The Birds. (A mobile phone pic.)

I love my cameras but there are those times where I just don’t carry any camera with me. So when I saw this scene on my way back home from work in early October, I only had my mobile phone to capture it. With a little post processing in Lightroom (…it also imports JPG files), this is the net result:

The birds.

The birds.

My phone (Nokia 808) has a fixed 28mm equivalent lens. I have to admit that I’m not always so happy with that focal length. Now the camera manufacturer of my choice, Sony, has announced a 28/2 lens for the A7 system for early 2015, and I started thinking about that focal length. It seems quite some Leica M photographers use 28mm lenses because these are the widest you can use on some M bodies without the need for an external wide-angle viewfinder. I already have a 35mm so would a 28mm make enough of a difference? The more natural choice to complement a 35mm seems a 24mm.

Anyway, “The birds” would have worked with any of these focal lengthes. 24mm? No problem. 28mm? You see the result. 35mm? Why not. Apart from those situations where I can’t move back any more because there’s a wall, or where I stay at a bridge and can’t change position, I am pretty happy with almost any focal length, it seems. :)

Building the perfect Sony APS-C kit for €2500 – 2014 recap

Looking into my website statistics, I realise that quite a lot of people are still reading this blog entry. I wrote it in late 2011 when the then-amazing new Sony NEX-7 and the Zeiss 24/1.8 lenses were announced.

Just out of fun, I decided to create a follow-up of that article and to outline a current – late 2014 – Sony APS-C mirrorless camera system for €2.500. I can’t really say “NEX” any more because Sony marketing has dropped that name.

First of all, I’m currently not a Sony APS-C user. I used to have a NEX-5 and NEX-5N and while I did think about upgrading to the NEX-7, I was not so happy about the first-generation 24 MP chip inside it, so I skipped that body, opted for a nifty little Olympus E-M5 (a great 2012 novelty) and finally came back to Sony when the full-format A7R was made available.

Anyway, I do love some APS-C stuff that Sony makes. Especially the amazing Sony A6000. It’s super fast, the 24 MP sensor is refined by now, and it offers real bang for the buck. So why not take that for a start of the late 2014 APS-C system.

Sony A6000 + 18-105/4 G – €999

Okay, while the photo below shows the body with the amazing little 16-50 kit zoom, I personally would never bother with a lens like that (which is not to say that it will surely deliver great results for a lot of people – but it’s just not mine).

Sony A6000 (photo: Sony).

Sony A6000 (photo: Sony).

I’ve thought quite a bit of why I would opt for an APS-C system today instead of a full-format one. The first reason, of course, is cost. On the other hand, with €1.199 Sony A7 bodies, it does not seem that impossible to set up a €2.500 full-format system instead, and especially when you look at all those amazing prime lenses that are available today – both new and used – I just can’t see myself going for a primes-only APS-C system these days. Instead, I’d concentrate on the points that APS-C does really well. Apart from lower cost, APS-C can offer great versatility and speed, when you select the right lenses.

If you are really on a tighter budget and want clear, crisp imagery more than anything else, I’d just have a look at the Sigma primes – 19/2.8, 30/2.8 and 60/2.8 for the A6000 body. They are cheap and very good.

Sony E 18-105/4 G (photo: Sony).

Sony E 18-105/4 G (photo: Sony).

If you, however, want to follow that route of great versatility, I’d suggest to have a look at the Sony zoom lenses. There’s in fact one that I find really interesting as a standard zoom and that is … the Sony 18-105/4 G. While this lens has truly worrysome distortion characteristics, it’s sharp, it offers an amazing 28-160 equivalent zoom range with constant f/4 aperture, thus giving nicer portraits with blurry backgrounds than other, shorter APS-C zooms. I’d always take a zoom with a longer end over one that’s a bit wider at the other end. Of course, your mileage may vary.

But the 18-105/4 G is also really cheap! The A6000 bundled with the 18-105/4 G retail for about €999 in reliable German online shops as of October 2014.

Sony FE 70-200/4 G – € 1.369

Now you’ve got another €1.500 left and you can do a lot with that. Given that I already can cover anything up to 160 mm (in 35 mm terms) with my standard lens, I would go and buy the best telezoom lens available for the system: The FE 70-200/4 G.

I do, in fact, own this lens for my A7R. The image quality is very good. But it’s not the perfect companion for the A7R due to that camera body’s slower AF system and the A7R mechanical shutter introducing some vibration that can sometimes spoil images at specific shutter speeds. I have, however, once tried the FE 70-200/4 G lens on an A6000 body and all I can say is that this lens really sings with that body. It’s fast, and it’s really sharp and contrasty even at open aperture. Plus the OSS stabilisation works flawlessly.

Sony FE 70-200/4 G (photo: Sony).

Sony FE 70-200/4 G (photo: Sony).

So, just a body and two lenses and we’re altogether at €2.400. From here, you could stretch your budget just a little bit and still take the 50/1.8 OSS lens that I already suggested back in 2011. You’d then have a nice portrait prime lens to complement your two zoom lenses. I do not think that you really will need much more than what these two / three lenses do offer.

Of course, I realise that I have selected two very big lenses. Wasn’t it the point of all mirrorless cameras to be small and light-weight? Well, for what it offers, the 18-105/4 G lens is not really heavy. It looks bigger than it feels. And it’s normally the weight, not the size, that makes you moan about carrying all that stuff around. The FE 70-200/4, of course, is a 840g lens. Yet still telezooms with that speed and reach just don’t come smaller than that. And given the reach of the 18-105/4 G, you’ll not have to lug the 70-200/4 around every time you leave your home.

Of course, most people would probably select other lenses than I do. That’s the nice thing about 2014: Even for Sony users, there are now at least some more lens options available. So, I’d suggest you have your own fun with finding your personal dream set-up!

How will the Sony FE 90/2.8G macro look on an A7 body?

Here’s a simple photomontage that I created of an A7R body and a picture of the upcoming FE 90/2.8 G macro lens that I took at Photokina 2014. The size of the new macro lens will be approx. 130 mm x 78 mm. For comparison, the current Nikkor 105/2.8 VR macro is shorter but wider in diameter: 116 x 83 mm.

As you already know by now from all the photos floating around the web, the new FE macro lens will feature OSS stabilisation, focus down to 1:1 life size, and it has a printed-on distance scale. Most likely, switching from AF to MF will be accomplished by moving the focusing ring forth and back, and we’ll just have to wait and see how exactly the ring with the distance scale will behave e.g. when the lens is on AF. (Normally, these scales are behind glass on AF lenses so that no outside lens parts move during automatic focusing.)

So far, Sony says that the 90G macro – together with the other three new FE lenses that were shown at Photokina – will hit the shelves in March 2015. I hope they’ll stay to their word as this would be just in time for the macro photo season 2015. :)

Photomontage: Sony FE 90/2.8 G macro on A7R body

Photomontage: Sony FE 90/2.8 G macro on A7R body

A relaxed Saturday with the Zeiss Contarex Sonnar 135/2.8

Having used only the Sony FE 70-200/4 or the OM Zuiko 135/2.8 recently, I figured it’s about time to take out the Zeiss Contarex Sonnar 135/2.8 again for a spin. These shots are from a walk around the Rhine in Cologne on this nice first October weekend.

Mounted on the Sony A7R, the old Zeiss 135 certainly is not perfect wide open, with some color fringes. After all, it’s not an apochromatic design. But it cleans up so much already at f/4 and f/5.6. It’s just sharp and contrasty from corner to corner. You just have to love a lens like this for all it’s classic quality!

A click on any of the shots below opens a 2500 pixel wide view. Enjoy!

Birds on a wall.

Birds on a wall.

Travelling south.

Travelling south.

Travelling south, cropped.

Travelling south, cropped. (About 8 MP from the original frame’s 36 remain. Also I changed white balance.)

Enjoying the autumn sun.

Enjoying the autumn sun.

Of cranes and trees.

Of cranes and trees.

The Cologne Dome.

The Cologne Dome.

The Cologne Dome, cropped.

The Cologne Dome, cropped. (About 12 MP out of the original’s 36 MP.)

The wanderlust bus.

The wanderlust bus.

A short night walk around the block

… with the camera and FE 35/2.8, a gorillapod, that’s all to it.

night #7

night #1

night #2

night #2

night #3

night #3

night #4

night #4

night #5

night #5

night #6

night #6

night #1

night #7

The new Sony FE lenses for 2015 – including the (for me) long awaited 90mm f/2.8 macro!

September 15, 2014: Sony finally announced some new FE lenses for their A7 camera lineup. One of them is a mighty Zeiss FE 35/1.4 lens to accompany the superb, ultra-compact FE 35/2.8 that was available right from the start of the system in very late 2013.

The other one that personally interests me is the new Sony G 90/2.8 macro lens. I got all that information from the usual rumor pages who “leaked” the images and, for a quick size comparison, I put together the product images of the FE 90/2.8 G macro, the Zeiss FE 35/1.4 and a well-known existing lens, the Zeiss FE 24-70/4 (on top of the image below).

Note that the Zeiss 35/1.4 will be the first Sony FE lens with a dedicated aperture ring.

As for the 90 macro, it comes with “G” label, OSS (optical stabilisation) and, according to the numbers on the barrel, true 1:1 life-size capability. As is the case with all the competition lenses in that class. Judging from my size comparison, I’d guesstimate the new Sony macro to be about 121 mm in length (give or take a few millimetres) which would put it right there with the Canon 100/2.8 IS (123 mm length).

No pricing info so far. My personal, more-or-less well-educated guess would be that the macro will be competetive in price to the Canon 100/2.8 IS or Nikon 105/2.8 VR offerings. As for a price for that nice Zeiss 35, I can only fear that it will be very expensive, even though the competition (Nikon 35/1.4, Canon 35/1.4, Sigma 35/1.4 Art) also should set some rough guidelines for Sony to follow …

These shots are from my visit to the Photokina 2014. They show how big these new lenses really have got. There’s no size advantage whatsoever in comparison to other similar full-format lenses, other that you are going to use them on the light-weight compact A7 bodies, of course. But it quality will be as promised, I will certainly still go for them. :)

Sony Zeiss FE 35/1.4 Distagon.

Sony Zeiss FE 35/1.4 Distagon.

The Zeiss FE 35/1.4 Distagon promises to get a beautiful finish with outside metal barrel (that having said, I guess the internals will be plastic just as they are e.g. on the current FE 55/1.8). I’m sure that it will have optics to match the finish. I love that aperture ring. It’s a huge lens, though. It will be longer than the Zeiss FE 24-70/4 zoom. No official pricing info yet. I hope it will come in at under 1.800 EUR but that’s only a guess by my side.

By the way, the also brand-new Zeiss 35/2 Loxia (a manual focus lens dedicated to the Sony A7 range) is much, much more compact, only a little bit bigger than the Zeiss FE 35/2.8. Overall, you’re getting the choice out of three 35 mm Zeiss-branded lenses in 2015.

Sony FE 90/2.8 G Macro.

Sony FE 90/2.8 G Macro.

This is the new FE 90/2.8 G macro. Similar to the existing 70-200/4 G telezoom, I expect the rear outside part of the barrel to be made from plastic. But as long as it all works flawlessly, why not. I like the printed markings on the lens barrel when you manually focus the lens. It’s got a three-position focus limiter with the settable focus limit at either 0.5 metres (approx. 1:4) or 0.25 metres (1:1) distance from subject to camera sensor, apart from the switch for the optical stabilisation of course. I suspect it’s an internal focus design as are all modern macro lenses.

It’s roughly the size of any modern 10o/1o5 mm macro lens. Probably even a centimeter longer or so. No pricing info available yet, no idea of how heavy or light-weight it actually will be, but as you can tell, it has got no provision for a dedicated tripod collar.

As the Zeiss 35/1.4, this 90/2.8 macro is announced to hit the shelves in March 2015 and I will almost certainly get one for the next macro photography season.

Barcelona!

Barcelona – It was the first time that we met
Barcelona – How can I forget
The moment that you stepped into the room you took my breath away
Barcelona – La música vibró
Barcelona – Y ella nos unió
And if God willing we will meet again someday!

(Freddie Mercury)

… I really love love love this town and so I hope you enjoy some of my shots ;)

Technical note: All these were shot with my trusty Sony A7R, the Zeiss FE 35/2.8 or one of the OM Zuiko lenses 24/2.8, 135/2.8 and 200/4.