Admiring Light http://admiringlight.com/blog Photography Reviews, Photos, News and Musings Mon, 31 Aug 2015 19:10:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 Fuji 56mm f/1.2 vs. Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 vs. Contax G 90mm f/2.8 http://admiringlight.com/blog/fuji-56mm-f1-2-vs-zeiss-batis-85mm-f1-8-vs-contax-g-90mm-f2-8/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/fuji-56mm-f1-2-vs-zeiss-batis-85mm-f1-8-vs-contax-g-90mm-f2-8/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 21:04:22 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=5532 Today we have a quick battle of portrait lenses.  Two of them are current mirrorless portrait primes, both of which are extremely highly regarded.  The third lens is a rangefinder lens from the 1990s that is still considered to be an utterly phenomenal optic. The battle: Fuji 56mm f/1.2 vs. Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 vs. …

Continue reading »

The post Fuji 56mm f/1.2 vs. Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 vs. Contax G 90mm f/2.8 appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
Today we have a quick battle of portrait lenses.  Two of them are current mirrorless portrait primes, both of which are extremely highly regarded.  The third lens is a rangefinder lens from the 1990s that is still considered to be an utterly phenomenal optic. The battle: Fuji 56mm f/1.2 vs. Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 vs. Zeiss Contax G 90mm f/2.8.  The Fuji 56mm f/1.2 (read my full review here) is considered one of the premier lenses of the Fujifilm lens lineup.  The 56mm focal length gives a field of view the same as that of an 85mm lens on full frame, while the fast f/1.2 aperture will yield depth of field similar to an f/1.8 lens on full frame.  In that vein, the second competitor is the brand new Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar T* (read my full review here) for full frame Sony E-mount cameras.  This should match the Fuji’s angle of view and capability to blur the background, though of course the Fuji will allow for faster shutter speeds at the same depth of field and same ISO.  The final lens is also a Zeiss lens: the Contax G 90mm f/2.8 Sonnar T*, a rangefinder lens for the autofocus Contax G1 and G2 cameras.  The G 90mm has been very highly regarded ever since its release.  It’s also a Sonnar design, so the two Zeiss lenses should share a somewhat similar design philosophy.

Fuji XF 56mm f/1.8, Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar, Zeiss Contax G 90mm f/2.8 Sonnar

Fuji XF 56mm f/1.8, Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar, Zeiss Contax G 90mm f/2.8 Sonnar

Tale of the Tape:

Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2: 73.2mm x 69.7mm, 405g, $899

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8: 92mm x 81mm, 475g, $1199

Contax G 90mm f/2.8: 63mm x 56mm, 240g, Approx $350 used

The tiny Contax G 90mm f/2.8 is made slightly larger than the specifications above by adding the autofocus Techart adapter for E-mount.  Both the Fuji 56mm and Batis 85mm lenses are chunky, but  the Batis is notably larger, though only slightly heavier.  All three lenses are extremely well-built, and all are capable of autofocus, though the Contax G’s autofocus is rather methodical and sometimes prone to misfocus. In this test, the Fuji and Batis lenses utilized autofocus to focus the subject while the Contax G was manually focused to avoid error.

The Test

I performed two tests, one of which involved all three lenses.  The second test is just between the Fuji and the Batis, and is less methodical.  For the first test, I simply set up a focus target for the center and edge of frame, with foliage a good distance behind to evaluate bokeh.  All shots were tripod mounted from approximately 7 feet away, a good distance for portraits from the waist up. I took images at roughly full stop apertures from wide open through f/8 on full frame.

The full scene tested (Shot is the Batis 85mm @ f/1.8)

The full scene tested (Shot is the Batis 85mm @ f/1.8)

For this comparison, I’ve roughly equaled depth of field between the lenses in the compared crops: for example, the line marked f/2.8 / f/4, means that the Fuji was shot at f/2.8 in that row, while the two Zeiss lenses were shot at f/4, providing roughly equal depth of field.  The Fuji 56mm was shot on the 16 megapixel Fuji X-T1, while the two Zeiss lenses were shot on the 24 megapixel Sony A7 II.  For comparison, the Sony files were reduced to match the pixel dimensions of the Fuji image.  This still provides a very slight edge to the Zeiss lenses due to downsampling, but still helps even the fight between the differing camera resolutions.

Center Resolution

First, let’s look at center resolution.  Below are 100% crops from the 16 megapixel resolution equalized files.  Click to open the image in a new window and be sure to zoom in to view at 100%.

Fuji 56mm vs. Batis 85mm vs. Contax G 90mm - 100% Center Crops - Click to view full size

Fuji 56mm vs. Batis 85mm vs. Contax G 90mm – 100% Center Crops – Click to view full size

Looking at these, it’s quite apparent that in center resolution, all three lenses are exceptional.  At wide open f/1.2 (Fuji) and f/1.8 (Batis), the Batis 85mm is showing just a slightly crisper image, and better control of fringing.  The Fuji 56mm still looks extremely good, but shows a very small purple tinge to the black letters and slightly lower contrast.  By f/1.8-f/2.8, the Fuji is a bit sharper than wide open, and is very close to the Batis and slightly sharper than the Contax G, though the two Zeiss lenses still show a bit stronger contrast.  One thing to note here is that the X-Trans sensor array is doing its job in suppressing moire, while the Sony sensor shows some, especially in the Contax shot.

At smaller apertures, the lenses are all simply tack sharp.  Surprisingly, the Contax G actually shows a very slight edge over the other two at f/5.6 and f/8, though it’s bordering on negligible.  Still a very impressive performance from all three lenses.

Corner Resolution

Next, let’s take a look at the extreme corners.  Again, click to open the crops and zoom in to view at full size:

Fuji 56mm vs. Batis 85mm vs. Contax G 90mm - 100% corner crops - Click to view full size

Fuji 56mm vs. Batis 85mm vs. Contax G 90mm – 100% corner crops – Click to view full size

Here things start to differentiate themselves.  The Fuji 56mm shows some corner softness at f/1.2, and still some at f/1.8, though by f/2.8, it’s sharpened up considerably and by f/4 we’ve reached outstanding cross frame sharpness.  The Batis 85mm f/1.8, on the other hand, shows very good corner resolution right from f/1.8, improving to outstanding by f/4.  The Contax G is also extremely good right from its f/2.8 maximum aperture, but it trails the Batis by a hair at f/2.8 and f/4.  By f/5.6 and f/8 (f/4 and f/5.6 on the Fuji), all three lenses are showing excellent cross frame sharpness that is hard to differentiate between them.

Bokeh

Bokeh is very subjective, but I thought I’d show some crops here to see how specular highlights in high contrast areas are handled.  The crop is taken from the top center of the image frame, and the slightly narrower FOV of the 90mm lens does lose a bit, which is why its crop is slightly lower than the other two lenses.  The Fuji has a 7 bladed aperture, the Contax an 8 bladed aperture and the Batis a 9 bladed aperture.

Fuji 56mm vs. Batis 85mm vs. Contax G 90mm - 100% bokeh crops - Click to view full size

Fuji 56mm vs. Batis 85mm vs. Contax G 90mm – 100% bokeh crops – Click to view full size

So this one is a lot harder to judge.  To my eye, the Fuji 56mm shows the smoothest bokeh in this situation at f/1.2 and f/1.8 (f/1.8 and f/2.8 on the Zeiss lenses). At f/1.8/2.8, the Fuji and Batis are fairly close, while the Contax shows some unsightly yellow and purple tinge to the bokeh.  Stopped down further, all three lenses put in a similar performance.  The Batis has the roundest highlights due to its 9 bladed aperture, but all are rather close.  You be the judge.

Test 1 Conclusion:

All three are obviously stellar optics, with extremely comparable center resolution.  When it comes to corner resolution, the Batis 85mm comes out on top, with excellent sharpness in the corners right from f/1.8, while the Fuji lags a bit.  Stopped down to medium apertures, however, all three lenses are sharp corner to corner.  Bokeh is also very close, with the Fuji showing a bit softer look wide open while the Batis has nice round highlights even at f/8.  None of the lenses has perfect bokeh, however.  It is apparent to me, though, that one really shouldn’t worry about switching to a system for either the Batis 85mm or the Fuji 56mm…both are truly excellent lenses.

Test 2

The second test is a really quick down and dirty test that I took with the only model available at the time.  Given that this model is two years old, the chances of me getting two identical shots with two different cameras was exactly 0%.  That said, here’s a quick ‘real world’ type scenario, taken at f/1.2 on the Fuji 56mm and f/1.8 on the Batis 85mm.  Use this simply as a means to evaluate rendering. in this scenario.

On the Deck - Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 @ f/1.2

On the Deck – Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 @ f/1.2

On the Deck - Sony A7 II with Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 @ f/1.8

On the Deck – Sony A7 II with Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 @ f/1.8

What are my thoughts here?  Well, I think the Fuji’s bokeh looks nicer here.  It’s subtle, but it’s smoother and the lower contrast is very pleasing, and the Fuji colors shine.  The Batis shows high contrast and a bit more pop.  I will say that in this shot, the Batis is also sharper on the eyes, but given that I can’t guarantee that both lenses were dead-on focused (given that the model was rather energetic and constantly moving), I won’t bother to share the crops.  You know how sharpness compares from test #1.  So there it is.  For those who are curious how these two excellent portrait lenses compare for such shooting, I hope this satisfied your curiosity.  As for a clear cut winner: there really isn’t one.  The Batis 85mm is definitely the sharper of the two lenses, but with a fast 85mm, that may not be the most important thing, and, with the exception of corner resolution, we’re sort of splitting hairs at this level.  That said, having shot the Batis on the ultra-high resolution A7R II (full review here), I will say that it would not surprise me at all that if Fuji had an ultra high resolution body, the Batis may show a much larger resolution lead than is shown here: it’s still exceptionally sharp wide open even on that camera.

 

The post Fuji 56mm f/1.2 vs. Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 vs. Contax G 90mm f/2.8 appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
http://admiringlight.com/blog/fuji-56mm-f1-2-vs-zeiss-batis-85mm-f1-8-vs-contax-g-90mm-f2-8/feed/ 15
Review: Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar T* http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-zeiss-batis-85mm-f1-8-sonnar-t/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-zeiss-batis-85mm-f1-8-sonnar-t/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 11:06:54 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=5484 The Zeiss name has been synonymous with high-end optics for a century.  In the past 30 years, they’ve become known for creating lenses with beautiful color and contrast and biting sharpness.  This legacy continues with the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar T* for Sony E-Mount.  Zeiss and Sony have long held a partnership in the …

Continue reading »

The post Review: Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar T* appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
The Zeiss name has been synonymous with high-end optics for a century.  In the past 30 years, they’ve become known for creating lenses with beautiful color and contrast and biting sharpness.  This legacy continues with the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar T* for Sony E-Mount.  Zeiss and Sony have long held a partnership in the photography industry, and Zeiss has collaborated on many Sony E-mount autofocus lenses. However, the new Batis line joins the earlier APS-C Touit line as Zeiss’ only mirrorless autofocus lenses to be designed with the Zeiss name only. This is a lens for which many have high hopes, and for the most part, I feel it meets or exceeds those expectations. Let’s discuss why.

The Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar T*

The Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar T*

Construction and Handling

The Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 sticks with the company’s recent minimalist style.  The lens features similar smooth and contoured body lines in the style of the Otus lenses for SLRs and the Touit lenses for APS-C mirrorless.  The Batis 85mm has a completely metal exterior that has no bulges or protrusions.  It’s simply smooth, contoured metal that flares slightly at the end and comes narrower at the mount.  the only things breaking up the smooth metal body is the fully rubber focus ring and the new OLED display, but both fit in perfectly with the lens styling.  Looking at the front of the lens, you stare directly into the large beautiful front element.  When mounting the included lens hood, the smooth flare at the end carries directly into the hood, such that the lens and hood almost appear to be one piece.

Aesthetically it’s quite striking.  Operationally, it’s a bit fat, but ultimately handles well since the lens is a bit lighter than you’d expect given its appearance. The overall quality of construction appears to be top notch with exceptionally tight tolerances.  The lens includes some sort of internal weather sealing, and a blue gasket surrounds the lens mount, making tight contact with the camera mount to prevent water or dust intrusion.

The lens hood continues the curves of the lens body

The lens hood continues the curves of the lens body

While the large diameter makes it look a bit awkward on smaller e-mount bodies lik the a6000, the Batis 85mm handles fairly well on such a body.  On the full-frame A7 II and A7R II bodies, the large grip makes handling a breeze.   Because of the large diameter, however, it will take up more space in the bag than many other lenses, so plan accordingly. It’s not a petite lens, but given the overall performance, I’m not complaining too much.

The focus ring is entirely smooth rubber, and the movement is smooth and has the perfect amount of resistance.  The operation is excellent, but the tactile feedback is lacking due to the uniform smoothness of the ring.  I’ve never been a big fan of the rubber rings on these recent Zeiss lenses, and that continues here.  The smoothness of operation lets me forgive this a bit, but I’d still prefer a ring with some sort of ribbed texture.

That OLED display that sits in the middle of the lens is used to display focus and depth of field information in either feet or meters, depending on your preference.  I’ve read some reviews that have called this display useless and poorly executed, and I couldn’t disagree more.  A standard depth of field scale for manual focus works fine, but with nowhere near the precision of the one here.  The display flashes “ZEISS” when the camera is powered up or down, and the user can select when it is on during operation.  You can choose to always have the display active; you can choose to only have the display active in DMF or MF mode, or you can choose to turn the display off entirely.  If set to on or if you’re in DMF, the lens will show you the focus and DOF scale when focus is achieved.  This can be nice, but isn’t the pinnacle of importance. However, in manual focus, the display shines.

The OLED display makes dialing in the hyperfocal distance extremely easy

The OLED display makes dialing in the hyperfocal distance extremely easy

When in manual focus mode, the focus distance is shown in the center, with the near and far points of focus for the chosen aperture on either side. If you’re focusing close up, the distance will be shown with a +/- distance in hundredths of a foot to denote depth of field.  It’s a quick and easy way to gauges exactly what will be in focus.  Where’s most handy is in setting hyperfocal distance. Simply select your aperture and adjust the ring until the right hand side clicks to infinity.  In my experience, these markings are very accurate, and hyperfocal distance indeed will keep distant subjects sharp.

As an aside, if you are wondering how to change the settings for the OLED display, it’s done by turning the focus ring.  Turn the focus ring to the left repeatedly and eventually you’ll see “ON  MF  OFF” displayed.  Keep rotating left to pick between these settings for when the display will be used.  Once the ring is turned right again, your setting will be saved.  To switch between meters and feet, simply rotate the ring to the right repeatedly until the display changes to your units of choice.

Autofocus and Image Stabilization

The Batis 85mm f/1.8 has a very quick and quiet autofocus motor. The lens locks swiftly and surely to the subject. I experienced very good focus accuracy and excellent responsiveness in focusing. The lens works excellently with Sony’s Eye AF algorithms as well, and I used it often when shooting portraits. I also found the Batis 85mm to work quite well for continuous autofocus operations, keeping a relatively high percentage of shots in focus in my testing.

The Zeiss 85mm f/1.8 also features optical image stabilization. When used on an A7 II or A7R II, it will work in conjunction with the camera’s in-body stabilization. When used on another body, such as the original A7 series or the a6000, the optical stabilizer adds an extra 2 stops or so of handholdability. While it’s not the most effective stabilizer in the world, an extra 2 stops is handy no matter what. It’s especially useful if using the lens on APS-C, where the field of view is similar to a 128mm lens on full frame.

Continue: Image Quality

The post Review: Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar T* appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-zeiss-batis-85mm-f1-8-sonnar-t/feed/ 15
Review: Sony A7R II http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-sony-a7r-ii/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-sony-a7r-ii/#comments Sun, 23 Aug 2015 23:39:11 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=5417 Sony has been quite busy the past two years in fleshing out what is still the only full-frame mirrorless camera system.  The latest addition to this growing set of the cameras is the impressively specified A7R II.  The A7R II follows up the very successful A7R by giving it the same upgraded body style that …

Continue reading »

The post Review: Sony A7R II appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
Sony has been quite busy the past two years in fleshing out what is still the only full-frame mirrorless camera system.  The latest addition to this growing set of the cameras is the impressively specified A7R II.  The A7R II follows up the very successful A7R by giving it the same upgraded body style that premiered on the A7 II this past winter, giving it an all new back-side illuminated 42 Megapixel sensor with 399 phase detection points, in-body image stabilization and internal 4K video recording. While it seems like the ultimate camera on the spec sheet, is the hype greater than the reality? In this Sony A7R II Review, we’ll find out.

The Sony A7R II

The Sony A7R II

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective. You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here. There are plenty of other sites that cover those. I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool.  I am not a videographer, so my reviews concentrate on the still imaging capabilities of a camera. Due to the identical body styles and similar feature sets, some portions of this review are taken from my review of the A7 II.

Construction and Handling

The A7R II has received the same body makeover that the A7 II received earlier this year.  If you’ve used the A7 II, then the A7R II feels identical to hold and operate.

The A7R II has upgraded the exterior construction to a more robust all magnesium-alloy construction with a durable matte finish.  While this has the great effect of making the camera feel incredibly solid and decidedly like a true professional tool, it has the down side of increasing the weight of the camera body substantially.  In fact, the A7R II is nearly 35% heavier than its predecessor, and it can definitely be felt.

The new grip on the A7R II is much more ergonomic

The new grip on the A7R II is much more ergonomic

However, as I noted in my A7 II review, I feel the improvements to ergonomics and control are well worth the added heft.  The new body style provides a very comfortable hand grip with the shutter button moved forward onto the grip itself.  As a result, the A7R II handles beautifully in the field, despite the heavier weight.  The grip is perfectly contoured with a wonderfully textured rubber grip.  The dials on the camera are redesigned as well from the original A7 series, and these are a bit more fiddly than the original broader dials. These dials are notably more difficult to operate with gloves, so come wintertime, you may be slowed a bit.

The other controls are identical to the A7 II and similar to the original A7 series cameras, and this is a good thing.  I also have to remark on the feel of the exposure compensation dial.  This is smaller than the EC dials on many other cameras, but the resistance is absolutely perfect.  It is just firm enough to avoid accidental movement, but not so firm as to prevent easy use of the dial with just the thumb.  It simply feels fantastic to use.

Operation and Controls

As I mentioned above, the general control scheme of the A7R II is largely similar to the original A7R. The controls are laid out almost identically to those on the A7R with two minor changes.  First, with the shutter button now moved forward on to the grip, there is additional room on top of the camera, and Sony has added a second customizable function button on the top plate.  C1 and C2 buttons sit in front of the exposure compensation dial, and while they do require a slightly uncomfortable bend of the finger, they are both within easy reach during shooting.  What was the C2 button on the A7R is now the C3 button, and it still sits up and to the left of the AF/MF/AEL button, but the angled back plate makes this button easier to reach on the A7R II than it was on the original body.

The rear controls are essentially unchanged from the other A7 series cameras

The rear controls are essentially unchanged from the other A7 series cameras

The only controls that sit outside of the main area that can be accessed by the index finger and thumb are the movie record button, which sits on the outside of the right grip and the menu button that sits on the left side of the camera.  The menu button location is a bit odd, but it’s not a major issue.  I like Sony’s positioning of the movie record button, which provides easy access while making it difficult to press accidentally.  A standard PASM mode dial sits on top of the camera, and in one of the only changes from the A7 II, the A7R II’s PASM dial has a push-button lock that must be depressed to change the mode.  While I have rarely knocked the dial on my personal A7 II, this locking feature will help eliminate accidental mode changes entirely.

As one who’s been shooting with the A7 II for the past 4 months, the control system of the A7R II was instantly familiar.  In fact, I often needed to remind myself that it was a different camera from the A7 II. Sony continues use of their excellently implemented 12 item Function Menu, accessed with the Fn button on the rear of the camera and providing quick access to all the settings you could wish for during shooting.  Especially nice is the ability to place quick access for the in-body stabilizer settings, which comes in very handy when shooting with adapted manual focus lenses.  I’ll get more into the in-body IS a bit later in the review.

The top and rear controls are the same as those on the A7 II, save for the mode dial lock

The top and rear controls are the same as those on the A7 II, save for the mode dial lock

The A7R II’s new silent shutter option can also be placed into the Fn menu, though oddly, selecting silent mode doesn’t change the audible focus confirmation beep to silent. Sony also hasn’t changed their tabbed menu interface, which puts a huge number of options into a well-organized interface. I was a huge opponent of the original NEX menu system, but given what I hear from other reviewers, I may be in the minority in actually liking the current tabbed menu system. Frankly, I think it’s great that they didn’t make any changes here.

Continue: Viewfinder and Performance

The post Review: Sony A7R II appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-sony-a7r-ii/feed/ 8
Review: Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-olympus-m-zuiko-7-14mm-f2-8-pro/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-olympus-m-zuiko-7-14mm-f2-8-pro/#comments Sun, 16 Aug 2015 01:15:58 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=5391 The Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO adds the ultra-wide angle range to the PRO line of f/2.8 zoom lenses recently introduced by Olympus for the Micro 4/3 system.  The 7-14mm f/2.8 is a faster and supposedly superior optic to Panasonic’s excellent 7-14mm f/4 lens that has been a staple of the Micro 4/3 system for many …

Continue reading »

The post Review: Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
The Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO adds the ultra-wide angle range to the PRO line of f/2.8 zoom lenses recently introduced by Olympus for the Micro 4/3 system.  The 7-14mm f/2.8 is a faster and supposedly superior optic to Panasonic’s excellent 7-14mm f/4 lens that has been a staple of the Micro 4/3 system for many years.  The extra speed and quality comes at a price, however, with a $1299 cost of entry for this versatile wide-zoom.  Is it worth the extra dough?

Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro on the OM-D E-M5

Olympus 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro on the OM-D E-M5

Construction and Handling

When compared to other micro 4/3 lenses, the 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO is a hefty beast.  It’s significantly larger than any other ultra-wide for the system, and has a substantial and bulbous front element.  However, you’ll find it’s similar in size to many other ultra-wide lenses for other mirrorless systems, such as the Fuji 10-24mm f/4 and the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4.  The lens is made for the serious shooter, and is really intended for use on the cameras with more substantial grips, such as the Panasonic GH4, Olympus OM-D E-M1 and so on.

The 7-14mm f/2.8 is a large lens for Micro 4/3, but isn't overly large compared to many wide-angle zooms.

The 7-14mm f/2.8 is a large lens for Micro 4/3, but isn’t overly large compared to many wide-angle zooms.

I tested the camera using my Olympus OM-D E-M5 with the horizontal grip, which made the lens easy to handle in the field.  The width of the main barrel of the lens does make clearance a bit tight with this grip, but it’s not bad at all.  I wouldn’t recommend the lens for use with the smaller bodies such as any of the Olympus PEN series or the Panasonic GM series.

The lens is constructed predominantly of metal, and the overall build quality is very good.  The large permanent lens hood is made of plastic, and feels a bit cheaper than the rest of the lens, but the overall impression is one of quality.  The zoom and focus rings move smoothly, with nice damping, though the zoom ring sort of ‘snaps’ into the 7mm setting.  It’s a minor thing to note, but it did take away slightly from the otherwise excellent haptics.

The 7-14mm features a focus clutch mechanism like the other PRO series zooms, providing instant access to manual focus by pulling back the ring.  This also reveals a focus scale and has hard stops for the ends of the focus range. Manually focusing is easy, and the focus ring provides adequate resistance for a nice focus feel.   The 7-14mm, like many Olympus lenses, features a programmable L-Fn button that can come in handy for quick access to settings on the camera.

The broad zoom ring sits below the focus clutch focus ring, which reveals a distance scale when pulled to the rear

The broad zoom ring sits below the focus clutch focus ring, which reveals a distance scale when pulled to the rear

The lens is sealed against dust and moisture, and while I didn’t have an opportunity to thoroughly test the weather sealing, I have confidence in it given the strong showings Olympus has shown in this area with all of its sealed Micro 4/3 lenses.

Autofocus

There’s not too much to talk about with regards to autofocus, given the very wide field of view.  The focus throw of such a lens is always going to be short, so it’s no surprise that the Olympus 7-14mm PRO is a very fast focusing lens.  In essentially any lighting situation, I found the 7-14mm very quick and very accurate with regards to autofocus.  Certainly nothing to worry about here.

The 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO does not have an optical stabilizer, as all Olympus Micro 4/3 bodies have in-body stabilization.  For Panasonic shooters, it’s still not anything that is really too much to worry about, especially given the performance at f/2.8.  While stabilization is always nice, it’s not essential on a fast ultra-wide angle lens.

Continue: Image Quality

The post Review: Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-olympus-m-zuiko-7-14mm-f2-8-pro/feed/ 23
Sony A7R II vs. A7 II – Print Test http://admiringlight.com/blog/sony-a7r-ii-vs-a7-ii-print-test/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/sony-a7r-ii-vs-a7-ii-print-test/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 21:08:41 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=5394 I just got the new Sony A7R Mark II in for review today, and I’ve only had a few hours to mess around with it.  This is an exciting camera that packs a lot of great features, including a 42 MP sensor into a small package.  There are a lot of great things to discuss …

Continue reading »

The post Sony A7R II vs. A7 II – Print Test appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
I just got the new Sony A7R Mark II in for review today, and I’ve only had a few hours to mess around with it.  This is an exciting camera that packs a lot of great features, including a 42 MP sensor into a small package.  There are a lot of great things to discuss with this camera, and over the next week or so, I’ll be shooting extensively with it to find what’s good, what’s not, what’s overhyped and what’s special.  However, the first thing I wanted to do was see just how big a difference the massive 42 megapixels of resolution makes for low ISO shooting.  Most comparisons I’ve seen so far compare the A7R II to its direct predecessor: the A7R.  This makes sense, but an 8MP bump from 36 megapixels really isn’t all that significant.  However, when compared to the cheaper sister A7 II, which has a 24 megapixel sensor, the resolution increase is not minor.

Sony A7R II (left) vs. the Sony A7 II (right)

Sony A7R II (left) vs. the Sony A7 II (right)

If you shoot predominantly for web use or screen display, the extra resolution really isn’t going to matter one way or another.  Even if you have a 4K display, you’ll be downsampling either camera for full-screen display on a computer monitor. The area where resolution really matters is in printing, so I wanted to see how the two cameras compared when it comes to printing.

I print quite a lot, to be honest.  I display my images online, sure, but there’s nothing quite like seeing the tangible results of your photography.  Images that look good on-screen can often sing in a nice print.  I generally print medium-sized prints of around 12×18 inches, which is good enough to see lots of detail but small enough to allow me to hang more images on the wall.  When I get a shot that really speaks to me, I will sometimes print larger: generally 24×16″, but I sometimes will go to 30″ or 36″ wide.  A 36″ wide framed print takes up quite a lot of wall space, so I almost never go larger than that.  In my home, I currently have one 40×30″ print, one 36×24″ print, two 30×20″ prints, four or five 24×16″ prints, and a host of 12×18″ and smaller prints.  Where the real rubber meets the road with these high-resolution cameras is in printing large.  That one 36×24″ print I have on my wall looks amazing, as it’s a stitch of ten 16 megapixel images, with a final image resolution of 80 megapixels.  You can put your face 6″ from the print and see incredible detail.  So how does this relate to these cameras?

The Test

For this test, I used the A7R II and the A7 II, mounted on a tripod, outdoors in afternoon sunlight.  The images were taken around 2 minutes apart, both using the Sony/Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8 @ f/8, 1/250s, ISO 100.  This lens is one of the sharpest lenses in existence, so should suit the resolution hungry A7R II very well.  Now some of you may say “But Jordan – the 55mm f/1.8 is actually slightly sharper at f/5.6 than it is at f/8!”  Yeah, by tests, it might be a few lp/mm sharper at f/5.6, but considering most landscape work is done at f/8-f/16 for depth of field, I think f/8 is a fine choice, and if you can honestly tell the difference visually between those two apertures, you have better eyes than I do.

The full scene captured.  This resized version is from the A7 II.

The full scene captured. This resized version is from the A7 II.

I then processed the images in Lightroom CC with the exact same develop settings and exported to Photoshop.  In Photoshop, I resized the images (without resampling) to be printed at 24″ wide.  I did a second test resized to a 36″ wide print.  Then, to avoid printing giant images, I cropped a 9×7″ section from the center of each image and printed this on a fine art baryta paper at high quality with my Canon Pixma Pro-100.  What this simulates is a cropped section of what would have been a 24″x16″ print with each camera.  I repeated the test with 9×7″ sections from a 36″ print.  Then I compared them.

The Results

First, let’s look at 100% crops from the center of the image frame.  Click to enlarge the image below to take a look.  The A7R II shot on top clearly shows more detail vs. the A7 II shot, though the actual details resolved are somewhat subtle.

100% crops of the full resolution files.  Click to Enlarge

100% crops of the full resolution files. Click to Enlarge

Now let’s look at the prints. This part is unscientific, but uses simply my own observations, since we view photographs in print with our eyes and our own subjective views, and that’s the whole point of this test.  Is there a visible difference in a 24″ or 36″ print using the A7R II vs. the A7 II?  The answer is yes.  Sort of.

In both sets of prints, upon close examination, the resolution of the A7R II was clearly visible.  Everything seemed a bit sharper, with simply finer detail. However, with the 24″ print samples, the prints became indistinguishable to my eye when the viewing distance extended to around 18″.  That’s it.  Just 18″ away, and the extra detail in the print became essentially invisible.  Since a 24″ print would need you to back up further than 18″ to see the whole print, at normal viewing distances the prints are indistinguishable.  The two compared prints are below.  You can click to enlarge, then click the green arrow to make larger to get an idea for yourself.  I added the text to the images before printing so I could keep them straight.

9"x7" crops of 24"x16" print size - no resampling

9″x7″ crops of 24″x16″ print size – no resampling

The same is true for the 36″ print samples.  Both prints looked fine, but the A7R II print was just a bit sharper and more detailed when viewed close up. The difference is there, but it’s not enormous, to be honest.  The distance for these to equalize was a bit further, but they became essentially indistinguishable just beyond arms length, or around 30″ away.  This, again, is around the normal viewing distance for a 36″ print if you’re fairly close.  Click to enlarge.

9"x7" crops of 36"x24" print size - no resampling

9″x7″ crops of a 36″x24″ sized print – no resampling

The A7R II is shaping up to be a fantastic camera, but the extra resolution may or may not be of use to you for printing, unless you print very large or really like to get up close to large prints.  Where the A7R II’s extra resolution really may come in handy is when cropping.  A significant crop will still yield images with greater than 24 MP, and an APS-C crop will yield 18 MP images.  This means that even heavily cropped images can be printed quite large and retain a very good look to the image, where the same crop on an A7 II may limit you to, say, a 12×18″ print before the print doesn’t look quite as good.  In any case, I think that most shooters, especially those who don’t print larger than around 24 inches wide, should feel good knowing that in most circumstances, the difference in final output is fairly minimal at low ISO.  For high ISO, well, that will take more investigation and more time with the camera.  Look forward to my full A7R II review later this month.  Edit 8/23/15: My full review of the A7R II is now up.

The post Sony A7R II vs. A7 II – Print Test appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
http://admiringlight.com/blog/sony-a7r-ii-vs-a7-ii-print-test/feed/ 11
Review: Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T* http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-zeiss-loxia-35mm-f2-biogon-t/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-zeiss-loxia-35mm-f2-biogon-t/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 01:46:05 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=5342 Zeiss has an interesting strategy when it comes to the Sony FE mount. There are three lines of Zeiss lenses.  The first, is a joint venture with Sony to co-design native lenses such as the FE 16-35mm f/4 and FE 55mm f/1.8.  Then there’s Zeiss’ autofocus Batis line, and finally the small manual focus Loxia …

Continue reading »

The post Review: Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T* appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
Zeiss has an interesting strategy when it comes to the Sony FE mount. There are three lines of Zeiss lenses.  The first, is a joint venture with Sony to co-design native lenses such as the FE 16-35mm f/4 and FE 55mm f/1.8.  Then there’s Zeiss’ autofocus Batis line, and finally the small manual focus Loxia line.  As of this writing the Loxia lineup consists only of two lenses: A 50mm f/2 Planar and the lens reviewed today: the 35mm f/2 Biogon.  Both lenses are native E-Mount lenses, and both are digitally optimized designs that were slightly modified from the existing ZM line of rangefinder lenses to give better performance on the A7 series of cameras.  The Loxia 35mm is a small lens with a big price tag.  The $1,299 retail price for an all-manual lens in this day and age raises some eyebrows, but let’s see if the cost is worth it, or whether your money is best spent elsewhere.

The Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T* on the A7 II

The Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T* on the A7 II

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective. You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here. There are plenty of other sites that cover those. I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool.

Construction and Handling

The Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon is an all-manual lens, and as such, the lens is rather compact without the need for an electronically controlled diaphragm or autofocus motor.  The lens is constructed of solid metal and glass, and feels incredibly solid and dense.  it’s notably heavier than it looks, and oozes quality in material workmanship.  There are no wobbles or flex points at all, and the aperture and focus rings are precisely machined.  Overall, the size and handling are a perfect fit for the A7 series bodies.  You get a larger aperture than the FE 35mm f/2.8 in a lens that’s only marginally larger in size (though it is a fair bit heavier).  The lens has some weather sealing, with a bright blue gasket surrounding the lens mount to help prevent intrusion of moisture, but as I understand it, no other sealing is present.

The broad manual focus ring is finely ribbed and beautifully damped.  The focus helicoid is one of the smoothest and most perfectly damped of any lens I’ve used, and I’ve used over a hundred manual focus lenses from bygone eras.  My favorite focus feel was found on a relatively cheap Pentax SMC Takumar 50mm f/1.4.  I used to simply flip that focus back and forth just for the feel of it, and the Loxia is very much the same.

The aperture ring is a bit small and blends into the barrel a bit, and I sometimes found it a bit finicky to adjust after focusing the lens.  However, the actual ring action is also lovely: firm, but not too firm, with nice clicks at each 1/3 stop increment.  For video use, the lens can be switched to clickless aperture, to allow for silent and continuous diaphragm adjustment, which is a great feature to have.

The lens comes with an included metal lens hood that is small and provides good coverage.  That sounds nice, but in practice, I absolutely hated the hood design.  For some reason (likely aesthetics), Zeiss thought it would be a good idea to put the bayonet mount for the hood a bit inside the hood itself.  This makes the hood cover the front part of the lens slightly.  This wouldn’t be a big deal except that the front element (and thus the hood) extends during focusing.

The lens hood is compact and looks great, but can get in the way of the focus ring

The lens hood is compact and looks great, but can get in the way of the focus ring

Too often, I’d change focusing from close up to further away and suddenly the hood would be pressing into my fingers as the lens shortened, and the hood starts covering the end of the focus ring.  With such a small lens, the more room for my fingers on the barrel, the better, and having the focus ring effectively shorten itself due to the hood during focusing was annoying.  It also caused annoyance if I took the hood off for more than a few seconds, as the hood looks like a simple cylinder from the outside, and unless you look at the logos or the interior construction, it’s easy to accidentally put the hood in its reverse storage position when putting it on for shooting and vice versa.  It looks nice, but otherwise, I found it frustrating.

Operation

Being a fully manual lens, there’s no autofocus capability to discuss, but I thought I’d discuss how things work in general operation here.  I use a lot of manual focus lenses on my A7 II (In fact, the FE 55mm f/1.8 is the only native lens I own for the camera at this point).  I’m used to focusing, then stopping down the aperture to shoot, and the same things apply here.

Beautifully damped focus ring and nice clicky aperture ring

Beautifully damped focus ring and nice clicky aperture ring

The lens utilizes fully manual focus, and the electronic contacts on the lens are used solely for EXIF recording (and thus also passing focal length to the A7 II’s IBIS system) and telling the lens that the focus ring is being moved.  This allows the camera to auto-magnify the view for more precise focusing: a nice touch. This makes manual focusing on static subjects fairly easy.  However, focusing for moving subjects or candid shots of your kids is much more difficult, given the shallow depth of field at f/2 and the lowered precision when focusing stopped down.  Which leads to my biggest gripe in operation:

I’m unsure why Zeiss couldn’t have allowed for electronic aperture control here.  The mechanisms aren’t large, and it would make things a lot easier.  For a dedicated E-mount lens at this price point, it’s frustrating to be saddled with fully manual aperture control. One really needs to focus at wide apertures for the best precision, but then you need to stop, hold position, adjust the aperture to shooting aperture and take the shot.  Simply having the aperture remain wide open for focusing and electronically stop down to the set f-stop when shooting would make the lens much nicer to use in the field.  Again, I’m used to this behavior from my adapted manual focus lenses, but it stands out a bit more on a native E-mount lens that has electronic communication with the camera.

Continue: Image Quality

The post Review: Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon T* appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-zeiss-loxia-35mm-f2-biogon-t/feed/ 8
Review: Fujifilm Fujinon XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-fujifilm-fujinon-xf-90mm-f2-r-lm-wr/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-fujifilm-fujinon-xf-90mm-f2-r-lm-wr/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 23:05:22 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=5302 Fuji’s hard work at fleshing out their X series lineup continues at a frantic pace.  Today I review the brand new XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR, a lens that has the field of view of the classic 135mm long-portrait lens that has been a staple of many systems over the years. The 90mm f/2 …

Continue reading »

The post Review: Fujifilm Fujinon XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
Fuji’s hard work at fleshing out their X series lineup continues at a frantic pace.  Today I review the brand new XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR, a lens that has the field of view of the classic 135mm long-portrait lens that has been a staple of many systems over the years. The 90mm f/2 completes Fuji’s standard prime kit, and has been highly anticipated.  Early reports point to this lens being simply stunning, so I was eager to get my hands on it.  Let’s dive in.

The Fuji XF 90mm f/2 R WR

The Fuji XF 90mm f/2 R WR

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective. You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here. There are plenty of other sites that cover those. I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool.

Construction and Handling

If you already own a few Fuji X-series prime lenses, then you have a good idea of the construction of the 90mm f/2.  The 90mm f/2 has an all-metal exterior construction with a broad focus ring and a dedicated aperture ring.  The lens is solidly constructed with no creaks or wobbles and feels like a very high-end piece of kit.  The only thing that gives pause is the floating focus element, which is held in place by electromagnets.  As such, when there is no power to the lens, the focus element is free to move in the lens body.  If you tilt the lens when it’s detached from the camera, you can hear an audible thunk as the element moves inside the lens body.

The XF 90mm f/2 on the Fuji X-T1

The XF 90mm f/2 on the Fuji X-T1

The focus ring on the XF 90mm is very broad and has excellent damping.  Like all Fuji X lenses, focus is by wire, but the feel of the ring is excellent and manual focus is a breeze with this lens.  The aperture ring on the XF 90 is similarly excellent.  In what feels like a great Fuji Aperture Ring Lottery, the 90mm hits the jackpot, with a beautifully firm and clicky ring that is difficult to accidentally knock out of place.  I’m unsure why there is such variance in the stiffness of Fuji aperture rings, but it would be great if they made all of them like the one on the 90mm.

The 90mm f/2 is the second Fuji prime to come with the WR designation for weather resistance.  The typical gasketing found on all Fuji’s WR lenses is found here, with a lens mount gasket and what I assume are tighter tolerances around the edges.  I didn’t get a chance to shoot in inclement weather during my time with the lens, but with my experience with other WR lenses, I’d feel comfortable shooting for short periods during light rain, but would make sure to add a rain cover if shooting in a downpour or for an extended time in wet locations.

The 90mm f/2 comes with a deep lens hood that reverses close to the lens body, adding minimal width in the bag. I do have to say that the 90mm isn’t a small lens.  It’s a bit shorter and a bit lighter than the XF 55-200mm, and as such it’ll take up some space in the bag.  I did feel it handled fairly well in the field however, and felt better on the camera than it appears when handling just the lens by itself.  This is definitely a lens that you’ll want to use on a camera that has a decent grip, however.  Handling on the X-T1 or X-E2 with the add-on grip feels nice and at home, while a bare X-E2 or the smaller X-M and X-A bodies will feel a bit lopsided.

I have to say, though, I’m very glad that the exterior design was changed from what I first saw at Photokina last September.  The mockup presented there was a bit shorter than this final design, but significantly fatter, which would have caused much larger issues in fitting into camera bags and handling on cameras with narrower grips.

With the hood mounted, the XF 90mm has a fair bit of length

With the hood mounted, the XF 90mm has a fair bit of length

Autofocus

The XF 90mm f/2 is the first Fuji X prime lens to receive Fuji’s fast and silent linear motor system, and it performs very well indeed.  Focus locks quickly and accurately in good light, and only slows down a bit in lower light.  I experienced very minimal hunting of focus during my shooting with the lens, and as you’d expect, the operation is essentially noiseless.  One great thing about the 90mm is its close-focus abilities.  The lens can focus to 0.6m, which provides an image with 0.2x magnification, making it an excellent lens for shooting pictures of flowers and other closeups.  While it’s not a macro lens, the close-focus abilities give the 90mm some extra versatility lacking in many portrait primes.

I tested the lens on my X-T1 with firmware v. 4.0 and found the lens very capable at keeping up in continuous autofocus functions as well.  I took several test runs with my daughter running full blast at close range to me, and achieved a very high success rate of in-focus shots.  Most surprising to me was the fact that the lens didn’t really slow down the burst rate much when shooting in CAF, as can often happen with slower focusing lenses. The shot below was taken after my daughter ran at full speed to kick the ball at me.  Almost every shot leading up to the kick, including this one, was in focus.

Kickball - Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 90mm f/2 @ f/2 (CAF)

Kickball – Fujifilm X-T1 with Fujinon XF 90mm f/2 @ f/2 (CAF)

While the lens is weathersealed with an excellent fast and quiet focus motor, there is one Fuji letter designation I’d have liked to have seen on the lens: OIS.  Because the 90mm f/2 has a fairly narrow field of view, higher shutter speeds are required to handhold the lens and maintain sharp shots.  For me, I found that around 1/160s was what I felt comfortable using to get consistently sharp results.  With the f/2 aperture, this generally meant shooting at ISO 3200 or higher indoors.  OIS would have been great to let me shoot at around 1/60s or lower and keep the ISO down a bit.  I also found that the 135mm effective field of view was long enough that my own vibration was a bit distracting in the viewfinder after using so many stabilized longer lenses over the years.

Continue: Image Quality

The post Review: Fujifilm Fujinon XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-fujifilm-fujinon-xf-90mm-f2-r-lm-wr/feed/ 25
Review: Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-sony-fe-90mm-f2-8-macro-g-oss/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-sony-fe-90mm-f2-8-macro-g-oss/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 10:27:42 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=5255 Sony has been heavily concentrating on fleshing out the full frame E-mount system with quality lenses, which is something that they didn’t really do with their APS-C e-mount lineup. As such, less than two years after the introduction of the A7, the FE lineup has grown into a rather full featured system.  Today, I review …

Continue reading »

The post Review: Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
Sony has been heavily concentrating on fleshing out the full frame E-mount system with quality lenses, which is something that they didn’t really do with their APS-C e-mount lineup. As such, less than two years after the introduction of the A7, the FE lineup has grown into a rather full featured system.  Today, I review the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro, which fills two key niches in the system: a high quality macro lens and a short telephoto prime.  This is one of Sony’s top-tier ‘G’ lenses, and as such, expectations are high for good optical quality.

The Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS on the Sony A7 II

The Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS on the Sony A7 II

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective. You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here. There are plenty of other sites that cover those. I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool.

Construction and Handling

The Sony 90mm f/2.8 is a large, solidly built lens.  As with many of Sony’s FE mount lenses, there really is no size or weight benefit with this lens compared to full frame DSLR macro lenses.  While large in both length and diameter, the 90mm is not quite as heavy as I expected given the dimensions.  Still, it’s not exactly a light lens.  The lens is constructed of a combination of high-grade plastics and lightweight metals, and there are no creaks or flex points anywhere on the lens body. Due to the size of the lens in comparison with the Sony E mount bodies, it can be a bit front heavy and unwieldy depending on the body used.  While it handled decently on my A7 II, I have to say that it feels awkward when used on my a6000.  I’d imagine the first generation A7 series cameras would similarly feel a bit awkward due to the shallow grips on those cameras.

The lens comes with a plastic lens hood that locks securely onto the bayonet mount on front.  The hood isn’t huge, but it adds to an already rather ample girth.  This can cause problems if you’re using a smaller camera bag for your Sony kit, as bags made for mirrorless kits aren’t generally designed to accommodate lenses with this large an outer diameter.  As such, I ended up leaving the hood out of the bag most of the time.

The lens hood provides good coverage but adds size

The lens has two control switches and a focus stop button

The lens has a two position focus clutch mechanism for the focus ring, which is a broad metal ring with a dense check pattern for grip.  When the ring is pushed forward, the lens stays in autofocus mode, and the ring turns freely, allowing for direct manual focusing.  When the ring is pulled back, the lens enters manual focus mode and the damping of the focus ring increases.  The ring also engages the marked focus scale, and provides a true manual focus feel, with hard stops at minimum focus distance and infinity.  While the lens feels like it’s a direct mechanical connection to focus in this mode, it’s still by wire: there must be power to the lens to move the focus elements. The clutch mechanism works well, though I’d sometimes inadvertently pull it into manual focus and it would take a second to figure out why autofocus wasn’t working.  I wish the position of the ring was a bit easier to discern from a glance or a touch, as the movement between AF and MF modes is fairly slight.

The lens also features an additional button on the side, which acts as a focus stop button.  When after locking focus, the button will hold that focus location until you release it, even if you press the shutter button multiple times.

On the side of the lens, there are two switches to activate the focus limiter and the Optical SteadyShot (OSS) system.  The focus limiter can be set for the full focus range, from 0.5m to infinity, or from 0.5m to minimum focus distance.  I feel focus limiters are a must for any macro lens, so its nice to see one here.  The OSS switch enables or disables image stabilization.  Unfortunately, there’s no way to separate lens stabilization from in-body stabilization, as switching this off on the lens disables all stabilization, so you can’t use only the 5-axis IBIS on the A7 II.  However, as we’ll get to in a moment, this turned out not to matter at all.

Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS

Sony 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS

One negative about handling and use in the macro range is a rather extreme level of focus breathing.  All internally focusing macro lenses have some focus breathing, as the internal focusing actually shortens the focal length.  However, the 90mm seems to do it more than many other macros I have used in the past.  In comparison to my Olympus 60mm f/2.8, the breathing is very noticeable.  You really need to play with distance and focus to provide proper framing of your subject when you get really close.

Autofocus and Image Stabilization

I have very mixed feelings on the autofocus capabilities of the FE 90mm Macro. In good light, the lens focuses extremely quickly, even in the macro range.  Using this for insect macros was easy and very accurate overall, allowing me to do nice handheld macro photography, such as the shot of the hoverfly below.  I held the camera below me for this shot, framed the image on the rear screen and snapped the shutter to lock focus and take the picture, yielding focus exactly where I wanted.

Hoverfly - Sony A7 II with Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro @ f/8

Hoverfly – Sony A7 II with Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro @ f/8

However, indoors and in dimmer light, the autofocus can struggle.  On both the A7 II and the a6000, I found the lens would often fail to find focus at all in dim light, leading to a full in-and out rack of focus past my desired subject.  I found this to be the case both in the macro range and in more moderate portrait distances.  When it does lock in, speed is slowed considerably in dimmer light.  It’s a good idea to turn off exposure preview when using this lens, especially in the macro range where you will likely be shooting stopped down.  This is because exposure preview on Sony cameras also stops the lens down to working aperture during focusing, which robs the sensor of much-needed light.  I still had problems focusing in low light even with exposure preview turned off, but it becomes very difficult to get a lock with it on.

However, I have no complaints on the optical image stabilization.  The FE 90mm Macro has the steadiest stabilization I’ve used on a Sony lens, giving me around 3-4 stops of extra handholdability over unstabilized performance.  It works well with the IBIS of the A7 II as well, providing very steady results in the macro range. I was able to get a handhold shot very sharp at 1/20s while handheld at 1:1 magnification using the A7 II, which is rather remarkable.  At 1:1, one generally needs 1-2 stops faster speed than at normal focus distances, so I was quite surprised to see sharp shots there.  I also managed some sharp shots at 1/8 second on the a6000, which is a bit over 4 stops of stability.

Foosball - captured at 1/20s, handheld, at 1:1 magnification

Foosball – captured at 1/20s, handheld, at 1:1 magnification

I have to say, the biggest difference between the optical stabilization of the lens by itself and the hybrid in-body and optical stabilization when mounted on the A7 II was in framing in the macro range.  The extra 3-axes of stabilization helped to keep the viewfinder much steadier than the 2-axis OSS of the lens by itself.

Continue: Image Quality

The post Review: Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-sony-fe-90mm-f2-8-macro-g-oss/feed/ 15
Macro Battle: Sony 90mm vs Olympus 60mm vs Fuji 60mm http://admiringlight.com/blog/macro-battle-sony-90mm-vs-olympus-60mm-vs-fuji-60mm/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/macro-battle-sony-90mm-vs-olympus-60mm-vs-fuji-60mm/#comments Sun, 12 Jul 2015 17:03:21 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=5246 So, a quick and fun little comparison for today.  I have the new Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro in for review this week, and should have that review up in the next few days.  So with one excellent macro lens in for review, I thought it would be fun to do a very quick and …

Continue reading »

The post Macro Battle: Sony 90mm vs Olympus 60mm vs Fuji 60mm appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
So, a quick and fun little comparison for today.  I have the new Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro in for review this week, and should have that review up in the next few days.  So with one excellent macro lens in for review, I thought it would be fun to do a very quick and down and dirty comparison of this lens with the two macro lenses I own: the Fuji 60mm f/2.4 and the Olympus 60mm f/2.8.  Both are good, and the Olympus, mounted on my E-M5, is my personal go-to rig for macro shooting: it’s very small, light, has outstanding stabilization and brilliant optics.  So, how do the others compare?  Let’s find out.

The Lenses

These macro lenses are all native to their respective mounts and all have excellent reputations.  Of course, there are differences to be had.  First of all, we have different sensor formats.  The Olympus 60mm is designed for the Micro 4/3 system, and such covers the 4/3 sized sensor.  Since this is a 1:1 macro, it also can create the tightest framing of all the lenses.  The Fuji 60mm f/2.4 is designed for the APS-C Fuji X system, and is the only macro lens in this comparison that can’t do 1:1 focusing: it maxes out at 1:2 magnification. The Sony 90mm f/2.8 is a full-frame lens that can be used on both the A7 series of cameras as well as Sony’s APS-C line of E-mount cameras. I tested the Fuji using the X-E2, the Olympus using the OM-D E-M5 and the Sony using both the A7 II and a6000.

The competitors: Fuji 60mm f/2.4, Olympus 60mm f/2.8, Sony 90mm f/2.8

The competitors: Fuji 60mm f/2.4, Olympus 60mm f/2.8, Sony 90mm f/2.8

As you can see above, there is also a huge difference in size.  The Fuji is the shortest, while the Olympus is overall the smallest: it’s thinner and lighter than the others.  The Sony, on the other hand, simply dwarfs the other two lenses.  It’s significantly larger and heavier than the other two lenses.  The Sony is also the only lens with optical image stabilization.

Because of the different formats, the lenses also have differing fields of view for normal shooting.  The Olympus 60mm has the same field of view as a 120mm lens on Full Frame, while the Fuji 60mm matches the Sony 90mm’s field of view.  The Sony 90mm on the APS-C cameras has a 135mm equivalent field of view.  For macro shooting, it doesn’t matter all that much.  For the same image height, the Olympus will have the longest working distance due to its shorter length, with the 90mm on APS-C coming very closely behind…the 90 on full frame has the shortest working distance due to the length of the lens.

The Test

I only had time to run a quick test, and so I performed the test with all lenses producing essentially the same framing.  This is 1:2 magnification on the Fuji, 1:2 on the a6000/90mm, around 1:2.6 on the Olympus and approximately 1:1.3 on the A7II/90mm set.  I set the cameras up on a tripod, focused manually with magnified view and used 2 second self timer to eliminate any residual shake.  I then resized the Sony files to 16 megapixels to try to normalize resolution between the cameras.  Obviously, the Sony cameras will be capable of slightly higher resolution due to their 24 megapixel sensors.

The full shot for the test

The full shot for the test

Below are 100% crops at full stop aperture clicks from f/2.8 to f/8.  Click on the image to view at full size.

Macro Battle - 100% Crops - Click to Enlarge

Macro Battle – 100% Crops – Click to Enlarge

Well, I guess I should have expected this.  There’s really very little difference between any of them.  The one thing that can be seen is that the Fuji is the weakest of the three lenses.  It’s producing good results here, but both the Olympus and the Sony are producing slightly sharper images.  I maybe see a slight edge to the Olympus at f/2.8 and a slight edge to the Sony stopped down, but it’s really, really close.

Next I took a quick look into the corners.  I’m looking only at f/2.8 and f/8 here, and you can see that the Fuji is again last at f/2.8, while the Olympus and Sony are again very close.  At f/8, all the lenses look quite similar, with the Sony having a very slight edge in the corner.  This is the case on both full-frame and APS-C, which tells me that the Sony will likely look great even at 100% on the ultra-high resolution A7R II.

100% Corner Crops - Click to Enlarge

100% Corner Crops – Click to Enlarge

Finally, I did a quick framing at maximum magnification, just to give an idea of how sensor size plays into this.  As you can see, the Olympus at 1:1 can enlarge the scene the most, while the Sony on the a6000 is next.  The Fuji has the lowest magnification, just behind the Sony when used on full frame.  Nothing major to say, but it is an important consideration when looking at macro lenses and systems if you’re a macro shooter.

The lenses at maximum magnification

The lenses at maximum magnification

So, this was a quick down and dirty test, and, as expected all are extremely good lenses.  The Sony 90mm is pulling a very impressive performance, though, equaling or even slightly exceeding the performance of the outstanding Olympus 60mm Macro.  Edit: Check out my full review of the Sony FE 90mm Macro. 

The post Macro Battle: Sony 90mm vs Olympus 60mm vs Fuji 60mm appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
http://admiringlight.com/blog/macro-battle-sony-90mm-vs-olympus-60mm-vs-fuji-60mm/feed/ 6
Review: Fujifilm X-T10 http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-fujifilm-x-t10/ http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-fujifilm-x-t10/#comments Sun, 12 Jul 2015 02:09:27 +0000 http://admiringlight.com/blog/?p=5178 The Fujifilm X-T10 follows the tremendous success Fuji had with the first camera in the X-T series, the X-T1.  The X-T1 has been the X-Series flagship for a bit more than a year, and the X-T10 provides a lot of what made the X-T1 great in a smaller and much more affordable package. The X-T10 …

Continue reading »

The post Review: Fujifilm X-T10 appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
The Fujifilm X-T10 follows the tremendous success Fuji had with the first camera in the X-T series, the X-T1.  The X-T1 has been the X-Series flagship for a bit more than a year, and the X-T10 provides a lot of what made the X-T1 great in a smaller and much more affordable package. The X-T10 retails for only $799, body only: a full $500 less than the X-T1.  While the X-T10 doesn’t have quite the feature set of the X-T1, I’ve found it shares more in common with its big brother than one might expect given the large price disparity.  Let’s dive into the review and take a deep look at this camera.

The new Fujifilm X-T10

The new Fujifilm X-T10

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective. You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here. There are plenty of other sites that cover those. I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool.  I am not a videographer, so my reviews concentrate on the still imaging capabilities of a camera.

Construction and Handling

The Fuji X-T10 is the smaller sibling to the X-T1, and it shares some design cues from the X-T1, but uses some different materials in construction.  If you’re familiar with the current X-Series cameras, it’s best to explain that the X-T10 feels like a mix between the X-E series of cameras and the X-T1 when it comes to construction.  It uses a combination of composites and lightweight metals.  The camera is tightly assembled and has no creaks  or flex anywhere in the body.  While not quite as robust as the magnesium alloy shell of the X-T1, the X-T10 feels very solid, especially considering the small size.  The X-T10 comes in both black and silver finishes, and both look fairly nice. I reviewed the black version, and in person, it really does look very similar to the X-T1.  I wasn’t a fan of the styling when I saw the first pictures, but the camera looks better in person than I expected.

Fujifilm X-T10

Fujifilm X-T10

Due to the small size of the camera, handling is more of a mixed bag.  The camera is narrower, shorter and thinner than the X-T1, and as such the grip suffers.  I find the X-T1’s grip to be very comfortable and sure with most any lens, but the X-T10 is different.  The front grip is small and thin, allowing for a nice grip when using smaller lenses like the 27mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.4 or 60mm f/2.4 Macro.  However, when using larger lenses like the bigger zoom lenses or the 23mm f/1.4 or 56mm f/1.2, the grip is somewhat inadequate.  One hand use with these lenses is uncomfortable and feels a bit unbalanced.  The biggest issue with larger lenses is the placement of the rear thumb grip.  This grip is placed just slightly too far to the right, in my opinion, and as such the camera has a tendency to shift down and left when shooting with heavier glass.  Of course, supporting the lens with the left hand will aid significantly in handling the camera.

The top dials on the X-T10 have nice haptic feedback and provide direct controls

The top dials on the X-T10 have nice haptic feedback and provide direct controls

Overall, the button placement is nice and most of the buttons have nice positive clicking action.  The exceptions here are the movie record button, the AEL and AFL buttons, all of which are somewhat spongy.  The camera has both front and rear control dials for changing settings, and both are clickable for extra actions.  The clicking action feels nice on both dials, but I think the dials themselves spin far too easily, with very shallow detents for each setting change. The top dials controlling shutter speed, exposure compensation and drive mode all feel great to use, with nice firm clicks that are easy to move but difficult to accidentally knock out of place.  As a whole, the X-T10 handles fairly well for a small body, but if you regularly use the heavier Fuji X glass, you may be uncomfortable shooting the X-T10.

Operation and Controls

The control layout on the X-T10 will be familiar to any current Fuji X series shooter, though there are some unique controls that aren’t featured on any other Fuji.  The X-T10 shares the majority of its control layout with its big brother, the X-T1. There’s a shutter speed dial and exposure compensation dial on top, along with the movie record button that sits next to the power switch and shutter button.  Like all the Fuji X bodies with shutter speed dials, the mode of the camera is controlled by how the aperture and shutter speed are positioned.  Putting the shutter speed dial into A makes that function automatic.  Thus A on shutter speed while selecting an aperture puts the camera in aperture priority mode.  Want a specific shutter speed?  Simply select it and you’re in manual mode.  Move the aperture ring on a lens to A and the camera is now in shutter priority.  With both dials set to A the camera moves to Program mode.

The top controls of the X-T10 are similar to other X-Series bodies

The top controls of the X-T10 are similar to other X-Series bodies

It’s a fluid scheme and one of the things I love about Fuji controls.  However, the X-T10 adds a new feature: a full Auto mode. While the X-series cameras with mode dials have had an Auto mode, this is the first time Fuji’s implemented it along with their standard control scheme.  This is enabled by simply flicking the switch under the shutter speed dial to Auto.  When Auto is engaged, none of the dials serve any purpose and the camera will simply attempt to use all the best settings.  It’s worth noting that RAW is not available in the Auto mode.

Finally, in a first for a Fuji camera (though also now available on the X-T1 with firmware 4.0), the X-T10 can utilize Auto ISO in manual mode with exposure compensation.  As such, you can select your shutter speed and aperture, adjust exposure via the exposure compensation dial, and let the ISO float to make up those exposure changes.  This is really useful if you find yourself in dark environments and want to adjust the minimum shutter speed on the fly, but don’t want to change it via the ISO menu.  Now just a quick flick of the shutter speed dial and you’ve got it.  It’s also extremely useful for video shooting, where you want shutter speed to stay constant.

Staying with the top plate, the left side of the camera shows some changes from the X-T1.  Gone is the locking ISO dial, and in its place sits a dedicated Drive dial.  While I’d prefer ISO be in this position, the Drive Mode dial is convenient and makes it very easy to switch between continuous shooting, single shot, advanced filters, panorama modes and two different bracketing setups, which the user can specify in the menus.  Next to the Drive Mode dial is the release for the integral pop-up flash, which deploys with almost alarming speed and sureness.

X-T10 Back

X-T10 Back

The rear of the X-T10 is again very similar to that of the X-T1.  The X-T1’s Focus Assist button is gone as the dials on the X-T10 are pressable, and pressing the rear dial activates the focus assist function, like it does on all other Fuji X bodies.  The X-T10’s smaller top plate doesn’t quite have room for the Fn button, so that’s been moved to the rear of the camera.  The AEL and AFL buttons flank the rear dial.  On the top left of the rear, the play and trash buttons can be found, and the View Mode control for the EVF and rear screen is prominently featured beside the viewfinder.

The X-T10’s controls are well laid out and allow for a huge amount of customizability.  All four of the four-way directional buttons can be assigned a custom function, as can the Fn button, the movie record button and the pressing function of the front dial.  In all, that’s seven programmable buttons, which allow you to really set the camera up to your liking.  These buttons, in addition to the Q menu, which allows access to many other commonly used functions make trips to the menu for settings changes a rare occurrence.  The last physical control on the camera is the focus mode selector dial, which sits on the front left of the camera for easy access with your left hand.

The X-T10's Q Menu

The X-T10’s Q Menu

Going back to the menus, the Q menu is laid out similar to all the other X-Series cameras, but can be customized to your needs. The Q menu allows you to quickly change ISO, JPEG parameters, self timer settings, AF mode, flash mode and quick sets.  The rest of the menu system will also be familiar to Fuji veterans.  I’ve generally been pleased with Fuji’s menu layout, which consists of 8 pages in two groups.  It’s simple and basic, but it’s also easy to follow and use.

The X-T10 also features the same manual focus aids that the X-T1 and X-E2 have: namely very nice focus peaking and the unique digital split-prism focusing, where a box of four lines show a split-prism effect similar to that used in some manual focus SLR viewfinders, which align when the subject is in focus.  The focus aids can be switched easily be holding in the rear dial button for a second, which is another nice usability touch.

Continue: Viewfinder, Rear Screen, Autofocus and Performance

The post Review: Fujifilm X-T10 appeared first on Admiring Light.

]]>
http://admiringlight.com/blog/review-fujifilm-x-t10/feed/ 22