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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
- The autofocus is very, very good.
- I’ve got to get some longer native e-mount lenses.
The Mallards are back in the puddle. How far could spring be? Well Camera Girl did just tell me that it is flurrying outside so…
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.
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!
A couple of years ago the lament among Sony A7 series users was that there were no lenses for their cameras. It would be hard to make such a claim about wide angle lenses for the A7 cameras today. If you set aside the cine lenses there are 25 e-mount full frame lenses from 10mm to 35mm. Looking only at what Sony manufactures themselves you would still have fifteen lenses. Adding in Rokinon, Tokina, Voigtlander and Zeiss, that number increases to 25.
- Rokinon 14mm f/2.8
- Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 AF FE
- Rokinon 35mm f/2.8 AF FE
- Sony 16mm Fisheye Conversion Lens
- Sony 21mm Ultra-Wide Conversion Lens
- Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G
- Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM
- Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS
- Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 OSS
- Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS
- Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM
- Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS
- Sony FE 28-135mm f/4 G PZ OSS
- Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS
- Sony FE 28mm f/2
- Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA
- Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA Sonnar
- Tokina FiRIN 20mm f/2 FE MF
- Voigtlander 10mm f/5.6 Hyper-Wide Heliar
- Voigtlander 12mm f/5.6 Ultra-Wide Heliar III
- Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 Super-Wide Heliar III
- Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8
- Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2
- Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8
- Zeiss Loxia E 35mm f/2 Biogon
As mentioned above, this does not count the specialized lenses used for motion picture shoots called cine lenses. Counting all the models from Rokinon, Sigma and Zeiss this adds up to 18 wide angle cine lenses available for full-frame e-mount cameras.
- Rokinon 20mm T1.9 Cine DS
- Rokinon 24mm T1.5 Cine DS
- Rokinon 35mm T1.5 Cine DS
- Rokinon Xeen 14mm T3.1
- Rokinon Xeen 16mm T2.6
- Rokinon Xeen 35mm T1.5
- Sigma Cine 35mm T1.5 FF Prime
- Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 18mm T3.6
- Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 21mm T2.9
- Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 25mm T2.1
- Zeiss Compact Prime CP.2 35mm T2.1
- Zeiss Compact Zoom CZ.2 28-80mm T2.9
- Zeiss CP.3 15mm T2.9
- Zeiss CP.3 18mm T2.9
- Zeiss CP.3 21mm T2.9
- Zeiss CP.3 25mm T2.1
- Zeiss CP.3 28mm T2.1
- Zeiss CP.3 35mm T2.1
Luckily for me I don’t shoot motion pictures so I’ll take that as an excuse not to say anything about cine lenses. Which is lucky for the reader since I don’t know anything about these lenses and anything I said would be highly suspect.
The fifteen FE lenses manufactured by Sony are divided into several groupings. The supposedly highest quality are the G Master (GM) lenses. Next in quality are the G lenses. After that are the ZA lenses which are produced under quality standards provided by Zeiss. And finally, there are the just plain FE lenses. Honestly, I am of the opinion that the actual qualities of a lens should be determined on a case by case basis. Because of the higher prices for the highest quality classes it’s reasonable to compare equivalent lenses and determine whether the more modestly priced lens gets the job done for you. In general, the biggest advantage of the Sony brand lenses is the alignment of firmware in the lenses and cameras to provide optimized autofocus. It’s possible this also applies to the Zeiss Batis lenses since Zeiss and Sony are linked by cooperative agreements. But that is only speculation on my part. In general, the reputation of the Sony brand lenses is good. The only caveat is that none of the Sony lenses are warranted as water proof. There is mention of weather sealing but I do not believe they are as resistant to moisture as some of the professional grade Canon and Nikon lenses. If water proof ability is needed then check the manufacturer’s warranty.
The next series of lenses I’ll talk about are the Zeiss Loxia and Batis series. Zeiss is an old guard German lens manufacturer with a reputation for producing excellent lenses. And the Zeiss lenses are known to be weather resistant. Up until very recently all of Zeiss’s lenses were manual focus. The Loxia lenses are manual focus lenses. I currently use the Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 for landscape and general outdoors shooting. I can attest that it is extremely sharp and has an excellent look to it. I’ve also tried the Loxia 35mm and 50mm focal lengths and found them equally excellent. So, if manual focusing is not a problem (landscape applications) then the Loxia lenses are highly recommended. The Batis are the first Zeiss autofocus lenses. They have the same excellent sharpness and look of Zeiss glass but they come with the advantages of autofocus. They aren’t cheap but they are actually less expensive than the Sony GM equivalents. If you have plenty of money then the Batis line provides another quality choice.
Voigtlander is another old German lens maker. However, I believe the current company is really a Japanese company using the name. Voigtlander provided some lenses for the Leica M-mount that were much less expensive than Leica glass. They weren’t touted as highly as Leica lenses but they had a reputation of being very good. Also, some of their designs were extremely compact. For some types of shooting, like street shooting, this was an advantage. Two lenses that Voigtlander produced in the past were the 12mm and 15mm Heliar designs. These had a good reputation for compact size and low distortion in an extremely wide focal range. Recently Voigtlander re-issued these lenses in e-mount and added to the niche by designing a 10mm wide angle for e-mount. I have used the 12mm and found it to be an excellent lens for its kind. I own the 10mm and also think it’s excellent. But let me give full warning, 10mm and even 12mm are very odd focal lengths. . Even a slight raising or lowering of the of the camera out of the horizontal will cause wild distortions of the objects in the field of view. So, don’t expect to use these lenses for portraits unless you’re in a fun house. I believe Voigtlander will be issuing their 35mm f/1.2 lens in e-mount. That would be an interesting lens to experiment with at f/1.2.
Rokinon makes extremely inexpensive lenses. In the past there were quality problems associated with poorly centered lens components. Lately I’ve heard that the quality control has improved quite a bit. However, it is important to realize that the components and the construction techniques are not built to last forever. Taking that into account you can get excellent results from some of Rokinon’s lenses for comparatively little cost.
Tokina currently has a 20mm e-mount lens. I have not seen it. However, Tokina makes very good lenses. It would be nice to see both Tokina and Sigma get into the full-frame e-mount lens business. It would be good for the competition and good for pricing.
So that’s a rundown on what’s out there. What does it mean? It means you have choices. Even if you have a limited budget you have choices. Because in addition to the lenses I’ve mentioned, if you don’t mind forgoing autofocus you can manually focus almost any lens in the world by using an adapter to put it on your A7 family camera. In addition to adapted manual focus lenses some of the more modestly priced Sony wide angle lenses are actually quite good. The Sony FE 28mm f/2 is $423. I’ve used it and it’s actually extremely good. For another $477 you can add the Sony 16mm Fisheye Conversion Lens and Sony 21mm Ultra-Wide Conversion Lens to it and get three focal lengths for a total of $900. The Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA Sonnar is the kit lens that’s usually included with the A7 camera. If you buy it separately it’s $700. It’s a good lens and very compact. And now that high ISO really works it’s a perfectly useful lens for indoors too. The Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 is $300. The autofocus version $550.
If you have more money you have more choices. Voigtlander lenses are between $800 and $1,000. The Zeiss and pricier Sony selections run into the $1,200 to $2,200 range for the wide angle lenses. Are they worth the extra money? To some people. Landscape photographers want the sharpest lenses they can get and they want the nicest colors. They worry about chromatic aberration and distortion. They want a 3-D look where the details pop off the print. They will pay the extra money to get the look they want.
Bottom line, you can get the wide angle lenses you want for the A7 (or A9) cameras. If only the telephotos were so lucky.
Today I was watching a video on photography by Tony Northrup
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Za2AeCujDZk&feature=youtu.be) . Basically, it’s one of those “Here are my predictions for 2018” videos. Tony goes through Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, Pentax and Fuji. He has a variety of predictions and comments. Some interesting, some obvious, some debatable. What I found significant was a couple of statements he made about Canon and Nikon. Apparently both Canon and Nikon are expected to produce full frame mirrorless models in 2018. And in addition, Tony noted that last year Sony passed Nikon to become the second largest producer of full frame cameras and that the way things are going Sony will pass Canon in 2018 to become the largest.
And that is actually sort of amazing. Tony Northrup is a former mirrorless skeptic. Up until the second generation of the A7 system he doubted that a full-frame mirrorless camera would ever have the autofocus ability to compete against the professional grade Nikon and Canon models. But in just three years Sony has gone from a novelty camera manufacturer to where they are now. Now, having been the victim of years of Sony dithering I can state categorically that their success has nothing to do with superior implementation of their products. Anyone who has had to deal with the Sony camera menus knows that’s simply not the case. So, what it must be, is that the time of the DSLR is past and the advantages of the mirrorless camera are now so obvious that even Sony can’t help but succeed.
So, if it’s to be mirrorless cameras going forward, who will be left standing when the dust settles? Will Canon and Nikon pivot and reinvent themselves as mirrorless camera companies? Will Sony parlay their electronic and video expertise to dominate market? Or will one of the other mirrorless companies like Fuji or the micro four thirds manufacturers take advantage of their smaller form factor to pull ahead?
Who knows? Certainly not me. But at least I feel like I’ve won the first part of the bet I took when I stuck with Sony when they went from DSLR to mirrorless. Now all they have to do is get out of their own way and give their customers the cameras and lenses they want to buy. This year they came out with two amazing cameras, the A9 and the A7R III. Both cameras are essentially ground breaking. The A9 is the first mirrorless camera that could easily be used by either a professional sports shooter or a wedding photographer and perform as well as if not in some ways better than the Canon and Nikon equivalents. The A7R III is a versatile high megapixel camera that can perform at the level of Nikon and Canon enthusiast cameras for everything from landscape to portrait to occasion shooting while providing the very best picture quality available. What remains for them is to finish off the line up with updates of their high ISO stills / video camera (the A7S III) and the basic A7 III plain vanilla version. Once the larger battery, better autofocus and joystick control of the A9 is introduced into these updates, Sony will have provided mirrorless shooters with the tools they’ve been waiting for. And it will become difficult for Canon and Nikon to convince the market that mirrorless cameras haven’t already matched DSLR performance and in some ways surpassed it. When I tested out the A9 last summer and saw what it’s like to shoot continuously with absolutely no blackout between frames I knew that mirrorless was the future. And when I saw how good the autofocus on that camera was I no longer doubted that Sony might be a part of that future.
So, the great mirrorless game is afoot. Who will take an early lead and who will be left at the gate? Predicting these kinds of things is almost impossible. But I’ll string along with Sony for the foreseeable future. They’ve chosen wisely and are now fighting on their own electronics turf instead of on the DSLR field. I like their chances. But I have to say that after following along with these guys for all these years I have a sort of fatalism about how clueless they can be about avoiding obvious problems. Please Sony, don’t screw it up.