I’ve been investigating how I wanted to do certain close-up photography work on the Sony E-mount. Transitioning from the Sony A-mount I had the Minolta 200mm f\4 macro lens. This is a superb lens but it has a screw drive autofocus system which is not accommodated by the LAEA3 adapter and if used with the LAEA4 adapter forces me to have the so-called “translucent mirror” of the adapter in between the lens and the sensor. So I went around looking for other options. I rented the Sony 90mm f\2.8 macro lens. It is excellent and has an excellent autofocus response with the Sony A7 III camera. But it is less than half the focal length of the 200mm lens. I looked at adapting the Sigma 180mm f\2.8 macro in Canon mount with the Sigma Canon to E-Mount MC-11 adapter. I rented this combination and found the autofocus inconsistent at best. Finally I tried to find the Sigma 180mm f\2.8 in A-mount and see if the LAEA3 combination would autofocus better. The A-Mount is not a very popular one so none of the rental places had this lens. I called up B&H Photo who had the lens and asked them to mount it on an A7 III with the LAEA3 and test the autofocus. They said the autofocus was fair but completely blown away by the native Sony lens performance. When I heard this I knew it was time to give up and go with the Sony 90mm f\2.8 macro lens. I’ll always have the Minolta 200mm for times when I want the extra reach but autofocus is not critical. But for hummingbird and butterfly shots the autofocus of the native sony E-Mount lenses is more important than the extra focal length. I ordered it from B&H last night. Case closed.
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.
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.
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…