Sony Needs to Do Better with Lenses for the A7


So, now that the full announcement, previews, first image samples and first criticisms and praise for the Sony A7 and A7r are here I have a few more thoughts. The A7 is what I and many of my friends value- Top notch Image Quality but smaller and lighter than what has been previously avialable.

I'm gonna put one piece of criticism out there.

Lenses. What's the deal with Sony and lens planning?

How is it that Sony isn't just releasing amazing Primes right out of the chute for this system?

The 55 f/1.8 Zeiss is great, but why not go faster with the 35? We know it's possible because they already put out an amazing f/2 on the RX-1. I've heard rumors that the short mount distance on the RX-1 makes this lens work, but no one would have complained about an extra centimeter of length due to the interchangeable mount. And why not a 24mm and an 85mm? They could have totally changed the reputation among serious photographers regarding their lenses if they'd just done it right.

Instead, they are getting the same criticisms they've always gotten for the NEX system. Great bodies. Bummer of a lens selection.

Also,why does Sony refuse to go faster than 1.8 on mirrorless?

They need to take notes from Fuji who is pretty much universally praised for the quality of their X series lenses. That's a way to release a system. There isn't really a missing focal length in their native offerings and they are comparing favorably to the Zeiss Touit lenses. That says a lot.

Sony is saying that there are 15 full frame lenses on the way, but there aren't even 15 E mount lenses for NEX APS-C right now. There are a few more if you include third party offerings from Zeiss, Sigma and Rockinon, but they mostly duplicate Sony's own offerings.

  1. 16 f/2.8
  2. 10-18 f/4
  3. 20 f/2.8
  4. 24 Zeiss f/1.8
  5. 30 f/3.5 macro
  6. 35 f/1.8
  7. 50 f/1.8
  8. 18-55 zoom f/3.5-5.6
  9. 16-55 pzoom f/3.5-5.6
  10. 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3
  11. 55-210 f/4.5-6.3
  12. big video power zoom 18-200 f/3.5-6.3
  13. Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 zoom
  14. Sony g zoom 18-105mm f/4

I might be missing something…but 3 years in and they are still missing a few key lenses. No 75, no 100, no fast zooms at all. Every zoom is 3.5 and the only two that are constant are f4. Perhaps more importantly, the quality of the above lens selection is really hit and miss. There are some great lenses in that list, but there isn't the consistency to build a good reputation.

If they want to be taken seriously and convert pro Canon and Nikon owners they need to develop competitors to the long fast zooms. They might be big compared to current NEX offerings, but they should be able to make them smaller than FX and L lenses because of the short mount distance.

How about a 70-200 f/2.8, an 18-105 f/2.8 or a 14-24 f/2.8?

It seems to me that the majority of pros using full frame canon and Nikon care way more about sharp fast zooms than primes.

By contrast, almost no one uses zooms on mirror less cameras because they don't make any nice ones that are sharp anywhere but in the center.

The Sony guys are talking about using glass from other mounts using adaptors, but they need to develop native e mount lenses if they hope for people to switch. They can't make folks go elsewhere to for their go-to lenses.

So, if you've read my blog at all before, it's clear that I'm a huge Sony fan. They are pushing the envelope like no other company out there. I only put this criticism out as a fan who wants to see Sony succeed. They could really make a huge shift in the camera market and the perception of mirrorless systems in general with this new camera. I just hate to see them fumble on the lens part.


Sony Mirrorless Full Frame - The Future of Photography?


Image from Digicame-info.com  

I love gadgets. So it's no surprise that I make it pretty clear what I'm using, and occasionally, what I find intriguing. About a year and a half ago I bought my first modern digital Interchangeable lens camera and as I detailed here, I chose the Sony NEX system.

Sony is a company that has shown a willingness to push the boundaries. Here are some examples: Release of the NEX (First mirrorless APS-C system), RX-1 (First Full Frame fixed lens Mirrorless camera), Focus peaking system, and the Alpha SLT system. They make the sensors used in Nikon's flagship Full frame cameras and the sensor used in the iPhone 5 and 5s.

So, with the release and subsequent success of the RX-1 it isn't that much of a surprise that Sony is only a few days from releasing an interchangeable lens Full Frame Mirrorless system. It will use the same lens mount as the NEX system and the first 2 models will carry a center-mounted Electronic Viewfinder.

Digicame-info.com posted a couple photos which have been confirmed by Andrea at Sony Alpha Rumors. To my eyes, the camera looks like a hybrid. The body and top controls are like an RX-1, the grip and mount are from the NEX bodies, and the hump on top of the body for the EVF that looks like an old school pentraprism box.

There have been quite a few exceptional photographers that have moved to mirrorless systems as their primary kit over the past couple years. Trey Ratcliff recently started using the NEX 7 for his epic landscapes. Zack Arias is a hardcore Fuji X series user. TED photographer Duncan Davidson has been using the RX-1 as his main camera for day-to-day use. Aaron Courter, who is an exceptional Portland based photographer and a long time friend has been incorporating the Fuji X cameras into his personal work, wedding and portrait business with great success.

I'm in love with the Sony NEX. I never even considered a DSLR camera because of the size, the weight and what I perceived to be its imminent demise. Up until now, you couldn't really get the same image quality and crazy shallow depth of field from a mirrorless camera, but I think the A7 and A7r will be the start of a large scale move away from large DSLR bodies for most photographers.

Sure, there are some times when the larger camera really makes sense. The Mirrored design still allows for faster focusing in sports contexts and there is certainly an expectation in event photography that will take awhile to pass. In addition, the larger bodies do have many features still missing from the new breed of mirrorless cameras and certainly handle big glass much better.

This is a moment. It feels like the rise of ultra portable notebooks such as the Macbook Air which have almost negated the need for more powerful desktops for all but the most demanding of users. I believe we are witnessing the birth of the future of photography.


Sony NEX 35mm F/1.8 Preview

Quick Note: If you are looking for more information about custom controls, Lenses and tips for the Sony NEX series, take a look here for my guides, reviews and links.

In addition, I've posted my full review after using this lens for 4 months.

This week I picked up a lens for my Sony NEX 5N. It's the 35mm F/1.8. This is a Prime, Fixed focal length lens with in-lens Optical Stabilization. I've been thinking about this lens for a few months now and am hoping that it fills a large spot in my day-to-day photography. These are just some initial thoughts and I plan to post a more detailed review after I spent more dedicated time putting it through its paces.

As I outlined in a previous post, this lens has a 35mm focal length, but my camera has a smaller APS-C format sensor so the field of view it offers is very similar to the classic 50mm lens on a 35mm film camera.

I've been using it out and about this week and so far I'm very impressed. It is a bit smaller in actual size than the kit 18-55mm Zoom Lens or the 50mm Prime (they are roughly the same length). I'm able to fit it in my compact bag with the lens hood on, which I can't do with any other lens that I own. I like this as I prefer to keep the hood on. Partially for stray light blockage, and partly to protect the lens. I used a filter for awhile, but I've found that I like the images without it a bit more.

The field of view is close enough to the 50 that portraits are easily within reach, but it's also wide enough that I can just leave it on my camera and not feel too constrained. Anyway, most of the photos from this week were made with this lens. I can't wait to see its capabilities.

Sony NEX 5N vs NEX 7 (updated July 2014)

I probably should update this article and say that I've been shooting with the NEX 7 for over a year now. The Tri Navi controls, Magnesium body and the Fantastic EVF won me over.  In the end, I really like the extra pixels and all the extra control.  The additional noise turned out to be a non-issue.  

If you are considering one of these cameras, you ought to read this review posted on PhotoClubAlpha.  It is a great and somewhat surprising look at the issues of the larger megapixel count and all the peripheral equipment available (or not)  for both.

When I have been editing NEX-7 images at their native 24 megapixels the NEX-5n upscaled image has sometimes looked better overall, and the native size NEX-5n image nearly always wins. The NEX-7 image misses the mark for me maybe 30% of the time.

I really do love the 5N and here is my review from a couple months back.

Quick Note: If you are looking for more information about custom controls, Lenses and tips for the Sony NEX series, take a look here for my guides, reviews and links.

Sony NEX 5N Firmware Update

So, they released a firmware update a couple months back for the 5N.  I just got around to downloading and installing it this evening.  It is supposed to help with autofocus and a few other things.  I've had a few issues with the autofocus, so I decided to update. It hasn't been terrible, but could be faster, and that is what I've heard it does. Anyway, here is the link if you own one too.  I'll update if there is a significant difference to tell you about.

Quick Note: If you are looking for more information about custom controls, Lenses and tips for the Sony NEX series, take a look here for my guides, reviews and links.

Setting Up Custom Controls on the Sony Alpha NEX 5N (Updated)

Quick Note: If you are looking for more information about custom controls, Lenses and tips for the Sony NEX series, take a look here for my guides, reviews and links.

If you look around enough in the menus, you can figure out how to do this, but I'll make it really easy for you.  There are 3  different keys that can have custom functions assigned to them for use in PASM modes.  Custom controls don't work in the Intelligent auto mode (iA). You can set these up  from the Custom Keys option in the Setup menu.

The 5N has two soft keys along the right side of the screen the bottom one is user programmable. The right button on the rear 4-way controller is unlabeled and it is also a user programmable button. There is also a Custom function that uses the center button of the main dial to bring up an on-screen menu that can be set to show up to 5 user-selectable functions.

My current mapping is:

Bottom Soft key next to the screen: Brings up main control dial for shooting mode selection

Right side of Direction pad: HDR menu

Custom center button: Brings up ISO, AF/MF, Creative modes, RAW/JPG selection, Flash settings.

Update: I just posted an update here about my new settings and some thoughts after 9 months with this great camera.