For the a7’s larger sensor you’ll have to use one of the new Full E-mount lenses: FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6; Sonnar 35mm f/2.8; Sonnar 55mm f/1.8 and Vario-Tessar 24-70mm F4. Also coming is a Sony 70-200mm G f/4 lens for early 2014.

    Meagan says that delivery of the a7 begins December 1. Price is $1699 for body only and $1999 with the 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.


     

     

    I am impressed with the small size of the a7. With the 28-70mm lens attached, the package is amazingly small and lightweight. While I wasn’t able to examine my test shots in detail, I’m confident that the full-frame sensor will delivery excellent images. In fact, I understand that Sony supplies this same sensor for use in Nikon’s D600 full frame DSLR.

    So I remain in a quandary. Should I move from my very comfortable NEX 7 to this new full-frame a7?

     

     

    Written by: Arnie Lee

     

     

     


     

     

    Parade of Cameras 2

    05th October 2012

    Photokina Part 2 – the new stuff

    Photokina is the largest photographic trade show and takes place every two years in Cologne, Germany. Photokina is a major venue where photographic manufacturers showcase their upcoming products. Here’s a short report about some of the new products that caught my attention during my short visit in late September.



    Walking the aisles, I observed two opposing trends taking place among the photographic equipment makers.

    On one side, there’s a movement towards larger sensors. Advanced and professional photographers have typically chosen equipment that produces the highest quality images regardless of size and weight. Equipment with larger, full-frame sensors have dominated this category. In Part 1 of this article, I described several of the new full-frame cameras that I demo’d at Photokina.

    On the other side, there’s is a flood of activity devoted to making smaller, higher quality cameras.
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    Panoramas the easy way

    27th August 2012

    Photographically speaking, a panorama is a photograph that encompasses a very wide view. I like panoramas because they reproduce a scene as if I were viewing it live by turning my head from the far left to the far right. I can view the photograph in small ‘chunks’ as I scan the entire image from the left to the right.

    In the past, making a panorama was a complicated, multiple step process involving capturing the images and then stitching them together whether it be done chemically in a darkroom or digitally with a computer. I won’t go into details of making panoramas using either of these two “conventional” ways. Instead, I’ll point out the ease with which a feature on certain cameras enables me to easily make panoramas in one step.

    For the past two years I’ve been using several Sony Alpha series and NEX series cameras to shoot panoramas. These cameras enjoy a feature called Sweep Panorama. When this feature is chosen, you simultaneously depress the shutter and move the camera in a sweeping fashion to the right. As you do this, the camera captures multiple images of the scene. The camera signals the completion of the sweep by halting the shutter. A few seconds afterward, the panoramic capture appears on the camera’s LCD for your review. Press the PLAY button and the image is displayed from left to right – in video fashion – but is actually a single, still panoramic image.

    Above, I explained that the sweeping motion is from left to right. But in fact these Sony cameras let you sweep left to right; right to left; up to down; and down to up. These cameras also capture three dimensional appearing images using 3D Sweep Panorama that can be displayed on certain compatible 3D television sets.

    Here’s a few of the panoramas that I’ve taken with various Sony cameras. You can click on each of the images to see a wide view of the panorama.
     


    Red Rock Canyon, Nevada


    Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

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