Sony A7 - Sigma 35mm f/1.4 - ISO 50

You give us those nice bright colors
You give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah!
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph
So Mama, don't take my Kodachrome away
' - Paul Simon

 All images - Sony A7 - Sigma 35mm f/1.4 - LA-EA5 Adapter

When I started serious photography I was shooting 35mm transparency film and for years I used Kodachrome. In terms of ISO speed it was seriously slow. ISO 25 and the 'fast' version ISO 64. These days people go on about how a camera performs at IS0 3200 etc. but those of us who grew up photographically on film and wanted to shoot hand held had to learn how to hold a camera steady at low shutter speeds, buy fast lenses or give up and use a tripod. We also had to get used to posting our films off to the nearest Kodak lab that processed the film and crossed our fingers that the little yellow box with the plastic mounted slides would drop through our letterboxes some days later.

Yesterday I got the opportunity to partially relive those days, at least working for an afternoon with a camera which has a 35mm film sized sensor, a fast prime lens and a (s)low ISO setting. It all started when I realised I hadn't set the camera to Auto ISO as I thought but to ISO 50. Rather than correct my mistake I decided to go with it and see what this setting came up with. It was a sunny day so I thought I'd see whether I could get those 'nice bright colours' and see if my nostalgia for the days of slow shutter speeds and wide apertures was overrated.

ISO 50 on the A7 is an 'extended ISO' setting. Like other cameras that include these slow ISO speeds it's not native and is the base ISO setting overexposed for a stop and adjusted in camera. It's generally the view that this results in poorer dynamic range. The early Olympus Pens included ISO 100 which was below the base ISO of 200 and there were often dire warnings from internet 'experts' about using it. However I did and it wasn't a problem and I liked it much more than ISO 200 as it produced sharper less noisy results. I assumed that on a sensor the size of the A7's I wouldn't have many problems in the DR department and thought it would be interesting to see just what kind of quality I could achieve. 

That quality, as you might expect, is very good indeed. Though not that different (if at all) from the base ISO of 100. Useful for very large printing requirements with serious quality requirements and for blurring waterfalls, but not a lot else. And my nostalgia for shooting on Kodachrome is much more about the excitement of cultivating and exploring a new passion rather than the film itself. Having spent some time recently scanning some Kodachrome transparencies I much prefer what I'm doing now. In terms of quality (miles better) and convenience give me digital every time. And yes give me decent higher ISO performance so I'm not restricted to shooting very well lit compositions. But then I guess nobody's going to wrote a song entitled '24.3 effective megapixel 35mm Exmor® CMOS sensor with advanced imaging features including a powerful new  BIONZ® X processor'

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