Sony A7r with Sigma 20mm and Sony 85mm

Some decent weather finally arrived so I was able to get out and do some real world shooting with my 'new' lenses for the A7r. The Sigma 20mm f/1.8 and Sony 85mm f/2.8. 

Both lenses performed very well and I was particularly pleased with the 85mm. Having only used this lens before on cropped sensors I did wonder how it would perform on the A7r. It was however surprisingly good and 'pixel-peeping' the images I saw sharpness that reminded me of my Nikon 85mm f/1.8G lens, which is for me high praise.

So these lenses complete what I'm going to be buying for the A7r for the moment. With the old Minoltas I've bought, the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 and my Nikon MF options I now have a pretty strong lens lineup which gives me a lot of flexibility, including some fast options. Virtually all of it has been achieved with the use of adapters, but there isn't really anything wrong with that. 

There have been a lot of words written about what lenses to use with these Sony cameras since they have been available and I seem to have taken a somewhat different path than most other commentators and users. But I'm happy with the choices that I have made in terms of the image quality I'm getting and in the majority of cases I'm VERY happy about the prices I've paid for these options. In virtually every case the lenses I'm using are able to exploit all those pixels these sensors possess and the worst performance of any of the lenses is unfortunately the 28-70mm native e-mount zoom. I've also seen from readers images, what to me are less than impressive results from both the 24-70mm zoom and 35mm prime and I'll be passing on those. The 55mm f/1.8 does look like a stunning lens, but paying £900 for a lens I would use rarely isn't something I'm even considering at the moment.

Certainly yesterday I once again had confirmation of just how good the A7r sensor is. I like using my Fuji's and m4/3 cameras now that I've come up with a raw processing method I'm happy with, but these A7r files are really something special. Sharp and with superb colour depth they really are a joy to 'pixel-peep'. For the majority of my picture library uses (and potential sales) however they are way over the top in terms of image size and I could easily do what I do with any of my other cameras. I also don't miss the point that some of my lens choices are producing a pretty bulky outfit. Yesterday I walked further than I have for a while and I returned home with some back twinges I haven't had for a while. And I can't deny that when I saw my recently acquired GX7 sitting on the shelf I did wonder exactly how long I will be prepared to put up with the Sony's. 

There are light(er) lens options certainly but it does seem to be the case that the better lenses I'm using and the ones that I particularly like for what I shoot are turning out to be the big and heavy ones. The 85mm is refreshingly light but the Sigma 20mm is a bit of a beast. The images it produces are really nice and I'm impressed by it's lack of distortion but I won't pretend it's easy to carry around. Walking non-stop for about 2 hours yesterday I was certainly aware of it's bulk. And again my Panasonic 7-14mm looks very tempting. So it's the old dilemma, convenience versus ultimate image quality. And while the A7 and A7r bodies are certainly small and light it's the old issue of 35mm / 'Full-frame' sensors and lens size. There is really no way round it. Good quality fast prime lenses for this size sensor are always going to be pretty big and pretty heavy. And while I don't use those 'fast' apertures very often, lenses that have them do have significantly better results at apertures I do use all the time. e.g. in the f/2.8-5.6 range. And of course it hasn't escaped my notice that these are exactly the apertures that m4/3 lenses excel at.

My next extended shooting trip is definitely going to be with the GX7 and I have to admit that after yesterday I'm looking forward to that. Because much as I love the larger sensors and their ability to create those high-resolution images I do still struggle sometimes to get the depth-of-field I want. It was the case with my Nikon D800E and it's the case with the Sonys. Even with a 20mm lens at f/8 there is often more of the image than I would like not in sharp focus and those DOF benefits that I get with m4/3 have always been one the most compelling reasons for me to use that format.

So who knows what may happen in the future, but certainly at the moment I have the pleasure of looking at my A7r images on my monitor and that certainly at the moment makes the extra effort involved in creating them worthwhile.

N.B. Just to answer some questions I'm getting on Google+ here is a recent exchange.

'How well does the Sigma 20mm perform on the A7r? Especially in the corners.'

'It's actually very good. Significantly better than the Sony 28-70mm FE zoom and also better than some raw samples I've seen from the 24-70mm which has poor corners and some distortion. Also a lot better than the Sigma 12-24mm which is poor in the corners as well.

They haven't tested an a-mount versions but here's a DxO comparison with Nikon mount versions on a Nikon D800 sensor. As you can see it gets a higher score than the Zeiss 21mm.


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