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"At various times in my life I've wanted to be a train driver, a rock star and a novelist but I can't really think of anything better than waking up in the morning, looking out the window and thinking "This is a good day to go out and take some pictures.'"
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THE SONY a6000 - FULL REVIEW AND OWNER / USER EXPERIENCE

THE SONY a6000 - FULL REVIEW AND OWNER / USER EXPERIENCE

Above is a link to all my posts on the Sony a6000. There are articles about the camera in use, tests using various lenses, comparisons with other cameras etc. I thought that now, after 4 months with the camera, I'm in a position to collect my thoughts about it. 

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SONY RX10 and a6000 IMAGE QUALITY COMPARED

SONY RX10 and a6000 IMAGE QUALITY COMPARED

I'm a great fan of the all-in-one superzoom 'bridge' cameras such as the Panasonic FZ1000 and the Sony RX10. I thought it would be interesting to see how the RX10 compared to my Sony a6000. To make it a tough test I used the Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lens on the a 6000. 

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Some thoughts on the difference between the Leica T (Typ 701) and the Sony a6000.





I got what looked like a shill post on my facebook page yesterday. Purporting to be a disgruntled Leica T buyer with complaints about the strap, the screen etc. and how the Sony a6000 was a much better and cheaper buy blah, blah, blah..... You know the usual nonsense. 

However, it did strike me that it might well be a question that many would ask. The a6000 is a fine camera, in fact I said so repeatedly, so why the Leica T in preference to that.? Particularly as the a6000 has more pixels, faster AF and is significantly cheaper.

This post will provide the answer to that question.

BUILD AND HANDLING

I just prefer the Leica. It feels so much classier, like the hand finished, individually tested, small-scale manufactured camera that it is. Great stuff comes from those far-east factories and I've certainly bought and used enough of them, but the T is something else again. It's not a mass-produced polycarbonate, robot assembled kit. And I'm past the stage when I care about whether people think I'm indulging myself with a classy, snobby, prestige item. Because if I am doing that, then it's nobody's business but mine. My money, my choice.

LENS

A standard zoom range takes care of the majority of what I shoot. It's the lens I use the most and I've generally had one around or used prime lenses that cover that range. The Leica 18-56mm is a terrific lens, with corner to corner sharpness. It's beautifully built as well as being optically superb. And it's a lens I'll just leave on the camera to cover the vast majority of my needs. 

Sony have their 18-55mm and 16-50mm kit zooms. 
Need I go on!

EVF AND SCREEN

The Leica T is just a revelation in this respect. You'll get an idea of how much bigger the screen is from the pictures above. Contrary to what my Sony fanboy critic indicated, it is excellent in sunlight and the best I've used on a 'conventional' camera. It is also 100% colour accurate without me having to make any adjustments and it's the first screen I've ever used that I can actually use to genuinely assess the sharpness of the images I've shot. It's a pleasure to use.

The EVF is even better. Looking through the a6000 viewfinder is the usual tunnel vision. OK I guess if you've never used anything else, but now I have and the Leica T add-on EVF (with added GPS of course) is again the best I've used. A large image, clear, sharp and once again 100% colour accurate. 

MENUS, KNOBS and DIALS.

Te Leica menu system is all on one page and takes one scroll down on the touchscreen to reveal all. I thought it was going to be complicated, but like all Leica menu systems it actually isn't in practice after about 20 minutes with the manual. I can also customise the order I want it in to fit with what I need to do. In practice when I've been out with the camera it's easy, simple and quick to change what I want and with that terrific screen I can see clearly what I'm doing.

The Sony has pages and pages of stuff, in no particular logical order as far as I can see and there are all those dials, buttons and wheels that do various things. The Leica's menu functions are all in one place and I alter the settings in the same place in the same way. Now I used to be very anti touch screens, but then I never had one like this before. As I've indicated before, somewhat surprisingly, Leica the old-school values, rangefinder company are now right up there at the front of the pack when it comes to touchscreen menu control. 

Basically, what Leica have come up with is simple and efficient. The T is a serious 'non fiddle' camera and you don't need 'hampster fingers' to work it. The Leica T menus system was designed by photographers. The Sony was designed by...... dial and knob manfacturers??

THE LEICA T APP.

Again, very surprisingly, Leica of all people, are showing Sony how to produce a useful and simple camera app. The Sony system is a nightmare. None of my Sony cameras came with the full remote control facility and I've had to update the cameras which is convuluted and complicated. Plus when you finally get the app. to work  (not always guaranteed) it's a huge disappointment anyway with very limited features.

The Leica T system however is simplicity itself. I pressed the wi-fi tab on the screen, put in my home password and I was connected. I then downloaded the app. from Apple and installed it on my iPad. Clicking on the button which comes up immediately the app. loads, I press a button on the camera and I'm connected. I can then remote control the camera, both for stills and video and review and download the images from the camera, either SD card or internal memory. It's quick, it's easy and it works every time.

HIGH ISO PERFORMANCE

The irony of course is that the Leica has a Sony sensor. But it's the 16MP one as opposed to the 24MP version in the a6000. And that reduced pixel density does make a difference at high ISO's. All of the Leica APS-C sensor cameras are good for high ISO noise. I used an X1 as a back up camera when I shot weddings and the images I shot at ISO 3200 were better than the Canon DSLR's I used at the time. The T is better than that however. At ISO 1600 is virtually noiseless and very usable at 3200 as well. There would be no problem at all for print reproduction. The Sony, however is still good at these higher settings, but more noise reduction is put on the jpgs. so they don't appear as sharp. It is interesting that Sony don't always get the best results from their sensors in their cameras. Maybe it's them just coming up with what they think people want, who knows?

Now in the past I really wasn't that bothered with high ISO performance, but using my Fuji X cameras I've seen the benefits of higher ISO settings leading to narrower apertures and sharper pictures. With the relatively slow Leica zoom that is important. The Leica T gives results very similar to my Fuji's, so it is a superb low light camera (as indeed have been all of the APS-C Leicas, including the X-Vario)

THAT STRAP

Yes it's rubber, yes it has these proprietary lugs so you can't connect any other strap, but I just love it. Why has no-one done this before? (If they have I haven't seen it) Rubber actually works. It doesn't twist or snag, it keeps it's shape and it's shock absorbent. It's personal obviously, but I think it's a terrific solution. I've never really ever been happy with any strap I've used before, but this is something different and in my opinion, something better. 

So what of the Sony advantages? Yes the AF is faster, but that's virtually never a problem for me. It also has better video, but all my video needs are taken care of by the Sony RX10 and Panasonic FZ1000. And yes it's cheaper. But only if you are prepared to accept pretty average lens quality. You CAN get a superb high-quality standard zoom for the a6000. But it's the a-mount Zeiss 16-35mm f/2.8 and will set you back £1300 + the cost of the adapter. Oh and it weighs around 1KG. 

Yes the Leica has only two lenses available currently and both are seriously expensive, but the zoom is perfect for what I need. This is a camera I will mainly use outdoors in good light, with it stopped down. Maybe at some point in the future I might consider what else the range has to offer, but at the moment it's that all in one solution that I want. 

So there it is. Why I prefer the Leica T. And regular readers will have realised of course that what I now consider as advantages are what I would have sneered at not so long ago. But then as I'm constantly writing, things change, I change and I want different things and different options.

Finally an example of how I'm working and how this fits in with what I do currently. I took these pictures yesterday.





 
Now some of these were taken in good light, but for the scarecrow pictures it was pretty dark and I was up around the ISO 1000-3200 mark on the camera. The T produced some very clean files even at those settings. 

So I got home, got out my iPad, synced it up with the camera and went through the files on the cameras SD card to see which I wanted to work on there and then. There was little to do since thanks to the excellent EVF and screen I had the compositions I wanted, without much editing. I should also mention that the Leica T's exposures were spot on as well. I then transferred the files to the iPad, edited it them in Snapseed and even ran them through Instagram. I then used the upload apps. for the three libraries I was sending them to and they were online after captioning and keywording within minutes on one site that takes everything I send and a couple of hours later for the other two. So a completely different way of working. Way faster and significantly less of a chore. 

This is how I work currently and the Leica T fits in perfectly with that. Plus on top of all that it's such a pleasure to shoot with. For me the handling is sublime, that aluminium body is just so nice in the hand. And while it probably has no basis in reality I just feel like I'm bound to create great images with it. Since I take pictures every day, my relationship with my cameras is like a musician and their instruments. The Leica T inspires me to go and create the best images I can, to do it justice and while I'm not saying the Sony doesn't, it is certainly more fiddly to use and adjust and in many ways just too small for me to feel really comfortable with it. The Leica T gives me what's important to me at this current time, but more than that it suits that way I feel about photography. That it's important and to be cherished and something that should be respected, worked at and explored. The Leica T fits in with that philosophy very nicely for me and as far as I'm concerned that's worth paying a premium for.

Yesterdays images (and more) already online and for sale at Clashot.

http://clashot.com/davidmartyn.html


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SONY a6000 Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART lens




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Rainbow with Sony A7 and a6000


On very rare occasions the pictures come to me. This beautiful rainbow and sunset was captured from my loft. Sony A7 and a6000 cameras using the 10-18mm zoom on both.








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Sony 10-18mm, Fuji 10-24mm, Panasonic 12-32mm and Nokia 1020 compared.


This is a very simple, very quick comparison between ny Nokia Lumia 1020 Smartphone and three mirrorless cameras fitted with wide-angle zooms.

Sony a6000 + 10-18mm zoom
Panasonic GX7 + 12-32mm zoom
Fuji X-T1 + 10-24mm zoom




Files are OOC jpgs. at base ISO and standard settings. The Nokia and Sony files have been downsized to match the Fuji and Panasonic. Files are available for download. (Please note this will be for a limited time. I need all my Cloud space for other things and I have in fact deleted all previous samples available on Google Drive.)


A few observations however. 

The Nokia looks different to the others in terms of colour balance. However, it's the only one that's right and got the colour balance correct. 

There is some highlight burnout on the Nokia file. 

In order of centre sharpness the files are:-
1. Sony a6000
2. Nokia 1020
3. Panasonic GX7
4.(And by some distance) Fuji X-T1.

Make of this what you will. I did it to see just how the Nokia compared. I think you can see for yourself what the answer to that is.



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SONY a6000 - mirrorless at it's best


The Sony a6000 is a great camera. Wednesday it was pressed into service as a hand-held video camera at the teacher training session my nephew and I were making a movie of. It did overheat after a particularly long take, but aside from that it performed very well and the footage is certainly excellent.

Yesterday, fitted with my Sony 85mm f/2.8 plus LA-EA4 adapter, it was working as my telephoto option when I was shooting landscape in Herefordshire. It has what I consider to be a virtue, in that I set it up and just let it do it's thing. Again it turned out great images with no fuss. 

These days, I'm less and less interested in announced camera models. I had a good laugh at the 'new' Olympus offerings. It's probably some kind of marketing trick, with the three people who can actually spot any meaningful difference between the last three pen cameras winning a prize. That prize being to pay a lot of money for the same camera with a different name!! 

A lot of camera manufacturers are chasing their tails here, releasing endless minor updating models after the rumour sites get all hot and bothered with some supposed mind boggling new feature, which never surfaces. For example for Fuji we've had Medium-Format, Full-Frame and now 24MP sensor rumours for forthcoming models. Fuji have denied the first two, though the 24MP / X-Pro2  one might have legs. And I have to say, I hope they dump the X-trans sensor and stick one of these Sony units in it. Because if they do, then I'd be very interested. Because this is a superb sensor and the thought of my, currently seriously underused, Fuji lenses in front of one of those almost makes me want to stop using my Smartphone!!!

So, to finish, here's a few more a6000 / 85mm images.







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Mirrorless on the Job. Sony A7r, A7, a6000, Fuji XT1 and.......... Nokia 1020.

This was a bit of a camera fest. Four mirrorless cameras, six lenses and.......my Nokia Smartphone, which was responsible for the images you see above, screengrabs from the video I shot with it.

So what was going on? Well after a gap of a year or two, my nephew Ben who works in education asked me to help with the production of a video of a training session for Physics teachers in schools. This also involved some stills shooting for website use. If all goes well and the client likes the results, there may be further work shooting more specific training scenarios. 

Like the previous education shooting we have done, we had to fit in with what was going on around us, which was a combination of lectures, demonstrations and hands-on workshops. So we took a fair amount of gear. For video Sony A7, A7r and a6000 cameras. 10-18mm, 28-70mm, 55mm and Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lenses, four tripods, pair of headphones and Rode microphone. For stills, I used my Fuji X-T1 and 35mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.2 lenses. 

Shooting was a mixture of tripod mounted and hand-holding. Having experience of doing this kind of work before and shooting weddings together meant that we weren't particularly fazed by the situation and the results look good. Though my nephew has the footage from 4 cameras to edit by Monday. I don't envy him that. As indicated above I also used my Nokia 1020 mounted on a gorilla pod for close up work. 

All our previous work like this had involved DSLR's and this was the first time I'd gone out on a pro commissioned assignment with mirrorless cameras only. In practice of course the mirrorless aspect was pretty irrelevant. The Sony A7 / A7r had battery grips, as did the Fuji, so yes there were marginal weight and size savings, but I still had aching arms and legs at the end of the day, so it makes little difference. 

The Sony's worked well and were chosen in preference to my Panasonics because of the marginally better high ISO performance. Though the a6000 turned itself off after a long take because it was overheating. Why Sony can't solve this I have no idea. The Fuji worked very nicely for stills and I have a series of clean sharp images taken in pretty dim light. The fast lenses helped.





I have to mention the Nokia Lumia 1020 as well. I had intended to use it to take some video and stills of us working, but the screen is so good, I ended up using it on my small tripod to shoot some of the experiments close up. The footage is amazing and though I haven't had time to go through it properly, it looks like it has performed better than the Sony's at high ISO's. Now this isn't particularly surprising since many professional broadcast video cameras have sensors this size. However it was pretty amazing and has the bonus of producing some nice video grabs for website use.

Would I use the same kit again? Well maybe, but maybe not. Battery life on the Sony's and Fuji wasn't great and I'm thinking that if more work like this turns up then either a Sony RX10, Panasonic FZ1000 or both might be a better option. The fast zooms, and 1" sensor offer advantages for this kind of work and the fact of taking stills off the Panasonics 4K output is very appealing. High ISO performance is obviously a consideration here, but to be honest the only real issues where when the lights were turned off for a particular experiment. My Nokia coped with that anyway. (Did I really just write that?) 

So it was hard work but fun to be working with Ben again and shooting people in situation. Hopefully at some point in the future I can post the finished video, since we have negotiated that we can use the footage for our own promotional purposes. Not sure I'd want to be doing this every day, but it was fun to have to react instinctively to situations again and I do like the 'buzz' of that. The gear mostly performed well, but I'm beginning to think that Nokia phone has almost 'magical' powers!!! (It actually doesn't because the sound is rubbish. The sound of the IS working ruins the recording. But hey, you can't have everything I suppose.)

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Sony a6000 and my conversion to jpgs.















All images Sony a6000 10-18mm and 28-70mm e-mount zoom lenses. All from OOC jpgs. + Photoshop.

I NEVER used to use jpgs. to create my stock photography files. In fact I used to argue at length on forums about the virtues of raw and the disadvantages of nasty, over processed, soft, noise reduced jpgs. (Open minded as ever then!) But two things happened recently. Firstly Sony with my A7 (yes it's back - long story!!) A7r and a6000 turned out to produce really good and useable jpgs. and Secondly (and more importantly) I have neither the time or the inclination to process the enormous backlog of pictures I have via raw. Batch raw editing doesn't work for me as I like to edit each file individually. So I have to consign myself to hours in front of my computer monitor or, as I've decided to do, work with the jpgs. and consign myself to slightly less hours in front of said monitor. And I have to admit that one of the attractions of the phone camera option I'm considering is the speed of getting the images from camera to picture library website.

In terms of my time allocation, I'm much less a photographer and much more an image processer, manipulator and editor these days and that's not a ratio I like much. I love taking pictures, I'm much less keen on the post production work. So a big thank you to Sony. Superb jpgs. with very little work to be done to them that I can quickly turnaround. Because all the advantages of shooting and processing raw (and there are many) are pointless if the files are sitting on my computer rather than on a picture library website. 

The culprit here is the UK weather, which has been excellent in photographic terms for over a year now. We are in the middle of a mini-heatwave currently and I'm out shooting every day and coming home with lots more pictures to edit. Now I'm not going to knock that, I'm well aware that things could change and the next few months could revert to type and be dull and wet, but I still have pictures from last summer that are sitting waiting to be edited. So if it's jpgs. and accept a few compromises but get the pictures earning money or take a long time processing raw to get the best results I can, then I'm choosing the former. I could of course give up sleeping.







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Sony a6000 plus 10-18mm and 85mm lenses.










Thursday I went out with what could almost be described as a 'conventional' Sony outfit. An e-mount camera, one e-mount lens, the 10-18mm zoom and a LA-EA4 adapted Sony a-mount 85mm f/2.8 prime. The prime motivation was to try out my re-gripped a6000.



The grip worked well as I expected. Much nicer handling with only a marginal increase in weight. Lenses worked well too. 

The more I use the a6000, the more I'm convinced that this is the best APS-C sensor I've ever used and also the best mirrorless camera I've ever used as well. My Sony A7r is better image quality wise (And I'm currently editing Friday's image taken with that camera which are simply mind-blowing in terms of sharpness, resolution and visual impact) my Panasonic m4/3's cameras are slicker and easier to use and my Fuji X's are 'sexier' and classier. But all-round the a6000 is hard to beat. Better image quality than either my m4/3 or Fuji sensors can produce, with blindingly fast AF and a feature set that wouldn't be out of place on a top of the range pro DSLR only a short time ago. Add in the fact that it's small, light and relatively inexpensive and you have the camera that has taken over from the GM1 as the frontrunner for my incredibly prestigious (Not!) Soundimageplus camera of the year award.

It is indeed a 'pocket rocket' a 'wolf in sheeps clothing' 'micro monster' or whatever cliche you want to apply to it. I still don't love it (or any Sony camera for that matter) but I do admire and respect it. And I certainly love the image files it produces which are great straight out the camera and easy, quick and simple to process from raw to squeeze out all the quality they are capable of. 

It is a great camera and one that seems to be somewhat undervalued. It certainly seems to attract less column inches on the photographic internet than other far less worthy cameras. The 'reviews' usually are positive but not much more enthusiastic than that. However prolonged use with it in a variety of situations and with a variety of lenses, has proved to me that Sony have got a lot of things right with the a6000 and it deserves to be much more highly rated. Ultimately cameras have to be judged because of what they produce and the a6000 is pretty much the best out there in terms of APS-C sensor captured images. And to be honest it does look and feel a lot better with it's leather case and wooden base plate attached. 

And if they could get their 'new best friends' Olympus to re-style it then it could be the workhorse camera of my dreams. The Fuji X100s is to me the ultimate 'style statement' (If you're a retro head chrome, metal and lookaleicaness fan that is!) but the a6000 puts that camera in the shade in terms of the pixels it produces. Plastic and mass-produced machine made it may be, but there's nothing run of the mill about the images it produces. Sony may be the lens maker from hell but they've got camera / sensor engineering down to a fine art and I can't think of another manufacturer that comes near them in those terms.

My relationship with Sony is a bit like one of those arranged marriages that the English aristocracy used to indulge in to protect their finances, power and prestige. Not a lot of passion there, but in time a mutual respect and genuine friendship. And like those marriages, I may go off and have the odd romantic fling somewhere else, but I do keep keep coming back. 

Finally just on a non-photographic note, my congratulations to the Dutch for showing that commitment, speed and adventure beats 'pitter-patter' football any day. The Spanish method of boring their opponents into giving up by loosing the will to live (or play football at least) seems to thankfully have come to an end. And if there's going to be a better goal in this world cup than Robin Van Persie's header, I look forward to seeing it. Great stuff. Now if only England can manage to avoid loosing to Italy, it could be a very watchable world cup (unlike the last one). It's certainly a good start and with lots of goals so far actually quite an exciting one. 

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Serendipity and the Sony a6000 and Voigtländer 90mm f/3.5 APO-Lanthar SL-II - Flower Photography


Following on from my post yesterday - http://soundimageplus.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/serendipity-and-sony-a7r-and.html - I can of course use the same 'technique' with my a6000.













I am equally pleased with the results and I think the results are somewhat magical and mysterious. To achieve this I've tried to steer clear of any kind of Instagram type effect and to that end choosing the right subject matter is essential. I did try some modern objects and the results looked just like some cheesy filter effect. i.e. Instagram!!

It's certainly something I will explore and since I'm right in the middle of my stately home / gardens in summer bloom shooting season, it's an ideal opportunity to try this out. 

This is also an interesting time to discover this since I was in a discussion on Google+ about flower and plant photography. The original poster said, quite rightly, that flower photography was as popular as pet photography (see shot of Jeff above!) and while he didn't state it as such, the implication is that somehow it's a mundane and run of the mill kind of photography. This is a perception that other readers have indicated as well, almost apologising for posting some flower pictures. Well I guess this kind of photography can be mundane, but I've never regarded it as such. I take as much care over my horticultural images as I do with anything else. 

In my reply to the post I used the example of Robert Mapplethorpe's flower pictures. This is the infamous New York photographer whose homoerotic work caused such a stir in the 70's and 80's. His take on photographing flowers is like the rest of his work, beautifully lit and very sensual. Incidentally he is one of my favourite photographers and I did a piece on him a while ago

I have however always tried to refine my own technique for this subject and what attracts me is colour, light and contrast. I'm not particularly interested in the botanical element and in fact don't know the names of most of what I photograph despite my background in this. It's the visual potential I'm interested in. For this I tend to use extreme lenses. Ultra wide angle or telephoto lenses, often getting down to ground level to shoot a 'plants eye view' of the world if you like. And I have to say that the results I've liked most have been achieved by using these 'wrong' lenses on my Sony cameras. i.e. The 10-18mm on my A7r and this wide-open heavy vignette look with the Voigtlander 90mm and adapter.


As I've indicated this is a subject which always dominates what I do at this time of year and if you've been reading my recent posts you will notice there is an awful lot of flower photography. And I'm in no mood to apologise for that, in fact this post is meant to promote flower, plant and horticultural photography in general. If that is what attracts us and brings our camera to our eye and makes us press the shutter, then there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Creating a good picture of a flower or a garden isn't an easy option, it's not something that anybody can do and it shouldn't be regarded as a poor relation to other more 'interesting' forms of photography. And I'd rather look at a creative, well thought out picture of a plant or flower than view the cliched crap that passes for 'street photography' these days. 

Finally those of us who spend a lot of time in a rural environment are used to this seasonal display that defines our year and I can think of no greater privilege than being able to use all my creative and technical abilities to document that. 


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Sony a6000 - Sigma 35mm f/1.4 and the whole small camera big lens thing.




I know that there are people who think the above combination looks crazy, but the thing about small mirrorless cameras is that sometimes we want to put big lenses on them. Indeed there are many lenses that overpower even the biggest DSLR's. And that's where my newly acquired and surprisingly good double case and wooden base grip comes in really useful. All of a sudden the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, a very fine, but very big and heavy lens, overpowers the a6000 a lot less.

In fact I find the above combination very comfortable to handle. It's different to the SLR feel of my A7r and in fact I prefer this. The a6000 has certain advantages over the FE cameras, not least of which is the ultra fast AF and the really Pro-DSLR style burst mode, which I tried out today. It really is very impressive indeed and the camera has a decent sized buffer which means it's possible to keep on shooting burst after burst. This makes the a6000 a camera that would work very well in a fast moving situation such as sports photography and the fast 35mm Sigma is a great lens for low light photography. And it's for occasions like this where making the body larger and the grip area bigger really helps to make the most of the a6000.

It's easy enough to put it back into 'miniature' mode and stick a slow, small, light lens on the front of it, but I like versatility in my cameras and the ability to use them in a variety of situations. I also dislike camera / lens combinations that are too light, which I find very difficult to handle comfortably. 

Quite unexpectedly this a6000 / grip combination has become one of my favourite handling cameras. To say I'm surprised that a Sony has achieved this is something of an understatement. Not for everyone, but if like me, you like a big camera feel with a small camera weight and size, then you might just be as impressed as I am with this 'alternative' solution to the whole small camera / big lens conundrum. 









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Sony a6000 - extra 'gripability.' Prostraps Leather Case, JB Wooden Base.


If like me you love mirrorless cameras for their size and weight, but often find the grips too small and uncomfortable, then here's a solution for the Sony a6000. It is in fact a global solution, in that the leather case came from Prostrap in China and the JB Camera Design wooden base grip from the USA. Both were ordered via Amazon. 







I bought both and was going to see which I liked. However both arrived this morning and since the case screw has a tripod socket and the wooden base grip has a long attaching screw, I realised that one could attach to the other. As you can see it does that very well and it's very solid and firmly attached to the camera. And it improves the 'gripablility' significantly. It does in fact make the a6000 feel like a different, and as far as I'm concerned, much nicer and more comfortable camera to hold. 

It's particularly good with heavier lenses attached such as the Voigtlander 20mm + adapter above. It also gives my a-mount lenses + LA-EA4 e-mount adapter a much more solid feel. There's also a rather nice two-tone brown 'old-school' look to it as well which I like.

Now this was unexpected and I wasn't expecting it to happen, but I'm very pleasantly surprised that it works so well. I have to remove the wooded base to open the flap that lets me change the battery and SD card, but even so the improvement in handling makes that an inconvenience, nothing more. I've seen other people try to put together a grip for these Sony NEX / Alpha cameras and I particularly remember Mike Kobal coming up with a carved piece of wood which looked a bit strange, but this works well, feels good and looks good. Plus with the silver aperture ring on the adapter I've finally got a Sony mirrorless camera to look 'retro'.

Not such good news on my Voigtlander 90mm. It's a Canon EOS fit with no aperture ring and the Kipon adapter I bought for it doesn't work. It has an extra iris built into in to simulate the aperture opening, but it just vignettes at all 'apertures' apart from wide open so it's useless and on it's way back to Amazon. 

If anyone knows whether the EOS > e-mount Metabones adapters with the electrical contacts will work with the Voigtander, which also has contacts then I'd be grateful if you could let me know. My local video store CVP are also checking this and according to the description I've seen the Metabones should let me change the aperture electronically via the camera, but I need to know before buying one, since they aren't cheap. If it doesn't I will have to sell the Voigtlander on since I bought it second-hand on ebay, which is a shame since it took me a long time to find one.


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Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 compared to Fuji 56mm f/1.2




Two extremely well regarded lenses. The Sony 55mm is of course a 35mm / 'full-frame' lens, but on the APS-C sensor of the Sony a6000 it is virtually identical to the Fuji in terms of focal length. As you can see I used the Fuji 56mm on my X-E2. I also shot these images hand-held and also set the shutter speed and aperture manually. 

First lets get this exposure difference out of the way. This is how the two cameras rendered the same OOC jpg. Default Standard setting on each.


And yes the Fuji file is darker. Though not as much as the results I was getting previously. The difference is for these shots, following a suggestion I got from a reader that I was considering myself, I turned off the Dynamic Range Optimising settings (there are two) Maybe it made the difference, maybe not. I would however point out that by adjusting the levels on the Fuji file to be the same as on the Sony, the Fuji file still had less luminance noise than the Sony. Which of course begs the question, does this really matter? To which the answer is, it matters if we think it matters. For myself, it's not something that unduly bothers me. If fact sometimes the slightly darker Fuji file is more what I want, sometimes it's not. And if users of other systems want to use it as a stick to beat us Fuji fanboys over the head with then so be it. Life's too short for me to worry about that. Incidentally the different angle for the two shots is because of the Fuji's left sided viewfinder. 

So here's a comparison shot at 100% from those jpgs.


For this I've left the different image sizes as they are because of the larger sensor size of the Sony. I've also left the exposure as it came out of the camera. Both files are OOC jpgs. It is important to emphasise that there are more MP's available for Sony a6000 users.

However for the following shot I upsized the Fuji file to the same dimensions as the Sony, plus processed from the raw files and adjusted the levels so that the exposure was similar.


Yes there are differences. The Sony is slightly sharper. But then with Fuji's lens 'corrections' which involves adding noise reduction to jpgs.in camera and raw files in Photoshop ACR which is where the raws were processed, I'd be surprised if it wasn't.

For the shot below however I've done a bit of 'tweaking' on the Fuji file - sharpening, colour correction and levels and as you can see they are pretty much identical.


So not bad for the Fuji considering the Sony 55mm f/1.8 is apparently the best AF lens DxO have ever tested. 

Incidentally I thought it would be interesting to see how the mighty DxO have rated these lenses.


Well we can't see that since DxO haven't tested the Fuji lens. If fact they don't seem to test Fuji at all. (Apart from the non X-trans sensor X100) I wonder why? Can they only test Bayer sensor gear? However, never fear you've got me instead!!

So both lenses are pretty (very) good at standard working apertures like f/2.8 and 5.6. Bearing in mind all the usual provisos about different sensors, in-camera corrections, processing etc. etc. 

However the Fuji has that whizz-bang, bokeh creating, depth of field of a gnats eyelash, we all want it because it turns us into 'real' photographers, f/1.2 aperture. 


So here's the bokeh. Both shots from raw, processed identically, Fuji file upsized.




Here's the sharpness. Both shots from raw, processed identically, Fuji file upsized.



Now this really is hair splitting time. These are ridiculously close. And considering that the Fuji file is upsized and has gone through the 'softening' process of Photoshop ACR, I think for me the Fuji is just about / marginally / only ever so slightly 'better.' This is however counterbalanced by the fact that because the Fuji needs more exposure to get the same result as the Sony, that 1 and 1/6 stop advantage in terms of light gathering may not in reality be as much as you think.

So all this comparison work to find out that the lenses are more similar in terms of performance than different. And that is my conclusion. If I had to choose one to keep I'd be struggling. Despite the exposure inconsistencies I'd probably still go for the Fuji in a low light situation and for my usual outdoor work the extra MP's on the Sony camera would be a bonus, plus I can of course use it on my A7 and A7r. But if you own, or are planning to own either I can't see that you would be disappointed, I'm certainly not. This is 2014 state of the art lens making and though the Sony is primarily a lens for the FE system, it's damn good for APS-C as well. 

The common dogma is that these are 'portrait' lenses on APS-C (Yawn!) but they are both much more useful than that. I like this focal length for landscape a lot and use it all the time. Plus you are actually not obliged to use these lenses wide open. You are allowed to use the other apertures. And that's where you will find that these lenses turn out their best performances. Two great lenses, impossible for me to choose between, good job I don't have too. 

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The strange case of the Sony a6000 and Fuji X jpgs with contributions from the GX7 and A7r.


In my post yesterday comparing the Fuji and Sony wide-angle zooms I noticed something strange. The Fuji OOC camera jpgs. were darker but required a slower shutter speed. I even updated the post and did another test. Same thing.

Someone on Google+ had spotted the same thing and this is our discussion.


Ricardo Hernandez
Yesterday 20:33
Sound image - the issue is that fuji for some reason is behind in iso rated sensitivity by 1/2 to 1 stop vs other cameras at each particular iso (the difference varies per iso).

This means that for example the fuji xf35 f1.4 in terms of light with the fuji will be quicalent to the Sony f1.8/f2.0. It does not seem to be the lens but the camera doing this.

So while you shoot iso 6400 on the Sony its more like iso 3200-4200 on the fuji. This needs to be taken into account when comparing.

My Pentax k-5 was about one full stop more sensitive at iso 3200 and up vs fuji.

This means the high iso performance of the fuji while not bad its not as good as it first seems and its in line with other current apsc. You still get a benefit for not having the AA. 
Soundimageplus
Yesterday 22:03
What source do you have for that? It certainly seems to be true but I've never seen anything about it before.


Ricardo Hernandez
Yesterday 23:02
This has been commented for a while now. Places like dpreview pointed it out in their tests and there where user comments but basically my source is myself- I just tested it for myself on an xe-1 vs the k-5.

You still get shallower DOF of say the xf35 at f1.4 but with the camera in terms of exposure it operates like an f1.8-f2.0 vs some other cameras.

Could it be each fuji lens has a T factor of 1/2 a
Stop to a stop darker? That's also possible but seems unlikely. One way to check that would be to use the same lens on the xe1 and another camera that is not fuji branded with an adapter. 


An f/1.4 lens is always an f/1.4 lens, it's just the light transmission is different. I found some posts that say the ISO is wrongly stated but that doesn't matter. What matters is that the Fuji needs to let in more light i.e a slower shutter speed, to achieve the same result as the Sony. This happens wide open and I doubt whether the maximum aperture isn't f/4 like it's supposed to be. So this means either that the shutter speeds are inaccurate, which again seems unlikely, or what I suspect might be the case that the sensor array needs more light to achieve the same result as the Sony.

On the Sony DSLT's and using the LA-EA4 adapter there is around 1/2 stop more exposure needed to get the same result as cameras without a fixed mirror. The Fuji sensor array has more green pixels and I have no expertise here, but it may be the case that this different configuration needs more light. These extra green pixels might explain the green foliage smearing as well, but again I'm guessing.

Whatever the cause it seems that Fuji cameras may be up to a stop 'slower' than Bayer sensor cameras in certain situations. As you stated before the implications of this are that these cameras aren't as good at high ISO's as people imagine, since the files need to be lightened in post production to achieve the same results as other brands. If so that makes them less useful than they would seem.
Sound - yes an f1.4 lens is f1.4 but not or light I the T rating is slower than the F.

I don't think its that the fuji sensor needs more light. I think its that fuji calibrated their sensor to underexpose perhaps having to deal with their dr calculations.

There's no particular reason why xtrans would need more
Light as xtrans is just a different color filter array. 
+Ricardo Hernandez 'I don't think its that the fuji sensor needs more light. I think its that fuji calibrated their sensor to underexpose' That's the same thing.
Soundimageplus
04:45
If you have a look at the jpg. files in the folder I've made available for download in this post - http://soundimageplus.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/sony-a6000-panasonic-gx7-fuji-x-e2-kit.html you'll see that the Sony jpgs. also have higher shutter speeds to produce lighter images at the same aperture than the Fuji X-E2. They also do the same thing in comparison to the GX7 files though the difference is less marked.

Whatever the reason, this gives the a6000 a significant advantage in light gathering and means that higher shutter speeds / narrower apertures / lower ISO settings can be selected to achieve the same result as the other cameras. This has all sorts of implications for noise performance and image quality and gives the a6000 a real advantage.
No that is not the same thing. One means the sensor properties themselves require light gathering a certain way and another that fuji may be not amplifying the signal a certain way post sensor capture for some reason


They are not the same thing one has to do with innate properties the other with what fuji decided to do to make their iso scale and shift the dr window of they did. 






Whichever way you look at it you have to let in more light via a slower shutter speed on the Fuji to get a result similar to the Sony.

ISO settings in effect are only a guide anyway and they are often not that accurate. I've just done another post on this and for that I've tried four cameras with shutter speed and aperture set manually. Again the results show the Fuji jpgs. to be darker with a lower shutter speed. I agree that this could be the sensor requires more light or that this is something Fuji are in-camera processing.

But the result is still the same. Fuji X cameras require more light to achieve a satisfactory result. And for some reason the camera? / sensor? is either less efficient at getting enough light onto the sensor and to process the image 'correctly' or Fuji are 'software interfering' with this.

I've now tried three different lenses on two different cameras and the results are pretty much the same. I suspect that all we are going to come up with are theories here, since I doubt Fuji will shed any light on this. Plus since DxO have never tested a Fuji X camera, there's no help there either.

It makes for an interesting discussion however and certainly helps me make up my mind as to what cameras to keep or sell.


This is interesting and if true means that the Fuji ISO performance is not as good as it's made out to be. It seems that others have noticed this too. So this morning I compared 4 different cameras and decided the best way to show this was to set all cameras to manual, thus bypassing any ISO discrepancy. This is what I got at 1/320 sec. at f/5.6.


As you can see the Fuji X-T1 file is darker and the Sony a6000 slightly overexposed. I then let aperture priority take over on the Fuji, used my eyes to work out a manual exposure for the Sony, set the aperture to f/5.6 on both and the results were dramatic.

In terms of the shutter speeds this is about a 11/2 stop difference. And the Fuji shadows are much more blocked out than the Sony. Both jpg. settings were set to standard and all the parameters set to zero. Now the difference is much more pronounced with the a6000 than with either the Panasonic GX7 or Sony A7r. Now I would expect some minor differences, but nothing like this. And it does call into question what is happening with the Fuji jpgs. Is it really the case that the Fuji X sensor requires more light or is this Fuji processing the jpgs. in camera? I really have no idea as to what is going on here and it also seems that the Sony a6000 goes the other way. I have noticed that my cameras jpgs. are slightly overexposed for my taste and I'm now using the +/- dial set at -2/3 stop. I keep the Dynamic Range Optimiser turned on which works very well. I should also mention that I keep the Fuji version of this switched on as well.

So if anybody has any ideas as to what might be causing then then please feel free to comment in the Soundimageplus Blog Readers Group. Certainly makes the a6000 a lot more interesting than I initially thought however.


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Sony 10-18mm F4 e-mount Lens compared to Fujifilm Fujinon XF 10-24mm f/4 R OIS Lens




Two wide-angle constant f/4 aperture APS-C zooms with built in image stabilisation and good reputations. So how do they compare to each other?  Well that's what I set out to discover. As ever this is a test for myself and me finding out just how these lenses perform, in order that I can make decisions as to what to use. If you are considering one or other of these then my advice is to read a number of reviews and tests etc. and make your mind up after seeing a variety of opinions.

First off, this is not just a comparison between lenses, this is a comparison between systems and what the respective cameras do to the files. It's about AA filters, software corrections, jpg. rendering and sensor size as well as optical performance. You can't use either lens on the others cameras, so you're stuck with what Sony or Fuji decide is the best way to optimise their lenses characteristics. They are also different in range, the Fuji going to 24mm, the Sony to 18mm. The Fuji is bigger as well. And has a (faux) aperture ring.

I would just put in here the fact that I suspect that many would imagine the Fuji to be better constructed and 'feel' more like a photographic tool. However, you'd be wrong. The Sony, like many of the other e-mount lenses in fact, is beautifully made. It's sleek, it's got a lovely metallic sheen (whatever it's made of) and it is a delight to pick up and use. The Fuji is a decent lens in this respect too, but the Sony lens is a thing of beauty.

You also can't get away from the fact that the Sony focuses on a bigger sensor, 24MP compared to 16MP. A not insignificant difference. So in terms of image quality assessment I'm going to be downsizing the Sony and / or upsizing the Fuji ones. So already you have factors that may affect a choice between the lenses i.e. focal length range and sensor size. 

So, for my tests I used the a6000 for the Sony and the X-T1 for the Fuji. Set-up was as below.


I looked at the lenses at 10mm and 18mm, ISO 200 for both. Three apertures, f/4, f6.3 (or 6.4 for the Fuji) and f/10. Jpgs. set to standard on both and everything else as close as I could make it.

First off there was a surprise.



The Fuji OOC jpgs. are noticeably darker. In fact they are darker despite having a slower shutter speed. As you can see from the exif data both are at the same aperture and ISO and yet the Fuji creates a darker image at 1/180th. sec. than the Sony at 1/250th. sec. This was consistent at all apertures. So what that says about aperture accuracy, ISO accuracy and / or the light transmission of both lenses I cannot say. But as you can see it isn't marginal. About 1 stop. Contrast etc, was set at default for the STANDARD setting on both cameras and I haven't applied any post-processing. Strange.

UPDATE.
I've checked this again with a different setup and the same thing happened.

I double checked everything to make sure everything was equal. Both shots used same lighting, centre weighted metering, focus point was the same, jpgs. set to standard, shadows, highlights etc. set to zero. The top image from the Sony was 1/6 sec. f/4 ISO 200. The bottom image from the Fuji was 1/5 sec. f/4 sec. ISO 200. So once more the Fuji has produced a darker image with a slower shutter speed. Or the Sony has produced a lighter image with a faster shutter speed. Either way one or both cameras or lenses is 'out'. The Sony lens could transmit more light or the Fuji sensor could require more light, I cannot say. It could of course just be restricted to one part of my gear. Or there is a possibiity that Fuji do this deliberately to protect the highlights. Who knows. I certainly don't. But between the two camera/lens combinations the Sony + 10-18mm  gives me brighter images with a slightly faster shutter speed.

Looking at the centre and edges on these f/4 jpgs. I got this.



On my monitor the Sony centre looks marginally sharper, the Fuji edge slightly the better, but it's very close and I certainly won't lose any sleep over it. 

At f/6.3 and f/10. I can't discern any difference. Both lenses are excellent both at the centre and in the corners. And even more encouraging is that both lenses are consistently good at all apertures. 


Processing from raw some of those other 'system' factors start making a difference. Both were 'developed' in Photoshop ACR and the Sony is sharper. And that's all to do with how Adobe render Fuji raw files. While it's true that I can get sharper results from other raw converters for the Fuji files with 'better' demosiacing etc. e.g. Photo Ninja and Iridient Developer, the same also applies to the Sony files. However I should make the point very firmly that we are talking about small differences here. Though in the sample below to which I've added an amount of sharpening that would normally be applied to files I send for print reproduction, the Sony gets even sharper compared to the Fuji. 


Now it's important to be careful with this. Because this difference is there for a reason. The a6000 isn't bad at high ISO's and it gains some advantage in reproduction terms from the larger sensor, but the X-T1 is undeniably better at those higher settings. It produces less noisy results and like all Fuji X cameras is one of the best out there for low light work. So again summing up so far, the Sony offers marginally sharper and brighter results, the Fuji offers a wider focal length range and better high ISO performance. How important those are to others is obviously personal preference, but speaking personally I can see the benefits of both for what I do. (Cue sounds of groaning bank manager and accountant!! 'Oh no, he's keeping both!')

Distortion / Correction.

Now here's something that surprised me.

Firstly the Sony, both uncorrected via Rawker and then via Photoshop ACR with the lens profile applied.

So some 'straightening' applied. 

Below is the Fuji. Again uncorrected via Rawker and then via Photoshop ACR with the lens profile applied.


As you can see there's quite a bit more distortion with the Fuji and therefore more correction applied. Now if you'd asked me before I did this then I would have said and I suspect so would many others, that Fuji would have produced a lens that needed less correction. But it seems that's not the case. So one for Sony in terms of 'bragging rights' there. This may of course have to do with the fact that the Fuji is a more complicated lens with the extra mm's, but both of the above were shot at the 10mm which is where I would think these lenses are going to get used a lot, so kudos to Sony here. I knew this was a good lens.

So an interesting comparison and with a couple of things that surprised me. Certainly I wasn't expecting the Sony 10-18mm to need less correction. But then since it is usable at between 12-16mm on the 35mm/'full-frame' sensors of the A7 and A7r FE cameras I guess that means that Sony have optimised performance here. On the darker Fuji jpgs. I'm really nonplussed. Maybe it's the lenses. There are differences between how lenses transmit light but this is quite marked. What it means however is that you loose a stop of the Fuji's high ISO advantage. I have to say that I find the a6000 to produce quite bright results anyway, both for raw and jpgs. so maybe the difference is with that camera. However it's certainly worth bearing in mind when I decide on which of these to take out with me.

My conclusion would be that both lenses are excellent optically and I suspect the differences are more to do with how the cameras process the images. When you add in the seriously good Panasonic 7-14mm then mirrorless / csc users have a pretty impressive choice when it comes to wide-angle zooms. And dare I say it better (certainly cheaper, lighter and smaller) options to DSLR alternatives. Plus there is that Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 on the horizon.

Obviously comparing the 10-18mm and the 10-24mm doesn't mean a lot if you are locked into either the Fuji or Sony systems and you have the one option and I wouldn't have thought that there is any reason to change. However I am compelled to say that the quality of the Sony has really impressed me. Plus of course the fact that I can use it as a 'full-frame' wide-angle zoom obviously gives it that extra usefulness to me. It does show that Sony can make really impressive optics when they put their mind to it and this lens plus the 35mm and 55mm Zeiss FE lenses make the APS-C e-mount system (whatever Sony choose to call it) one that makes no compromises in terms of image quality, though obviously more lenses of this standard are needed. And when you consider that all of this optical excellence can be captured by a rather fine 24MP sensor then the NEX (sorry Alpha) APS-C format system certainly has the potential to be a very high-quality picture making option for those who want smaller, lighter and cheaper but don't want to compromise on image quality. 

I have no wish to to assert superiority here and as a fully paid up Fuji fanboy that is far from my intention. My Fuji X cameras still give me lots of things the Sony's never will. That permanent smile on my face is one of them. And the fact that Fuji X cameras are really go anywhere, shoot anything cameras, particularly the X-T1, means that yes I will probably be keeping my seriously overloaded shelf full of cameras and lenses. Eight cameras currently and I haven't counted the lenses (I daren't!!) 

So if you're a wide-angle fan then whether you use Sony or Fuji (or both) then you have a seriously good option to indulge your passion. Coming from my film days I always regard lenses like this with a sense of wonder anyway, since back in the day we didn't have options like this. Problem with buying the great lens however is that then I'm compelled to go out and try to make the great pictures to go with it. And that's when the really difficult choices turn up.  

N.B. I would point out that the next rainy day I'm going to be comparing the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 on my a6000 to the Fuji 56mm f/1.2 on one of my Fuji X cameras. Following that it's Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 on a6000 compared to Fuji X100s + teleconverter and Fuji 23mm f/1.4 compared to Olympus 17mm. As you tell, the weather forecast is not great!!!

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