The astonishing Sony A7r - with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 and Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar SL-II


The UK is particularly lush at the moment. The combination of a very wet winter and a warm sunny spring seems to have made the countryside and the gardens especially verdant. This has been happening for the last few years as well. Our garden now needs several people and a selection of power tools to keep it under control these days.

Yesterday was a hot sunny day in high summer and I went along to an especially impressive local stately home and garden armed with my Sony A7r, Sigma 35mm f/1.4 and Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar SL-II + 'dodgy' adapter, with the express idea of exploring the limited depth of field, old-school images with 'arty' vignette techniques I outlined in these previous posts. 



However when I got home and looked at the pictures I forgot about all that. The images needed no added artifice to make them jump off the screen at me. I removed all traces of vignetting from the Voigtlander images and marvelled at the quality of image that the Sony A7r sensor creates. I also discovered that the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 is spectacularly sharp at apertures between f/2 and f/3.5 and that the Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar SL-II is so good wide-open that I have to try to find an adapter that lets me use other apertures for this Canon EOS fit lens. 

And it's no surprise that since I bought it late last year, the A7r has been my most used camera. Despite my lack of 'bonding' with the FE bodies and Sony camera design in general, there is no doubt in my mind that their camera are top of the mirrorless hierarchy. Say all you want about m4/3 and Fuji X (and of course I do!) The A7r turns the rest of them into also rans when it comes to image quality. This 36MP 35mm / 'full-frame' sensor is just so much better than anything else mirrorless (or indeed DSLR's) can offer that it makes their puny output seem like a joke. Why settle for less when you can have the best. 

And yes I can witter on about Fuji's and their retro chic and m4/3 and it's small form factor and great lenses, but what use is style and a comprehensive lens range if the images aren't jaw-dropping, high-resolution, ultra sharp and with great saturated yet natural colour. Because that's exactly what my A7r gives me. And the results on my screen still make me gasp after all these months of using it. I get the best looking files I've ever seen from this camera and of course it makes them at an astonishing size. Yes there is the Sony lens issue but there are excellent alternatives to that brand. For example I've used the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 less than I should, but now I've found out where it really performs, at those wide apertures, I'll be using it a lot more. Sensational lens.

Plus I've got my two Voigtlanders (soon to be joined by more I think) and the excellent 35mm and 55mm Zeiss badged lenses from Sony and the crazy but wonderful 10-18mm APS-C e-mount wide-angle, so I do have a fair amount of options now. A telephoto of some kind would be nice though and I'll have to look into that.

Now this kind of limited depth-of-field look isn't something I do a lot of and I'm certainly no fan of the creamy bokeh, DOF of a gnats eyelash nonsense that permeates the internet pretending to be 'photographic art', but I do like what I describe as the 'large-format film' look, where something is isolated against a blurred background without that background becoming an incomprehensible nothing. To be honest the apertures I was using yesterday are a bit too wide for my tastes. But then I was messing about with this artsy idea I had. I was in fact using ISO 50 for most of the shots, which doesn't allow very narrow apertures anyway. However I'll continue to explore how best to achieve what I want and refine what I'm doing to get the look I'm after.

So a useful day in terms of sorting out what's important from notions of 'artistic expression'. And of course I realised, as I should have before, that these elegant examples of man controlling and organising nature don't actually need any efforts on my part to 'enhance' them. I'm not throwing my vignette / limited DOF experiment out the window, but I'll certainly consider when and how it can be useful for me in the future. It may be appropriate in certain situations to add something to a run of the mill image (sounds like a definition of what stock photography is all about!!) but I'm certainly not going to turn it into a 'signature' style. At least not while I can produce images like I did yesterday. 






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