What Should Sony Still Add to the E-Mount System?

After yesterday’s post I thought I’d add a short follow-up addressing the gaps in the e-mount system that I personally care about.  This isn’t a definitive list and feel free to add your two cents.

First off, I think the biggest gap from a professional perspective are the holes in the lens catalog.  These are the telephoto lenses.  A 600mm f\4 is probably the biggest hole.  After that I guess the telephoto zooms like a 200 – 600 f\4.5 – 5.6 would be good.  After that a very bright high-quality art lens like a 50mm f\1.2 would be a nice to have.  And finally, just to stop hearing me talk about it give us a 200mm f2.8 macro.  There I said it.

Now as a Minolta and Sony A-mount owner I would like a version of the LA-EA adapters that allows screw drive lens to be used without a translucent mirror involved.  Come on Sony, do the right thing.

A built-in intervalometer function would be nice.

And finally, most important, Sony you need to completely water seal your professional level cameras.  This will ensure that professional photographers will feel safe investing tens of thousands of dollars in your system.

So that’s my short critique of the Sony e-mount ecosystem.  Other than the long lenses and the water-sealing they are very minor items.  But based on my incredible media clout I expect Sony to acknowledge this order and act on it almost immediately.

So let it be written, so shall it be done.

Nikon and Canon Go Mirrorless.  What Does it Mean?

The last DSLR I owned was the Sony A-850 back in 2011.  At the time, it was at the cutting edge of sensor technology.  It had a 24-megapixel sensor that could be cranked to ISO 6400 (to truly awful result) with a huge bright optical viewfinder and some really cool Minolta and Sony lenses like the Sony 135mm f\1.8 and the Minolta 200mm f\4 Macro and on and on.  That was the last full-frame DSLR Sony ever rolled out.

Shortly after that, Sony began the great mirrorless debacle.  There were A-mount translucent mirror cameras, e-mount mirrorless cameras that could use A-mount lenses and other lenses with various adapters.  The early e-mount cameras were touted for their tiny size but what went along with this new line of mirrorless cameras was a lack of usable auto-focus, long black out periods while shooting and almost no native lenses.  For the Sony and Minolta faithful these were the wilderness years.  Like the Israelites marching endlessly through the desert, we Sony shooters trudged despairingly from one mirrorless camera mirage to the next always hoping to reached the promised land of a competent full frame mirrorless camera.  And then finally in 2017 there was the A9!  Can I get a hallelujah?  And we were there.  Of course, after renting the A9 and proving that it was real (to torture the religious metaphor further) like Doubting Thomas, I then waited until the A7 III was available to save a thousand bucks.  But finally, life was good.  I started to round out my lens collection and anticipate being able to get more specialized lenses in e-mount, things like 200 – 600mm zooms and long macro lenses.

But just to prove that the Sony mirrorless line had arrived, the DSLR heavy hitters Nikon and Canon rolled out full-frame mirrorless cameras with their own new mounts.  And this proves the point because this was the only way for Nikon and Canon to prevent their users from jumping ship.  It is now possible to get all the advantages that mirrorless provides like an electronic viewfinder that works in any light level from pitch black to direct sun without sacrificing the advantages that DSLRs provided, like excellent autofocus and professional lenses.  You might think this competition from Nikon and Canon would bother me.  A Sony fanboy would fear the competition from its rivals would harm his brand.  But in actuality, it will force Sony to step up their game.  For instance, I foresee Sony improving the weather-sealing on their A9 level cameras to compete head to head with the mirrorless cameras that their competitors make.  But by the same token Nikon and Canon are going to have to provide sensors at Sony’s level even in more modest cameras.

And finally, this new situation takes away the biggest detraction that Nikon and Canon used in the past, that the only real cameras were DSLRs.  Without a doubt they were the ones who blinked first in this staring contest.  Sony no longer has to prove mirrorless is better.  Canon and Nikon just did.  So, here’s my prediction.  In ten years, there won’t be a single new full frame DSLR camera to be bought.  I would have said five years but as in everything else I am conservative.

Hummingbird Photography with Sony 90mm f\2.8 Macro lens on Sony A7 III

Photographing hummingbirds is a truly exasperating practice.  The combination of short exposure time (a thousandth of a second or less), difficult autofocus target and flighty behavior means you may be waiting for hours for a shot that will only last for seconds.  Anyway I had some success with the Sony 90mm macro.  When I buy this lens soon I’ll do some more and try to develop some technique.

Sony A7 III with Sony FE 90mm f\2.8 macro lens
Sony A7 III with Sony FE 90mm f\2.8 macro lens
Sony A7 III with Sony FE 90mm f\2.8 macro lens
Sony A7 III with Sony FE 90mm f\2.8 macro lens
Sony A7 III with Sony FE 90mm f\2.8 macro lens
Sony A7 III with Sony FE 90mm f\2.8 macro lens

A Sony Fan-Lost-Boy Finally Arrives in the Promised Land

This post is only for the long suffering Sony A-mount users.  You know who you are.  You bought the A900 or the A850 and you were looking forward to Sony re-issuing all those great Minolta lenses and competing head to head with the Nikon D3S.  You saw nothing but upside from a technology powerhouse like Sony improving the DSLR.  And then they pulled the rug out from under you. Translucent mirrors that lost a half stop of light.  LED viewfinders that lagged by a second or two when you triggered the shutter.  And then the true mirrorless camera with contrast detect autofocus that didn’t focus.  The NEX series that was unbelievably small but suffering from all these problems.  And then the A7 cameras.  Series one then series two.  Painstaking progress.  Slowly the potential of the mirrorless becoming real but always something still missing.  And then the A9 the camera that had all the pieces!  And a $4,500 price tag!

But now, the A7 III.  Oh my brothers I just must joyously exclaim.  It is a real camera made by Sony.  Hallelujah, hallelujah, halleleujah. The joy of picking a point in the viewfinder, half-pressing

Sony A7 III with Sony 55mm F\1.8

the shutter and seeing the autofocus work instantly and precisely.  I could barely see the result through my tears of joy.  Huzzah, huzzah.  Never again would I focus, then magnify, then manually refocus to save the shot.  Now I go through the pictures afterward and every shot is perfectly focused.  And ISO 800 and 1600 and 3200 are perfectly usable and even ISO 6400 is often fine!  And if I want to do a macro shot with a non macro lens I use magnify to get precise focus on the exact spot I want and the 24 megapixels give me plenty of room to crop.

Nirvana, Valhalla, Heaven, Elysium, Paradise.  I’m home.  I don’t need to wait or hope or give up and change systems.  It’s done.  I’m there.

Sony you are finally forgiven for keeping me out in the wilderness all these years.

 

 

A Review of the Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM – Sports Series Lens on the Sony A7 III

Up until very recently the Sony E-mount ecosystem has been extremely deficient of telephoto options. Recently, 300mm and 400mm focal lengths have appeared in native zoom lenses. But suffice it to say that there still remain a number of gaps in the lineup. Sigma has a lot of long glass. And Sigma lenses are decidedly less expensive than Sony’s. And lately Sigma has produced some extremely well regarded lenses. So, for both of these reasons I was very interested when I heard that Sigma had successfully developed an adapter that allowed Sigma lenses to behave like native Sony lenses on the A7 cameras. The MC-11 adapter allows 15 of Sigma’s Art Series, Sports Series and Contemporary Series lenses to perform auto-focus, optical stabilization and other functions as if they were Sony E-mount lenses. Although there are some very exciting Art Series lenses and possibly also the Contemporary Series items that may be of interest in the future, what I specifically wanted to try was the 150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM – Sports Series Lens. It had a good reputation and 600mm was a useful focal length for sports and wildlife, one that currently is completely unavailable in E-mount.
I can say categorically that Sigma has succeeded. The lens mimics all the focus and drive modes of the E-mount lenses on an A7 cameras. The one that I appreciate is staying in magnified view while autofocusing. And continuous autofocus functions also. Now when I say it functions I mean it deploys. But honestly, I’m not a sports shooter and this lens is so heavy that even panning was sometimes beyond my poor skills to perform. But when I pointed the lens at something it autofocused extremely quickly and very accurately. And the images are tack sharp all the way up to 600mm. In fact, one of my Canon shooting friends loaned me the Canon 1.4 teleconverter and even at 840mm equivalent the images were very sharp (see photos and 100% crops below). Physically the lens is solid as a rock but that also means it’s as heavy as a brick. It weighs in at a little over six pounds. Hand holding it is impractical and even a monopod needs to be pretty substantial to provide stability. But with the right support this lens is perfect for a sporting event or a wildlife shoot. Add it to the list of available E-mount options.
I wished that I’d had better weather during the two weeks I rented the lens but I learned enough about it to know it was an excellent item. One day I’ll try out the Contemporary series version. It’s supposed to be optically very similar but half the price and two pounds lighter.
And now that I know that the MC-11 works I’ll look at the other Sigma lenses for items that Sony hasn’t provided yet. Here’s the full list.
12-24mm F4 DG HSM | Art
14-24mm F2.8 DG HSM I Art
24-35mm F2 DG HSM | Art
24-70mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Art
24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM | Art
100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Contemporary
120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM | Sports
150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Sports
150-600mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM | Contemporary
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
85mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art
135mm F1.8 DG HSM | Art
500mm F4 DG OS HSM | Sport

 

A7 III with Sigma 150 – 600mm MC-11 adapter

 

A7 III with Sigma 150 – 600mm MC-11 adapter

 

A7 III with Sigma 150 – 600mm MC-11 adapter

 

A7 III with Sigma 150 – 600mm MC-11 adapter

 

 

A7 III with Sigma 150 – 600mm MC-11 adapter and Canon 1.4 X teleconverter

 

A7 III with Sigma 150 – 600mm MC-11 adapter and Canon 1.4 X teleconverter

 

A7 III with Sigma 150 – 600mm MC-11 adapter

 

A7 III with Sigma 150 – 600mm MC-11 adapter

 

Sony A7 III – A Camera Review – Part 1

Helebore flower

 

I’ve had the camera for about a week.  I went out today to get some first impressions.  The first thing I notice is the difference between the A7S and the A7 III is the autofocus.  It’s night and day.  I used center point AF.  Whatever I pointed at was instantaneously in perfect focus.  No hunting, no off-focus just dead on crystal clear.  Now granted, this is in bright day light.  But if you’ve ever shot the A7S you know that even under these conditions the photo had a more than even chance of being at least slightly out of focus.  I took it as standard operating procedure that magnified manual focus was absolutely necessary for guaranteed perfect focus.  Of course, think of what that means for a moving subject.  It meant you couldn’t get the shot.  So, the A7 III is a revelation.

The next thing I noticed was how convenient it was to have the viewfinder stay in magnified mode after autofocusing a view.  Now I can make sure that if the scene is ultra-crowded with competing focus targets that the right one was selected.  Or if something has moved I can re-focus without having to re-engage the magnify steps.  This is especially nice for macro work or distant objects.

The next thing was an item I noticed while inspecting the images on the computer.  The 24-mp files are amazingly croppable.  This contrasts with the 12-mp A7S files.  I’ve attached an extreme crop of a flower.  The focus was excellent and the crop has tons of detail.

And finally, looking at the images on the computer they seem to have a very nice look to them.  Of course, the A7S produced nice files too but these look very rich.

These are just my first thoughts.  Later on I’ll review the various functions on the camera and how they work or don’t work for my shooting needs.  But right now I have to say that except for extreme low light or star photography I can’t imagine using the A7S instead of the A7 III.

Sony A7 III – Oddball Test

I was taking a bunch of test shots with the A7 III today.  As I mentioned earlier the longest Sony lens I have with native e-mount is the 55mm f\1.8.  I saw an opportunity to test out the autofocus at a long distance with a moving subject.  Because I took this at about 150 feet away I cropped this thing to a ridiculous extent and it shows but also notice that the fox is in focus.  Pardon the poor quality of this jpeg (figuring out the new Capture 1 for the A7 III)  but this tells me two things.

  1.  The autofocus is very, very good.
  2. I’ve got to get some longer native e-mount lenses.
Sony 55mm f\1.8 on Sony A7 III (extreme crop)

A Little Flurry of Sony News

Sonyalpharumors.com has upped the odds of the A7 III being announced tomorrow (26FEB2018) to 75%.  Of course the calculus of rumor mongering is far from an exact science, but in this case I think he’s probably right.  And just to sweeten the occasion Sigma has announced an FE mount lens.  It is an Art Series 105mm f/1.4.  And it looks like a beast with its own tripod mount.  Looking toward the horizon I hope after the announcement it won’t take long to learn if this new camera has good autofocus.  One interesting development in the rumor is the fact that the autofocus system has more contrast detect points than phase detect ones.  This continues a change in direction from the A9 which had many more phase detect than contrast.  I’ve always thought the contrast detect points were much less functional so I see this as a bad sign.  Time will tell.

 

What Am I Missing in the Sony E-Mount Lens Line-Up?

A few years ago the answer to this question would have been everything. Especially for the new full-frame 7 series cameras, the line-up was woefully poor.  In the last three years Sony (and Zeiss) have really stepped up to the plate and launched a goodly selection of high end lenses for the FE (full-frame e-mount) cameras.  In fact at this point the wide angle options are pretty much complete.  For the normal range there are several excellent options including a 50mm f/1.4, an 85 f/1.4, a 100mm macro and the recently added 70 – 200 F2.8 G Master zoom.

What is left? Telephotos.  Now, Sony has added a 100-400mm zoom.  But I would say that Sony is lacking a telephoto zoom that reaches 600mm.  If I were a sports photographer I’d be looking for a 600mm F/4.  But that is a very expensive lens.  I think what would be appropriate is for someone like Sigma or Tamron to produce an e-mount version of their existing 150 – 600mm zooms.  This would provide the compromise between price and capability that a large number of amateur wildlife and sports shooters would be willing to pay for.  In fact I know that if Sony produced this lens it would probably be too expensive.  So it is a natural fit for these two third party manufacturers.

The other thing that I would like to see Sony produce is a 200mm macro. I currently use the Minolta version with an adapter but since it’s a screw-drive focus system it either has to be used as a manual focus on the LA-EA3 or with the “translucent mirror of the LA-EA4.  Both of these are compromises.  I also think the chance of Sony manufacturing this lens is zero.  So once again I think this is a good opportunity for Sigma.  They already have a long focal length macro and this would probably only require adapting it to the e-mount.  This lens probably won’t have as many buyers as a 150-600mm  zoom.  But I throw it out there because I’m greedy and annoying.

There is a rumor on Sonyalpharumors.com that Sigma is about to announce a major effort to break into the FE market. The initial offering has been guessed to be a 35mm f/1.4.  This is a lens that Sigma has done a good job on already in their Art Lens series.  Whether it would require a major modification to work on the e-mount is a question.

So if we assume Sigma is looking to get the maximum bang for their buck in the Sony ecosystem then they should go for some of the open focal lengths that they already have technology for.  In that case both the 150-600 and 200mm macro are lenses they already make and represent gaps in the Sony line-up.

If you’re listening Sigma, get busy. You make money and I get to stop complaining.  A win-win.

You’re welcome Sigma!