Aug 312015
 

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The Sony A7RII Camera Review. A real world look.

By Steve Huff

Buy the A7RII at Amazon or B&H Photo

Here we go! After a few weeks of use with this camera I can finally sit down and write about all of my thoughts on this incredible technological marvel, the new Sony A7RII. As of the end of August there are many who received their new A7RII and are enjoying it. I can state with conviction that I have enjoyed every second I have had with this stunning memory maker. I hope you enjoy reading my real world review as much as I have enjoyed creating it for you.

Zeiss Loxia 50 on the RII at f/2 – click it for bigger!

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Let me start this Sony A7RII review by saying I have never shot, tested, used, owned or reviewed a camera in 35mm full frame format that competes with this one as an overall package. It does everything I need, and then some. It offers me fantastic low light abilities, fantastic video abilities, amazing snap and detail and beautiful files that print out as large as you would ever need, and look amazing as well. The camera is a true beauty, and one I expected to like not love (I usually steer away from mega megapixels due to the usual compromises involved).

55 1.8, late night low light with the A7RII – click it for bigger!

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The A7RII, when announced, was something I thought was a “Uh Oh” moment for Sony. I assumed ISO would suffer, speed would suffer and the camera would  be cumbersome and slow due to the 42MP sensor (Like the original A7R was when compared to later models). Sony was promising a “no compromise” experience, the best of the A7II, A7R and A7s all in one camera almost…well, they did not say that specifically but hinted at it on more than one occasion or gave the idea that yes, this is one camera that can do it all.

Here is an image shot with the little Voigtlander 40 2.8 for the Sony system. See my review HERE. LOVE this lens on the A7RII!

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The shot below was with the Zeiss 35 Loxia, another fantastic lens on the A7RII. Maybe not as brilliant as the 35 1.4 Distagon but so small and lovely to use. Shot at f/2 in a very dim and low light restaurant. The sensor of the A7RII sucked in the light and “lit it up” which is what my Leica M always seems to excel at. This lens renders a nice organic image on the A7RII sensor. 

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When I finally was able to test this camera, I started to realize that their claims were true (no compromise). Here I was with a “much smaller than any full frame DSLR” beautiful camera in feel, build and looks and when I started shooting it I was blown away by the speed improvements, IQ, color, AWB, metering, ISO performance, video and EVERYTHING it was doing for me. Those 1st few days were great but I knew I was in the “Honeymoon Phase” and that excitement would eventually wear off, as it always does. That is why these companies cam make a new camera like this every two years, as many people (the ones stricken with GAS) love to upgrade for something new and exciting after some time and tech keeps evolving at a rapid rate in the Sensor arena, so companies like Sony who make these sensors are pushing strong with the hardware to go with these incredible imaging sensors.

Outside at night with the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8 (at 1.8) and the A7RII

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So I kept shooting and using the camera and every day my enthusiasm would jump UP instead of DOWN, which was odd while testing a new camera. The more I used it, no matter the light or situation, it never failed me in any way, and always delivered beautiful results. It was quick, it was easy to use manual focus glass on, it felt beautiful and with my wooden JB Grip, I had many asking me what kind of camera I was using as it looks stunning with a nice prime lens and that grip!

This one, the Zeiss 16-35 on the A7RII. Lovely lens that I am now addicted to for its amazing performance. Click for larger!

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Then again, I also use the Voigtlander 15 4.5 III in Leica M mount and also adore it for its small size and brilliant performance. Click for larger! 

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In any case, the more I shot this with Sony FE lenses, Zeiss FE lenses, Leica M mount lenses, Canon EF lenses..the more impressed I was. When I did this ISO test against the A7s I was blown away. When I shot it indoors, outdoors, in brutal full sun, in the magic hour or for portraits or landscapes, the A7RII just delivered the goods without muss of fuss. The Dynamic Range of this camera/sensor is astounding.

The 24-70 Zeiss on the A7RII

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The 12-14 Bit Controversy

All the while I was enjoying the A7RII I was seeing forum postings about pixel peeping nonsense that has nothing to do with taking, displaying or printing photos. Was boggling my mind. If you believe what some who never touched the A7RII say, you would think you could not get a decent image from this camera due to the 12 Bit RAW files. Lol. As you can see in this review, I see no issues with any of these images in regards to 12 vs 14 bit raw files. I also do not see any issues in my huge prints I made. Hmmmm. The whole 12 bit vs 14 Bit RAW thing stems from pixel peepers and has nothing to do with the real capabilities of this camera as a serious or pro photo tool. I know pros using it without issue, at all, ever. So that is what matters. The real results.

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With that said, I feel Sony should go to 14 Bit just to please those customers who want it. Shouldn’t be too hard for them to do with a camera on this price level and it should be 14 bit anyway, again, at this level. 

As you can already sense, I love the A7RII. Spoiler. Bam. BUT it is not perfect and I’d love to see a couple changes made down the road to get it closer to where perfect lies.

The 1st image below was shot with the Zeiss 24-70 at f/4. VSCO Filter applied. I found this lens to perform exceptionally well on the A7RII. The filter here crushed the blacks, but sometimes I like this look. 

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Below, using the Canon 50 1.2 via a Metabones adapter. No more front or back focus with this lens ;) 

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Before I get into all of the Nitty Gritty, I’d like to say that while I really liked the original Sony A7 and A7R, I never LOVED them for the long haul or when compared to the newer gen A7 series. Compared to what we have in the A7II and A7RII and even A7S the A7 and A7R were slow, clunky and LOUD. Todays A7RII is like a different camera when compared to the A7R of yesterday. Newer body style, better build, quieter shutter, silent shutter, 5 Axis IS, 4K video, 40% faster AF, much better C-AF, and the list goes on. Shooting the A7RII is very enjoyable so the usability factor is up there with this one, and that is unusual for a Sony camera as old NEX bodies were more like mini computers than cameras. The A7RII is very much a “camera” but one that is loaded with features and usable function.

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Using it with a Canon lens was also enjoyable. The image above and below were both shot with the Canon 50 1.2 using a Metabones adapter, and the AF was faster on the A7RII than the Canon 5DIII using the same lens! Crazy but true, and verified by many who were with me. I loved the 50 1.2 Canon so much on the A7RII I put one in my Amazon cart right after testing it out. I never did buy it as it’s not a cheap lens but one day I just might as it seems to do really well on the A7RII.

Was much more enjoyable to use on the A7RII than it was on my old 5D from long ago (would always front focus or back focus on the 5D for me). This lens keeps its 3D character on the A7RII.

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One more from the Canon 50 1.2 (see it HERE). Beautiful color, rendering and Bokeh.

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It’s all in the details..

For me, I enjoyed the Sony A7s with intense enthusiasm (and still do) because those big fat megapixels on that big full frame sensor just delivered the goods. It was the 1st A7 body that really pushed on with speed, low light, video and user experience. Due to the 12MP on the huge sensor we were getting insane high ISO performance that was previously not possibly. We were close with the Nikon D4 and Df but the A7s pushed it over the edge for low light work. Video guys were using video at crazy high ISO and getting nice clean footage out of it. The A7s and A7II, for me, were the pinnacle of the A7 series. Until now. With the A7RII I am seeing the best of all previous A7 bodies rolled into one, and then some.

Click the image for larger view and enjoy the details ;) Taken from a Helicopter while in Portland.

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With the A7RII we have a camera that is not only full frame, not only 40% faster than the previous A7R for AF and not only built to a higher standard, we have a camera that creeps somewhat into the A7s territory for low light high ISO work. We have a camera that is the technically best in the Sony line for video (though some overheating issues have been reported).

We have an improved 5 Axis IS (though it still is not up to Olympus E-M5 II levels of performance for the 5 Axis IS) so ALL lenses can be stabilized on this new massive sensor, even old Leica glass. We have a huge EVF that allows us to see what we do in real-time as in, “what we see is what we get”. We have a swivel LCD and a vast selection of native and non native lenses to pick from to use on this camera. We have an amazing street camera in the A7RII because while we do not need 42MP of resolution, with the camera being fast and good in low light, we no longer compromise here (huge MP used to mean crappy low light, not anymore). This also gives us great cropping ability with all of those megapixels.

Man, remember the days of 1MP cameras? Now we have 42 in a smallish full frame compact body. Crazy!

Take a look at the images below. Click on them and see them larger with a full 100% crop

1st a full size from RAW image, OOC

1st one, Zeiss 35 Loxia at f/2

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Next, Zeiss 16-35 at f/4

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Loxia 35 at f/5.6 – CLICK IT TO SEE THE INSANE DETAIL!

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Voigtlander 40 2.8

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Image then a crop. Taken with the Batis 85 

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Click it for 100% crop!

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One more crop but you must click the crop to see it in its full size. 

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It’s a pretty amazing thing what Sony has accomplished in such a short time span. About two years from the first A7r to the new A7RII and we have a camera that is BRILLIANT in almost every aspect.

Sure, there will be those who still prefer a DSLR, Optical VF and the DSLR way of shooting but for many, and yes there are many, this Sony represents the wave of the future for hobbyists, enthusiasts and pros alike. It is a camera like the Sony A7RII that is breathing new life into what was becoming a tired industry. This A7RII has shaken up things a bit, and for good reason. Even Leica is starting to really sit up and take notice as mark my words, they will be releasing a Sony A7RII competitor soon, they have to as this camera and the previous A7II and A7s have eaten away at some of their M sales I am sure.

ISO 8000, 55 1.8 at 1.8, Zero NR (I never use NR, always OFF)

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Just look at the impressive specs below of the new Sony…

THE SPECS OF THE A7RII:

With a world’s first full-frame 42.4-megapixel Exmor R back-illuminated structure CMOS sensor, the Alpha a7RII Mirrorless Digital Camera from Sony is prepared to take mirrorless imaging to another level. This sensor design both improves low-light operation and speeds up data throughout, enabling fast high-resolution stills and UHD 4K video recording. Working with the BIONZ X image processor, these images can be produced at sensitivities up to ISO 102,400 and at a continuous 5 fps shooting rate. Five-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization has also been implemented, compensating for vertical, horizontal, pitch, yaw, and roll movements.

Speed has received a major boost with a 40% increase in speed over its predecessor. The AF system received its own massive upgrade with the use of 399 phase-detect points and 25 contrast-detect points for a speedy Fast Hybrid AF system which will offer extremely accurate tracking. The phase-detection points even extend to A-mount lenses when used with the LA-EA1 and LA-EA3 adapter.

Designed to last, the updated magnesium alloy body has improved weather sealing and a robust lens mount for working with large lenses. Also, the shutter has a reduced-vibration design, cutting down shutter vibrations by about 50%. Also, it now uses an electronic front curtain shutter and is rated for 500,000 cycles. Silent shooting is also available for a quiet shooting experience when needed.

Onto video, the major addition is internal UHD 4K 3840 x 2160p recording at 30 or 24 fps with the XAVC S format at 100 Mbps. This is possible using either the Super 35 crop mode, with no pixel binning, or the full-frame readout. Full HD 1920 x 1080p is still readily available at up to 60 fps and HD 1280 x 720p is possible at up to 120 fps. Additionally, the a7RII benefits from the inclusion of the S-Log2 Gamma and S-Gamut settings as well as fully customizable picture profiles.

Composing and reviewing your images as you work is handled with either the 0.5″ 2.36M-dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder or the 3.0″ 1,228.8k-dot tilting LCD monitor. The viewfinder offers 0.78x magnification and a 4-lens system with double-sided aspherical elements for comfortable viewing. The monitor helps in odd positions by tilting up 107° and down 41°. And, to stay connected, the a7RII packs in Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC for remote operation and transfer of images to a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Zeiss Loxia 35 mid day sun – OOC

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42.4 MP Exmor R BSI CMOS Sensor and BIONZ X Image Processor

The world’s first back-illuminated full-frame sensor, the 42.4-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor present in the a7RII works with the BIONZ X image processor to offer high-resolution stills and video while minimizing noise and improving speed. This sensor structure works with gapless on-chip lens design and an anti-reflection coating, as well as eliminating the optical low-pass filter, to improve light collection and enhance detail. Also, the copper wiring layer dramatically improves data transmission speed for creating high-resolution 42.4-megapixel stills at sensitivities up to ISO 102,400. Also, it enables internal UHD 4K video recording with a wide dynamic range using the full-frame sensor.

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5-Axis SteadyShot INSIDE Image Stabilization

Packed into the svelte a7RII is a 5-axis SteadyShot INSIDE image stabilization system. This compensates for five types of camera shake encountered during handheld shooting of still images and video. This allows users to confidently use any lens, even adapted lenses, for critical imaging without encountering blur from camera shake. This system will compensate for approximately 4.5 stops of shutter speed for working with a huge variety of subjects.

For long focal lengths, the system will correct for pitch and yaw adjustments. Macro and high magnification imagery on the other hand will benefit from the inclusion of horizontal and vertical shift compensation. And, all shooting styles will get usage out of the roll compensation. All 5 axes of stabilization will function at all times, even when used with third-party lenses and adapters or lenses with built-in optical stabilization.

When using lenses that do not transmit imaging data to the camera, manual settings can be used to input the correct focal length and ensure proper stabilization. Also, the viewfinder can be used to preview the amount of compensation by pressing the shutter release button halfway or magnifying the image.

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Fast Hybrid AF with 399 Phase-Detect Points

Lock onto your subjects quickly and without hesitation thanks to the revamped Fast Hybrid AF packed into the a7RII. It uses 399 on-sensor phase-detect AF points with 45% coverage along with 25 contrast-detect AF points in order to improve the speed, accuracy and tracking performance of the system. Faster readout thanks to the back-illuminated sensor structure also allows for tracking while shooting at the top continuous shooting rate of 5 fps. This can be captured in a burst of up to 24 frames when shooting in JPEG Fine L format at 42 MP and a continuous AF Display allows users to view the active AF points.

Another feature available with this AF system is a Lock-on AF tracking that will analyze more information from the scene to provide dramatically improved accuracy and stability. Eye AF is also available which will prioritize a subject’s pupil for excellent portraits even with a shallow depth of field.

Zeiss 50 Loxia

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UHD 4K Video Recording in XAVC S Format

In addition to the first BSI full-frame sensor, the a7RII is the first full-frame camera to offer internal UHD 4K video recording at 30 or 24 fps. This is possible using either the full-frame sensor or the Super 35 format which uses oversampling with full pixel readout and no pixel binning. This limits moire and aliasing common with high-resolution sensors. Video recording also benefits from live tracking thanks to the 399 phase-detection AF points present in the Fast Hybrid AF system. An additional benefit of this camera is the ability to switch back and forth between NTSC and PAL operation for worldwide use.

When recording internally, users will record video with a 4:2:0 sampling at 8-bit, however, to even further improve image quality the a7RII has clean HDMI output for use with an external recorder. This allows users to capture 4:2:2 uncompressed video and save in an edit-ready format.

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Timecode and User Bit Settings

The a7RII has multiple timecode recording options to meet different workflows. It has the standard ‘Record Run” mode that only advances the timecode when recording, as well as “Free Run” timecode that advances the timecode even when not recording, which can be great for syncing multiple cameras at live events. It can also record timecode in both drop frame and non-drop frame modes. When recording internally the a7RII is also able to output timecode via HDMI.

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Customizable Picture Profiles and S-Log2 Gamma

To make sure the a7RII is able to use its extensive dynamic range while recording video it incorporates extensive customizable color and gamma controls. Users can adjust the gamma, black level, knee, color level, and more. Also users can use the same S-Log2 Gamma Curve that is found on high end Sony Cinema cameras that squeezes up to 1300% more dynamic range into the video signal then traditional REC709, for increased post-production flexibility.

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3.0″ 1,228.8k-Dot Tilting LCD Monitor

With a higher 1,228.8k-dot resolution, the LCD screen will provide shooters with an excellent screen for composing images, adjusting settings, and reviewing video and photos. It also tilts upward 107° and downward 41° for working with multiple shooting angles. Use in sunlight is improved with the implementation of WhiteMagic technology which doubles the brightness of the display through a RGBW pixel structure.

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0.5″ 2.36M-Dot XGA OLED Tru-Finder Electronic Viewfinder

With its 4-lens optical system using double-sided aspherical elements the viewfinder faithfully displays what will appear in your recording, including the effects of your camera settings. You’ll enjoy rich tonal gradations and improved contrast. High-end features like 100% frame coverage and a 0.78x magnification enable comfortable and stable eye-level composition.

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Redesigned Grip, Shutter Release Button, and Controls

With a larger, more refined shape to the grip, users will find the a7RII to have a more secure feel and grasp even when large lenses are mounted. Also, the shutter release button has been reshaped and moved forward for a more natural shooting position and a decrease in camera shake. The controls also have been refined with new position for easier handling and improved operation. Button customization is available with the ability to assign any of 56 functions to any of the 10 customizable buttons for a more personalized setup.

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Magnesium Alloy Construction and Robust Lens Mount

The compact form is well-built with a magnesium alloy top cover, front cover, and internal structure. The lens mount has been redesigned with a greater strength and rigidity for extra security when using larger or longer lenses. The body itself also features greater sealing for dust and moisture resistance, providing more protection when shooting out in the elements. Additionally, the optical filter on the sensor has an anti-static coating and there is an anti-dust mechanism to prevent dust from adhering to the sensor.

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Reduced-Vibration Shutter & Silent Shooting

Cutting down on mechanical vibrations by 50% is the durable reduced-vibration shutter implemented in the a7RII. It has been tested to last for 500,000 cycles and also uses an electronic front curtain shutter. Additionally, a Silent Shutter mode is available for completely silent shooting when needed in certain environments.

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Audio Input & Headphone Jack

The a7RII features a 3.5mm microphone input jack for compatibility with external microphones. And for users needing more the a7RII is also compatible with the Sony XLR-K2M XLR Adapter for recording professional balanced XLR audio signals with phantom power and adjustable mic/line inputs. For monitoring audio the a7RII features a 3.5mm headphone jack as well as real time audio levels for a visual reference.

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Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC

Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity enables the a7RII to instantly share imagery to mobile devices for direct sharing online to social networking, via email, and to cloud storage sites. NFC (Near Field Communication) is also supported, which allows for one-touch connection between the camera and compatible mobile devices; no complex set-up is required. Once connected, the linked mobile device can also display a live view image on its screen and remotely control the camera’s shutter.

Additionally, PlayMemories Camera Apps are also supported via the built-in Wi-Fi connection, and allow you to personalize the camera’s features depending on specific shooting styles. Apps are available to suit creating portraits, detailed close-ups, sports, time lapse, motion shot, and other specific types of imagery.

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Other Camera Features

Picture Effect modes: Posterization (Color, B&W), Pop Color, Retro Photo, Partial Color (R/G/B/Y), High Contrast Monochrome, Toy Camera, Soft High-Key, Soft Focus, HDR Painting, Rich-Tone Monochrome, Miniature, Watercolor, and Illustration.

Creative Style settings: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night Scene, Autumn Leaves, Black & White, and Sepia (all with +/- 3 step contrast, saturation, and sharpness adjustment).

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Color space: sRGB standard (with sYCC gamut) and Adobe RGB standard compatible with TRILUMINOS Color.
Picture Profile parameters: Black Level, Gamma (Movie, Still, Cine 1-4, ITU709, ITU709 [800%], S-Log2), Black Gamma, Knee, Color Mode, Color Level, Color Phase, Color Depth, Detail, Copy, and Reset.
Scene Selection modes: Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sports Action, Sunset, Night Portrait, Night Scene, Hand-held Twilight, and Anti Motion Blur.

Face Detection is available to base exposure and focus on up to eight recognized faces. Furthermore, Eye AF can be used for even greater precision by maintaining critical focus on a subject’s eye.
2x Clear Image Zoom can be used to effectively double the magnification afforded by any lens in use with minimal image degradation. For even greater magnification, 1.5x and 2x Smart zoom is available, as well as 4x digital zoom.

Pre-flash TTL control with flash bracketing available and a variety of flash modes, including: Flash off, auto, fill-flash, rear sync, slow sync, red-eye reduction, hi-speed sync, and wireless control.

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More of MY Experience with the A7RII

Here we are 3700 words in and I have yet to show you guys comparisons, Leica M mount results, High ISO performance…wow. From this point on I will try to be to the point and quick so let’s start with some high ISO results against the top dog in high ISO, the Sony A7s. I assumed the A7RII would be sub par at high ISO due to the massive 42MP sensor. Well, I was wrong, and this is good! So below I will get to high ISO, Leica M lens use, Dynamic Range and more. Let’s get to it!

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HIGH ISO PERFORMANCE vs LOW LIGHT INDUSTRY LEADER A7S

Let’s take a look from ISO 6400 all the way to 102,800 ISO on both the new A7RII and the high ISO king, the A7s. WOW, this is 42MP? IT DOES QUITE WELL though I would only use it at up to 6400 comfortably with the occasional 12,800.

Text that says what camera is what is on each image, click them for larger and 100% crops!

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So there you go. The A7s still beats the A7RII (as expected) at the extreme higher ISO’s but the A7RII did much better than I had thought here. ISO 12,800 is VERY VERY usable, which is unheard of in a 42MP sensor.

Also, When out and about shooting in VERY low light or near darkness the A7RII gave me no issues. I never ever ever use Noise Reduction, so EVERY shot you see in this review or any other reviews by me in the last 4-5 years will not have NR applied.

Two more high ISO shots in VERY LOW LIGHT! The 1st image we were in a DARK room and her face was lit by her iPhone, that is all. ISO 6400, Zero NR as always. Click it for larger and know this is what you can expect of the A7RII in super low light at 6400 ISO. The image shows much more light than my eyes saw! 2nd shot is also 6400.. Lens is the 55 1.8

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ISO 12800, crazy low light room. 55 1.8

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ISO 102,400 – Zero NR here. Zeiss Loxia 50

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For being a 42MP sensor, this is extremely impressive.

LEICA M MOUNT WIDE ANGLE PERFORMANCE

Testing the Leica 28 Summicron and 35 Summicron up close, mid distance and at infinity. From what I understand, shooting at infinity is where these M mount wide angles pose the largest problems with the A7 series, so I was asked by a very knowledgable guy who loves his Leica glass to test these two lenses, and if they do well at infinity then it could mean the A7RII is fantastic with M glass.

Let us take a look and see how it went..1st up, a few images using the Leica 28 Summicron f/2 lens:

Looking at these snapshots with the Leica 28 Summicron tells me “no problems”!! No magenta edges, no off color, none of that..

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In this next image you can see the searing on the left and right side of the image (the red wood) which is an issue if you want across the frame sharpness. In fact, I would recommend the Sony 28mm f/2 over the Leica as depending on how you focus (infinity or up close) there could be some soft corners…

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Here is a shot with the 28 cron and a 100% crop, plenty of detail here..CLICK IT FOR LARGER and 100% crop! Corners have some softness but no color issues. 

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NOW THE 35mm SUMMICRON

The 35 Summicron also shows no magenta colors, edges or problems unless you are shooting something like a sweeping landscape using infinity focus, which is where you will see the softness/smearing on the sides of the frame.

This is the Sony A7RII with Leica 35 Summicron at f/4. Click for larger. No vignetting issues, no color issues but there is some edge smearing when shooting at infinity (or so it appears). 

The good news is that for 98% of uses, the 28 and 35 Leica cron work great on the A7II. So if you have one of them, they will do well on the A7RII unless you are doing critical landscape work shooting at infinity.

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Few more snaps with the 35 Cron. Click them for larger. 

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Detail and snap looks as it should with the 35!

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For wide open shooting up close and mid distance this lens is great on the A7RII

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So at the end of the day, it seems the Magenta sides and color issues when using wider angle Leica lenses are no longer issues, as in 100% gone, which is fantastic. The new backlit sensor does indeed fix the #1 issue we had with M glass on the A7 series. Bokeh and character rendering all are the same as they are if shooting these lenses on a Leica M. In other words, if I shot a portrait using the 35 cron on the M and A7II, my guess is that no one would be able to tell me which was shot on which and the Sony may even produce a sharper image.

If I was buying an A7RII I would stick with native lenses for the most part, and would pick up vintage M mount lenses for their character here and there (the cheap ones). I would not invest $4-5k in a 28 cron or 35 summicron for the A7RII as I feel there are cheaper lenses that do just as well on the camera. The Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4, (the Zeiss 35 1.4 M mount is also fantastic), the Sony 28 f/2 is cheap and punches well above its price point, etc. There are some amazing Leica 50mm lenses I would consider like the 50 Summilux ASPH or 50 APO which work amazingly well on the A7S, A7II and now A7RII. Other less expensive 50’s I would buy for the A7RII in Leica M mount would be the Voigtlander 50 1.5 Nokton ASPH or the Zeiss 50 1.5 Sonnar. Both are spectacular on the A7s, A7II and A7RII,

If I already owned a few Leica M lenses I would 100% buy an A7RII to use them with as a backup to my M or whatever I was using. In many ways the A7RII beats the Leica M. In some ways the Leica M beats the Sony (Build, feel, design, RF use, simplicity).

So there ya go, and the new 15mm III from Voigtlander works VERY well with the A7RII, sharp across the frame, no distortion, tiny. :) The A7RII is a VERY versatile camera.

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DYNAMIC RANGE

Dynamic range is spectacular just going by the fact that it is simple to NOT blow highlight and that shadow detail is incredibly easy to recover as well. The info is there, packed in to the file and if we under or over expose, we can easily fix the issues. Of course, underexposing is always easier but the challenge has always been when we pull out those shadows, we also pull out noise and in some cases, banding or other artifacts. With the A7RII, I had no problem recovering the shadows from the shot below which I exposed this way purposely. As always, click images for larger.

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So as you can see, the DR of this sensor in the A7RII is rather good. I look forward to seeing DXO’s test of the sensor to see what the numbers are. I am not a huge DXO guy but I do like their Dynamic Range and ISO tests.

COMPARED TO the A7II and A7S and old A7R

Compared to the A7II and A7s (TWO cameras I adore) the A7RII is like having the best of both of those bodies into one. It beats the A7II for me as I prefer the image quality I am getting from the new backlit sensor in the RII over the A7II. With fantastic low light ability, fast AF and the ability to shoot any fast prime ever made (just about) the A7RII has taken the place of my A7s and A7II, and condensed it down to one body. The A7s still has a place in my heart as it is a unique camera and it is still on my shelf. LOW megapixels, easier to handle the files, easier to edit on a low horsepower computer and lovely color and speed as well as industry leading low light abilities.

The A7RII is not too far off from the A7s in low light, which is astounding and makes me think a new A7SII will have 1 million ISO possibilities. I could be wrong but I feel that is where we are headed.

To see my A7s review, click HERE

To see my A7II review click HERE

To see my original A7R review, click HERE

SO basically, for me, the A7RII is “IT”. It replaces the A7II for me, as there is no need for both. I still have an A7s and will keep that one around for when I want low MP and extreme low light use.

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AF SPEED – MUCH IMPROVED OVER A7R and equal to or a tad faster than the A7II in my experience 

The AF speed is MUCH faster than the old A7R and its not subtle. If you have been shooting an A7R and move to the A7RII you just might be shocked in the 40% faster AF speed, AF accuracy and the shutter which is now MUCH quieter! The new body style is also more rugged and solid and feels fantastic. Sony really did their homework with this camera and while it is not perfect (no camera is), it is fabulous and quite a special machine. Well worth the investment if you are a passionate shooter like myself. It brings many levels of joy and with the new AF speed, I no longer miss shots as the A7R used to make me do with its dodgy AF, especially in low light.

Also, I feel I can AF faster with the A7RII than I can with a Nikon Df, which gave me many AF misses. With the EVF showing me exactly what is IN focus, if it did miss I could easily fix it on the spot. So yes, the AF is at the level of the A7II, maybe a bit faster (seems like it is)

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VIDEO

This camera is WAY beyond my capabilities as a videographer but many have been reporting overheating issues with video recordings longer than 30 minutes. I remember having this issue with my old NEX-7, but I have not experienced myself with the A7RII yet, but my videos have been 15-20 minutes max. Seems Sony has some overheating issues with some of their cameras when shooting video. Should not be here in a camera of this level or price point so if you shoot video segments longer than 30 min at a time, you may want to dig into this issue deeper on other review sites that specialize in video reviews. All I can say is that the video I have shot so far (for my own personal projects) has been superb, especially with the new enhanced 5 Axis IS, which is in body. Shooting with a Zeiss 16-35 is so nice, it almost seems like a steady cam is attached when shooting at 16mm.

If I were buying this strictly for video work though I would investigate the over heating issues 1st!

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Leads me to two more weaknesses with the A7RII, video overheating is one..and the 2nd and 3rd?

*EVF PERFORMANCE

The EVF of the Sony A7RII is an upgrade from the old A7R but it is not without issues that some have been reporting all over the internet and camera forums. When using a manual focus lens, let’s say a Zeiss Loxia (which I love to death on the A7RII). Turn the focus ring and the A7RII will automatically magnify the EVF screen so you can critically focus. Press your magnify button again and it will blow up even bigger, but when this happens you will see some degradation in the EVF frame, something the A7II and old A7 series did not do. There is some sort of degradation which makes it hard to critically focus, so I never blow up the EVF image that large, as it is does the opposite of what I need, making it harder to manually focus.

Other than the Manual Focus issue with the EVF, it is fantastic. I still can easily manually focus my Loxia lenses, so do not think it makes it hard or impossible, it just makes it “harder” than it should be if you magnify the screen to its max level.

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*BATTERY LIFE

The weakness that has started with the original A7R continues..battery life. For some this is an issue. For me it is not at all as I get 350-400 shots per charge, and I have 6 batteries (but only carry two with me when out shooting) and batteries are cheap if you go 3rd party, very cheap.

Many want 2000 shots from a battery charge and many shoot their cameras like a machine gun. Me, I do not and if I am out for 8 hours shooting I may come home with 40 images. Many would come back with 3000. So if you are a massive frame rate machine gun shooter, you will need a few batteries or you will need to slow it down, or bring along a Nikon D4 with it’s massive weapon of a battery.

If you are like me, and getting 300-400 shots per battery is PLENTY, then this is a non issue. When shooting video you will use more power so the battery does suck down MUCH more when filming video. But the A7RII is just as impressive with still images as it is video. In other words, it is NOT a video specific camera, at all. I am more impressed with the photo side than video on this camera.

I slightly mis-focused this one with the Zeiss 35 Loxia

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PROS AND CONS

Pros

  1. Lovely build and feel
  2. 5 Axis IS is now enhanced for the new sensor
  3. Splash proof
  4. Compatible with ALL FE lenses and E lenses
  5. Compatible with all Leica M lenses, Canon and Nikon (with adapters)
  6. Nice big fat EVF
  7. Tilting LCD
  8. Gorgeous IQ and color
  9. Improved AF speed by 40%
  10. Much nicer AWB than previous model
  11. Pro level video features and capabilities.
  12. Feels fantastic in the hand
  13. High ISO is incredible for megapixel size.
  14. All buttons are customizable! Woohoo!
  15. Sony’s best digital camera ever IMO.
  16. Resolution can be mind blowing
  17. Near medium format feel at times (to the images)

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Cons:

  1. Expensive at over $3000
  2. Still some smearing issues with some wide angle Leica M mount lenses
  3. EVF degradation issue at max magnification for manual focus
  4. Battery life could be better, especially for video use.
  5. Could be simpler. I’d love to see an A7 series body stripped down  to basics, like a Leica. ONLY for photo, no video.
  6. 12 Bit RAW, they should make it 14 bit for those who want it.

ZEISS 16-35

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MY FINAL CONCLUSION

Well here I am again writing a conclusion on another Sony camera. I remember vividly reviewing the early NEX-3 and 5 years ago. Both revolutionary cameras at the time that I loved back then. Today it’s all about full frame and pushing the limits of 35mm IQ, low light high ISO and even image stabilization. The latest and greatest camera in the mirrorless world is the A7RII and for me, it surpasses any and all that have come before, quite handily. Is it the best 35mm full frame camera in the world? Maybe not, but then again, maybe it is. Depends on your needs and wants, and for me, it is the one I would choose if I was buying ANY 35mm format full frame digital camera today. Here is why…

  • Massive resolution
  • Finally…fast AF speed
  • C-AF is quite good though not pro DSLR good
  • High ISO is up there with the best in the world
  • Video is outstanding (as long as we do not overheat)
  • Color, detail and image quality up with the best available in 35mm
  • Pro-ISH build and feel here, much better than previous A7R and A7
  • Large EVF, I prefer these to OVF’s today by FAR!
  • Camera handling, speed and response is fantastic
  • Hundreds, if not thousands of lenses can be Mounted and used. Limitless creative possibilities with ONE camera. It’s a beautiful thing.

The A7RII is one hell of a camera, and it’s not just me saying this. Many long time reviewer’s are praising it as well, and the reason is because it is the real deal. Many are complaining about the 12 bit RAW thing, and I understand the concern (on paper) but for me, I have never had any issue with any of my A7RII images that have been taken since using it in Portland at the Sony media event and now in my home. NOT ONE issue related to 12 bit raw, so for me, it is a NON issue. Though I do get it, and I hear Sony is looking into this as I write this.  If I ever have an issue due to having 12 bit vs 14 bit RAW I will let you all know. I do not expect to EVER have an issue as I do not pixel peep at 400%, or even 200%.

At the end of the day, the Sony A7RII is quite an achievement. Sony never gave up, never stalled, and they listened to what WE had to say. They implemented many of our needs and wants and we now have a NEAR perfect camera in the A7RII for those who just love to shoot, love photography and love when they see such amazing quality when they load the images.

Zeiss Batis 85 f/2

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From Zeiss to Sony to Leica to Canon to Nikon to others…so many lenses can be used to great effect with the A7RII. With its in body 5 Axis Image Stabilization, its resolution and all the things I Just mentioned, there is really nothing NOT to like. For me, it’s the best camera in 35mm full frame format that I have ever used, tested or reviewed. This is my new #1 replacing my A7II. I will keep the A7s for those moments when I am in the “S” mood or need that extra bit of low light ability.

Sony 35 1.4 Distagon – Chris from the Phoblographer

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If you want the best that 35mm can offer you in IQ and features and size and ease of use/joy of use, take a long look at the A7RII. It may be your dream camera. Now I have to try the Canon dream lens on the A7RII which I will then dub the “Dream Team”! Hehehe.

Where to Buy?

I would buy the A7RII at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE. Two of the best retailers on the planet.

A few more A7RII Snaps…

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Purchase the A7RII at B&H Photo HERE

Purchase the A7RII at Amazon HERE

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PLEASE! I NEED YOUR HELP TO KEEP THIS WEBSITE RUNNING, IT IS SO EASY AND FREEE for you to HELP OUT!

Hello to all! For the past 7 years I have been running this website and it has grown to beyond my wildest dreams. Some days this very website has over 200,000 visitors and because of this I need and use superfast dedicated web servers to host the site. Running this site costs quite a bit of cash every single month and on top of that, I work full-time 60+ hours a week on it each and every single day of the week (I received 200-300 emails a DAY). Because of this, I need YOUR help to cover my costs for this free information that is provided on a daily basis.

To help out it is simple, and no, I am not asking you for a penny!

If you ever decide to make a purchase from B&H Photo or Amazon, for ANYTHING, even diapers..you can help me without spending a penny to do so. If you use my links to make your purchase (when you click a link here and it takes you to B&H or Amazon, that is using my links as once there you can buy anything and I will get a teeny small credit) you will in turn be helping this site to keep on going and keep on growing.

Not only do I spend money on fast hosting but I also spend it on cameras to buy to review, lenses to review, bags to review, gas and travel, and a slew of other things. You would be amazed at what it costs me just to maintain this website, in money and time. Many times I give away these items in contests to help give back you all of YOU.

So all I ask is that if you find the free info on this website useful AND you ever need to make a purchase at B&H Photo or Amazon, just use the links below. You can even bookmark the Amazon link and use it anytime you buy something. It costs you nothing extra but will provide me and this site with a dollar or two to keep on trucking along.

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Aug 262015
 
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A Manual Approach to Wedding Photography

by Joao Medeiros

I’m not comfortable writing. Images, particularly photography are what drives me. Since very young Art was part of my life, I went from painting and waiting to be an architect to abandon everything for a life in the theatre, just to pursue a career in Jazz playing trumpet.

But at my twenties, I was struggling to make it and everyone was making sure I knew I had to earn money to be a successful individual. Money was never my interest, I’m passionate about Art, any form of it. But Photography had a degree of intimacy and control that I had never experienced.

I went to college to take a photography bachelor and complemented it with a bachelor in Fine Arts and a master’s degree in Visual Arts teaching, things went on for a while, drifting in teaching, corporate/event photography, restoration related jobs before I finally found the one area where I had complete creative freedom. A freedom that allows me to choose the gear that gives me pleasure while creating and expressing myself through Photography and eventually sharing my Vision.

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Weddings are something that has been with society since we had the need to express our love for our life companion. Happiness is something that needs to be shared and celebrated with our loved ones. And that’s what I like about them, it’s all about family and friends making the most of Life. When I was in college, I did the whole course with only an Olympus OM 1 and a 50mm, since then manual focus is second nature to me, even when I had top DSLR’s AF never grew on me. But when I used the first serious EVF (Panasonic GH2) I knew what I wanted and what I wanted to see while composing. Eventually, when I step up to weddings I needed the best dynamic range and colour I could get my hands on it, so I bought a Sony A99 and a Nikon D800e to figure out my needs. After a year the Sony won me, not because it was superior to the D800e, it was Sony’s approach to photography that made it. The fully articulated LCD, I. S and Minolta’s heritage all over the place made the A99 a superior tool in my hands.

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When the mirrorless Sony A7 appeared on the scene I had no doubts and bought one immediately with a set of Zeiss ZM and Voigtlander lenses with the VM close adapter. Since then, shooting has been a real pleasure. Nothing beats feeling your shots, even when we are capturing fleeting moments like kisses, exchanging vows/wedding rings or sharing a secret while on the dance floor at 4 am. Having a small, robust camera with the best glass in the industry makes me feel very confident and secure that when I get home, I have all I need to put together a body of work that reflect my vision. That’s the main lesson I learned, you really need to follow your own unique vision of things.

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We are all different, but you really need to push beyond the limits to reach for that inner voice. Recently I added the amazing sigma Art 35mm f 1.4 to my set, the only complain is its sheer size when compared to my little Zeiss ZM 35mm f2. My workflow is pretty straightforward, I use B&W mode to concentrate on composition and focus while having red peaking and magnify to guarantee that every moment is in focus. For 75% of all my work, I use the 35mm focal length with my Sony A7 and take advantage of the articulated LCD from the A99 to get more discrete and intimate portraits with the 85mm, also from Sigma. Just a little detail, I removed the slt mirror from the A99 and use it in manual focus, so it’s basically a big mirrorless camera. I’m more of a guest than a professional photographer, at least that’s how I’m perceived by my clients, family and friends. A friend who happens to make a living from photography. I really try to enjoy the wonderful day, conscious that I’m very fortunate to be at a private party while making a living. I’m always the first to arrive and the last to leave, it’s after all a body of work and not just a staged kiss with the golden hour moment. It’s people that drive me, the concept of family and friendship not staged moments.

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I’m looking forward to get the new Sony A7RII since it brings some new features like a new and stronger shutter that it’s better damped, the I. S, min. auto shutter, copyright embed info, better high ISO performance and even the silent shutter option although with some caveats.

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Thank you.

Regards

João de Medeiros

http://joaomedeirospamelaleite.tumblr.com/
https://instagram.com/joaomedeiros.pamelaleite/
https://www.facebook.com/MFotografia.JoaoMedeiros.PamelaLeite
http://www.joaomedeirospamelaleite.com/

Aug 172015
 

Sony A7s and 16-35 Head to Tasmania!

By Peter Amber

Hello Steve,

Earlier this year I took along the FE 16-35mm as the go-to lens with my A7S and traveled around the beautiful Tasmania, Australia. The 16mm focal length came in handy for landscapes and interior shots, and I find it more fun to use than the 24-70mm. As I shoot videos, the zoom lens came in handy and coupled with the APS-C function gave an effective coverage of 16-50mm to play with. Here are some images and video from our travel around Tassie. As usual keep up the awesome site guys!

www.vimeo.com/peteramber/tasmania

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Regards,
Peter/Amber
www.peteramber.com

Jul 302015
 

My First Impressions – Zeiss Batis 25/2

By Bob Israel

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Getting a new lens is always exciting. You read the reviews (including Steve’s), you ponder whether your excitement is from the hype from the previews of others. You ponder whether this is really a ‘need to have’ vs. ‘want to have’ lens. Finally, you make the decision and place your preorder. Then you wait . . . and read some more . . . and wait some more . . . and see some images . . . and wait . . . and then . . . it arrives.

First, it’s the unboxing, not like you see on you tube videos but the anticipation of holding the lens in your own hands for the very first time. Today I received the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon. I’ve had a love affair with Zeiss for a long time shooting contax C/Y, Zeiss ZE and ZM lenses. But the Batis 25/2 is the first I’ve owned that will autofocus on the Sony A7 series. To say I was looking forward to this day is an understatement.

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The lens is a thing of beauty. It has a modern look and feel and the OLED display just seems cool (yes, I’m a techie). The lens is much lighter in weight than I expected but it feels perfect on my A7II. I went out at lunch today and took a few shots. Nothing earth shattering but an assortment of wide open, closed down and into the sun variety.

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Then I looked at the images on my laptop. I got the same feeling and excitement as when I first shot with the Zeiss ZE line. It was an OMG moment. The colors are rich and the lens is sharp even wide open. The lens is marvelous when shooting into the sun. OK, I realize I’ve only taken about 40 images, but so far, it’s an instant love affair with Zeiss . . . all over again.

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-Bob Israel

Bob Israel
RJI Photography

http://www.rjiphotography.com
http://​w​ww.facebook.com/rjiphotography​
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rjiphotography

See Steve’s full review of the Batis 25 and 85 HERE

Jul 062015
 
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The Zeiss Batis 25 f/2 and 85 f/1.8 Lens Review!

By Steve Huff

Here we are again with a couple of lenses made by Zeiss for the Sony FE (A7) system/series of cameras. As many of you know who have been following me for years, these days I really enjoy and love shooting my Sony A7II and A7s cameras. With so many amazing enthusiast and pro level camera out today, it is a tough choice on what to use, especially when you are a reviewer who gets these camera and lenses sent to you on an almost weekly basis!

LOVELY colors from the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2, up close focusing (Min 0.2 meters). Sony A7II, lens was at f/2. Must click on the image to see it correctly!

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But even so, a couple things have remained constant for me. I love the new Sony cameras and lenses they have been putting out for 2-3 years now. I feel with the full frame sensors and fantastic lenses available they are the TOP Mirrorless system camera as of July 2015. For me, Sony beats all others for the mirrorless title with Olympus coming in 2nd place for me with the E-M1 and E-M5II. Lagging behind (for me) are Samsung (even though the NX1 is a phenomenal camera) and the others with Leica making a nice come back with the special and amazing Q. (my review of the Q here).

But today and all month I feel it’s going to be a Sony fest as the A7RII is coming, the new RX100 IV is IN HAND and the new Zeiss BATIS lenses have arrived to me and I have been shooting them for the last 1-2 weeks. My impression? Well, they are designed and look like mini OTUS lenses and perform 85% as well. The BATIS line for FE is stunning and with the electronic LED display that shows you focus distance when in manual focus mode, we are getting a special set of lenses for those who are very picky about the quality of their glass.

Must click for larger and sharper version! Another with the 25 at f/2 on the A7II

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I remember when all the rage was the Zeiss Touit line for APS-C. This was not very long ago yet feels like it was for some reason. The Touit line was good, but not my favorite set of lenses. Then came the OTUS lenses for Canon and Nikon but for me, they are just too large for daily use. Pro use, 100%. Enthusiast? For this one, those are too large and way too costly. Then came the Loxia line and MAN OH MAN I love these. The 35 and 50 f/2 Loxia’s are manual focus only and as close as one can get to a Leica M mount for their Sony FE mount. Small, solid, smooth and gorgeous in build, style and rendering. The 50 Loxia may be my #1 fave lens on the A7 series.

So with the Loxias receiving critical acclaim, and the only complaint from some users being “it’s not auto focus” Zeiss decided to create the Batis line which would be Auto Focus Zeiss lenses, and these two lenses they started with are right here, the 25 and 85. The 25mm is a Distagon design and an f/2 lens. It is not as solid feeling as the little Loxia but it feels great anyway, with a nice OTUS like styling to them. The Batis lenses come with hoods and the AF on the 25 is rather quick. The 85 will hunt a little in lower light but overall it is pretty quick as well.

The 85 at 1.8 on the A7II, just a casual snapshot, she did not even know I was taking a shot until the moment I took it and the lens grabbed focus and nailed the color as well. 

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Another wide open at f/1.8…

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..and another!

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After shooting the 85 for a little while I started to adore the rendering. VERY sharp at your focus point and CREAM CITY after that when shooting at f/1.8. The color and contrast are 100% ZEISS with those bold yet gentle blues, nice yellows and a richness that comes from shooting Zeiss glass. I remember shooting loads of Zeiss ZM lenses on my Leica M8, M9 and M 240 and they all had this exact character that I see here. Much different from Leica or Sony’s rendering. It’s what Zeiss is known for and yes, all manufactures of lenses have a house “look”. From Olympus to Samsung  to Sony to Zeiss to Leica to Canon and Nikon.

Batis 25 at f/2 – never be afraid to ask someone if you can take their portrait. I have a 99.5% rate of success, and usually the subject is more than happy, and a little excited to let you take their photo. The girl below was pouring my beer and I said “do you mind if I take your photo” – she said “SURE!” but she did not look at me. So I shot one of her pouring and then asked her to give me a nice  happy smile, and she did. 

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Punching Bag with leaving the shutter speed slower to catch the motion/action of the shot. The 25 at f/2

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Glass is the heart of your camera system.

Many times I will get people asking me questions about what cameras to buy. They usually will insist on a kit lens of sorts even though they ask about more expensive cameras like the Sony A7 or Fuji X or Olympus E-M1. To me, if you are going to invest over $1000 in a camera, you should always invest in good glass, or lenses, for your system. Lenses are the paintbrush, the pencil, THE one thing that delivers the most change to the rendering of the image. WAY more so  than a sensor or internal processing. The lens you choose will decide if your image will be sharp, soft, colorful or dull, has high contrast or low or has a pastel like color instead of bold harsh color. Some lenses use cheap glass, some use exotic glass. The lens is the most personal choice one can make when buying a camera system, at least IMO.

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So if it were me, and I was going to shell out for a Sony A7II or A7RII, you can bet your bootie I would buy the Zeiss line of lenses (Loxia or Batis) or some of the better Sony FE glass like the 35 1.4, 16-35, or 90 Macro. I would avoid the kit zooms or lower quality zooms as you will never reach the true IQ potential of the system with cheap glass.

25mm Batis at f/2 – A7II

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The Zeiss Batis line, being Auto Focus and gorgeous in all aspects of image quality, would be some of my top picks for most A7 users, and especially for those who ordered the A7RII as that camera is BEASTLY. It’s a resolution monster, a video monster and will be one hell of an amazing enthusiast or pro camera. These lenses would compliment that A7RII perfectly, and I for one can not wait to try these lenses on that body (of which I should have very very soon).

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During my time with the Batis lenses, I had no issues with focus, feel, build, or performance. The only niggle I had was when taking the 85 1.8 out in the night, as the focus would hunt a tad in low light. That is when I switched it over to manual focus and shot. Using manual focus works very well due to the nice EVF in my Sony A7 cameras as well as the smooth action of the Batis focus ring. The on board OLED display also will show you a distance scale, electronically. Yep, pretty cool if you ask me!

Video Look!

My video on the Batis Lenses. See them on the camera bodies and hear my thoughts!

Details?

No point in discussing sharpness with these guys, they are SHARP. Plenty sharp.

These were out of cam JPEGS! Click them to see  the crops wide open. 

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Compared To?

With Sony FE we now have a few great semi wide angle lenses to choose from. The Sony/Zeiss 16-35 F/4, the Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4, and the Sony 28 f/2 are all great lenses with the 28 f/2 being the cheapest of the lot, and while it has some distortion that needs fixing (which is done in camera for JPEGS) the Sony 28 f/2 is fantastic in IQ. I will say that it does not quite have the micro- contrast, color and pop of the Batis 25, but even so, at $450 it is around 3X less in cost than the Batis 25 which comes in at $1299. THAT is a pretty big price difference but you do see it and feel it with the Batis.

Sony 28 FE and Batis 25 side by side

Below is a side by side between the two..and you may not see much difference in this shot, but it is there. Click on the image to see them larger and you can see much more micro contrast in the Zeiss Batis shot, more detail and an overall more crisp and distortion free image. The Zeiss is better, but if it is $800 depends on you ;) I’d say if you want the best of the best for your Sony FE, in a wide angle lens then take a serious look at the Zeiss.

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The Sony/Zeiss 16-35 is more of an ultra wide and at f/2 will not give you the aperture speed of the Batis. The Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 is MUCH larger and heavier and is not nearly as wide as the 25 Batis, so I see these two as different tools.

For me, the best IQ you can get as of July 2015 for your Sony FE system in a native mount and in a semi wide-angle (between 21 and 28) is the Batis 25 f/2 and because it will focus as close as 0.2 meters you can get pretty close to your subject, creating some Bokeh effect and you subject will be sharp.

The next FIVE shots are all from my fave of the Batis lot, the 25 f/2. I say it is my fave as I used it more as I found it more useful. I enjoy getting close to my subject and while I feel 21 is a tad too wide and 28 is getting close to 35, I am finding the 25 to be perfect for my style of shooting. I used to own the Zeiss 25 ZM for Leica mount and reviewed it here YEARS ago. Loved that lens which is probably why I love the Batis version. 

CLICK THEM FOR BETTER VERSIONS!

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The Batis 85 f/2 vs the Mitakon 85 1.2

Another lens choice for the native FE mount is the Mitakon Speedmaster 85 1.2. I reviewed that lens a week or two ago HERE. It is larger, heavier and goes to f/1.2 BUT the Zeiss is a better lens with better color and pop. Even so, the Mitakon is not so bad, not at all. So may even prefer it! ME? I prefer the Zeiss for the smaller size and lighter weight. I feel Zeiss did a great job with the design and keeping them more short than long. But take a look at the comparisons below, click them for the full 100% crop to be seen.

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MITAKON KID

My final word on the Batis line of lenses? 

When I heard Zeiss was sending me these two lenses for review I was excited, and believe me, today after 7-8 years of writing these reviews full time, it takes a lot to get me excited. Many of you may not be aware but I get SO MUCH stuff sent to me for  review that never gets reviewed because it just doesn’t excite me or motivate me. I end up not reviewing many items because if it does not motivate me to go shoot, I can not recommend it to my readers here. While most sites would just go write a negative review, I just skip as I am not about negativity or spending hours writing to tell you I do not like a certain product.

So if I review it, it means I love it and really enjoy it.

As for these lenses, they deliver on the hype and promise, the really do. I have not used a finer 25mm lens and in the world of 75-85mm lenses, the choices are plentiful, no doubt. Even so, the Zeiss 85 f/1.8 Sonnar is up there with the finest I have used and my faves in life have been the Canon 85 1.2, Nikon 85 1.4, and Zeiss 85 f/2 for Leica Mount. This 85mm delivers the detail, creaminess, nice colors and perfect contrast for those portrait sessions where you want that Zeiss WOW.

OF ALL the lenses I have here for Sony FE, and I have a load of them, my daily driver would be the Zeiss Batis 25 and Zeiss Loxia 50. I’d throw in the Batis 85 for portraits and use my Sony 16-35 for my ultra wide. That would be all I would ever need, and all of these lenses are top notch 100%. I may also throw in the 35 1.4 Sony/Zeiss for when I wanted that 35mm FOV with some magic.

The Batis line rocks my friends. If you need Auto Focus, the are the way to go. If you would prefer a smaller lens, the Loxia line is stunning as well but manual focus only. Either way, you will get that Zeiss POP and BAM!

1st Three from the 85 f/1.8 all at 1.8

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Next few all from the 25..

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Words from Zeiss on the Batis Lenses:

On the 25 f/2

“Pairing the tested Distagon concept with contemporary functionality, the Batis 25mm f/2 Lens from Zeiss is a wide-angle prime designed specifically for full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras. The innovative design of this lens features an OLED display that highlights the focus distance and depth of field range for quickly recognizing your focusing parameters, and its autofocus performance is benefitted by linear motors for fast, smooth performance. Four double-sided aspherical elements within a floating elements design help to control aberrations and distortions throughout the focusing range and contribute to even edge-to-edge sharpness and illumination, and a T* anti-reflective coating reduces flare and ghosting for increased contrast and color neutrality. Ideal for architecture, landscape, and interior photography, this lens’ 82° angle of view pairs with a 7.9″ minimum focusing distance for producing creative perspectives and unique close-up imagery. Additionally, for working in inclement conditions, the lens also features a dust- and weather-sealed construction.”

On the 85 1.8

“Updating a tried-and-true optical design for use with full-frame E-mount mirrorless cameras, the Batis 85mm f/1.8 Lens from Zeiss is a portrait-length, short telephoto lens featuring a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture for greater focus control and enhanced low-light shooting. The innovative design of this lens features an OLED display that highlights the focus distance and depth of field range for quickly recognizing your focusing parameters, and its autofocus performance is benefitted by linear motors for fast, smooth performance. Pairing the Sonnar concept with a floating elements design, this 85mm f/1.8 is also particularly adept at controlling aberrations throughout the focusing range, while a T* anti-reflective coating minimizes flare and ghosting for ensured color accuracy and heightened contrast. Rounding out the feature-set, this lens incorporates optical image stabilization to minimize the appearance of camera shake when working with slower shutter speeds and a dust- and weather-sealed construction lends itself to shooting in less-than-ideal environments.”

Yes, the 85 1.8 has Image Stabilization built in. 

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What about the negatives?

During my use I had nothing but fantastic results with focus, image quality and overall results. Never had distortion issues or CA issues or any issues. Really.

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MY STAR RATINGS:

Many have asked me to start doing ratings for my reviews so I will start here with a BANG. BUT keep in mind, if I rate a Sony FE Mount lens, that rating is compared to other similar FE mount lenses, in this case the Sony 28 FE, the Sony 16-35 FE and the Mitakon 85 1.2.

BATIS 25: I will give the Batis 25 f/2 FIVE STARS as to me it is the best semi wide/wide I have used (28 and under) for the Sony FE system. The IQ, color, sharpness, size and weight are all phenomenal. Add in the weather sealing, the OLED display, dour side aspherical elements and it’s close focus capability, along with its dust and weather resistant design and this guy gets FIVE STARS! Yes, it is expensive at $1299 but for me, worth it in every way, and hey, it’s a Zeiss.

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BATIS 85 f/1.8: I gave the 85 1.8 4 1/2 stars and that is due to the only weakness I found, the AF gets slow and hunts in lower light, as in club lighting or low level concert lighting. Other than that this is a a beautiful 85mm lens and the IQ and color stand out to me and is up there with the best 85 fast primes ever made for 35mm. Image stabilized and loaded with all the good stuff, this is one hell of a portrait prime. Sure there are loads of 85’s you can convert to use on the Sony but the Batis is a better option for me, as I always will prefer NATIVE lenses when there are good options.

Where to buy and How Much?

The Zeiss 25 f/2 comes in at $1299, and you can pre-order/order it at B&H Photo or PopFlash.com 

The Zeiss Batis 85 f/1.8 comes in at $1199 and can be pre-ordered or ordered at B&H Photo or PopFlash.com 

I also highly recommend the Zeiss Loxia line HERE. 

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HLPHH

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Jul 012015
 
BATIS

Crazy Comparison! Zeiss Batis 85 f/1.8 vs Mitakon Speedmaster 85 1.2!

So check this out guys…

The Zeiss Batis 25 and 85 lenses for Sony FE mount have arrived for testing and they are BEAUTIFUL. I will not tell a lie, the 25 is the one I adore the most so far as it’s size is nice. FAT but short and squat. Looks fantastic on the Sony A7II. The 85 is a tad larger but still not so bad, much more manageable than I expected.

I am SO excited that Zeiss has not only released the fine LOXIA lenses for Sony but now we have the Batis line, which is an AF line of lenses for Sony FE (A7 series). There are so many fine lenses for the Sony A7 system these days and with the new A7RII on the way, look out..these Zeiss lenses may be just what the Dr. Ordered! THEY ARE FANTASTIC and I have only had them a day.

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Many have asked me to do a side by side “Crazy Comparison” between the Batis 85 1.8 and the Speedmaster 85 1.2 I recently reviewed (see that HERE)  – and while I assumed it would be a test showing the clear superiority of the Zeiss, well, it does but the Speedmaster hangs in there fairly well!

The Zeiss of course is a Zeiss. It is Auto Focus (and speedy on my A7II), it is shorter, smaller and MUCH lighter than the Mitakon, but for IQ..take a look:

CLICK IMAGES for larger and MUCH better versions. You will not see these as they were intended unless you click on them!

1st one, the Zeiss 85 at f/1.8 (thought I set it to f/2 but was wide open). The color has that Zeiss POP over the Mitakon but sharpness, not really any better here. Color and Pop goes to Zeiss though for sure.

ALL SHOTS ON THIS PAGE ARE WITH THE SONY A7II

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More that shows the COLOR pop of the Batis 85. Again, the Batis was at 1.8 as I thought I had it set to f/2, so the image is mislabeled. Still, you can see the crispness, and 3D color pop of the Zeiss here. Even so, the Mitakon is holding its own though the color is muted as is the contrast.

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MITAKON KID

The Zeiss is a fantastic lens and I only shot with it for a day so far. Love the digital focus display, love the size and feel and look. The AF is fast and accurate and my full review of both should be up within 10 days or so.

Here are a few more from the 25 and 85..

OOC JPEG with the 25 at f/2 – click it for larger

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OOC JPEG with the 25 at f/2

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Zeiss 25 f/2 from RAW with Alien Skin slide filter applied,  A7II

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Zeiss 85 Batis with crop

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The color, detail and rendering of the 85 is GORGEOUS. 

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ORDER THE ZEISS BATIS LENSES!

You can order the Zeiss Batis lenses from B&H Photo HERE or PopFlash.com HERE. Full review soon with video and LOADS of samples!

 

Jun 022015
 
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Zeiss Batis 25mm and 85mm hands-on, plus Sony FE 28mm f/2 comparison

By Chad Wadsworth – See his website HERE

Don’t expect this to be a well controlled, thoroughly tested discourse on the new Batis lenses. I literally had each lens for about five minutes at Precision Camera here in Austin, TX where the store was hosting a dealer day. Lucky me when I strolled up to the Sony display and there they were, the new Batis lenses – apparently the only copies in N. America.

With a promise that I wouldn’t run away with the lenses, I was allowed to head outside for some quick test shots. We are talking about a bright strip-mall parking lot – not exactly photo shoot friendly, but I made the best of it. In the short time I had my grubby hands on the lenses, I was able to assess a few things about these new Zeiss jewels.

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First off, they look to be very well built with a design that hews more to the mold of the Otus than the Touit. Since I’m not a huge fan of the Touits’ build I was deeply impressed with the construction of these Batis lenses and I think most photographers will be as well. I didn’t shoot in manual focus mode but did test out the focus ring and found it to be smooth and nicely dampened. With no other control on the lens, it has a minimalist, stout, dare I say handsome look.

Second, the Batis are not small but not large either; a Goldilocks “just right” perhaps? The 85mm is very close in size to the ZA 85mm/1.4 but saves on the weight in glass and bulk of the LA-EA adapter. I’m sure someone out there will be outraged that the lens isn’t rangefinder tiny but it feels great and balances well on the a7II. Same with the 25mm – bigger than the FE 28mm – more so in girth, than length but it still feels right on the camera.

Third, based on my sad selection of available test targets – save the nice model who agreed to let me snap a quick portrait – I’m comfortable making some very early comments about image quality. Keep in mind, these are likely pre-production so yada yada, final product may differ.

We have all seen early samples criticized only to learn the true performance of the lenses at a later date so let’s be patient and take these images at their value – as early indications of what the performance of these Batis may be but not the final word – not even close.

25mm and quick comparison to the FE 28/2*

* note that the comparisons here were shot at different times (10 minutes apart) and aren’t perfectly controlled examples. I tried to match up f-stops but wasn’t always successful. Images were edited to my taste but edits were applied equally between the two lenses (same levels of sharpness, etc.)

I unequivocally adore the FE 28/2. I’ve said it previously and stand by my claim that the lens is a bang for the buck champ – sharper than just about any other 28mm ever produced with equally impressive bokeh for a wide-angle. Of course the FE has its issues, but for a budget optic with this level of sharpness and bokeh, I can live with software based distortion corrections and some occasional CA cleanup, and so should you. Given my admiration for the Sony 28mm, I didn’t think for a second I would have any interest in picking up the new Batis 25mm. I was wrong.

FE 28mm @ f/2

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Batis 25mm @ f/2

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Where the FE 28mm is in-your-face sharp, the Batis looks a bit smoother, yet zoom in to pixel peep and you will see that there’s a similar level of sharpness and micro contrast. The render of the Batis very much reminds me of the ZA 24mm f/2 but without all the field curvature AF issues that were endemic to that A-mount lens.

FE 28mm @ f/2

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Batis 25mm @ f/2

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To test distortion, I shot some straight lines with both lenses and the results were as expected. Without any software corrections, the Batis looks more controlled for distortion than the FE does even with its LR software profile activated. No surprise, but still nice to see. I expect that the Batis will be a boon for architecture and interiors photographers.

FE 28mm @ f/5.6 with Lightroom Profile Correction

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Batis 25mm @ f8 – no software corrections for distortion

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I didn’t notice much CA from the 25mm Batis (there is some) but would need to shoot in more varied conditions. To be fair, I didn’t see much from the FE shots that day either. There was some vignetting in the Batis that I corrected to match-up more closely with the FE shots – not a big deal. This next particularly uninspiring shot was composed to check corner performance in the top right and no color edits were made on these two.

FE 28mm @ f8

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Batis 25mm @ f/8

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Alpha shooters are going to be very satisfied having the Batis 25mm in their stable soon. I’ve already added it to my 85mm preorder. For photographers that don’t need the extra 3mm (7 degrees) of view or don’t want to spend the hefty sum of $1,200 on the Batis, the FE 28mm remains an impressive optic, and easy choice.

85mm – quick portrait

For the 85mm, the strip mall presented even fewer targets, but there were a couple of models inside the camera store that were helping out with the dealer demos, so I asked one of them for a quick portrait. She obliged and we snapped this one in about 20 seconds – not ideal, but it gives us some impression of what the lens is capable of. Focus was quick, sure and accurate. Pixel peeping shows excellent sharpness and detail. Bokeh is difficult to fully address here as we had the subject in shade and a challenging bright background, yet the highlights reflecting off automobile rooftops melted away admirably. Some have commented that there is CA visible in the portrait when viewed at 100%. I don’t believe it to be excessive or even unexpected in these backlit conditions. I was intrigued by these comments though so dug into the archive to look at some photos I took with the well regarded ZA 85/1.4 on the a900 a few years ago. I was shocked to see how much CA was present in some of those images, even at f/2.2, so the new Batis may well be a considerable improvement in that area.

Having previously owned said legendary Zeiss 85/1.4 for A-mount, I have been anxiously awaiting an FE replacement but was concerned that the lens would be too large or too slow. Again with the Goldilocks reference but the Batis seems to nail it with just the right dimensions, weight and image quality.

After my brief time with the 85mm I am guessing that it will become a must buy for many Alpha shooters.

Batis 85mm @ f/1.8

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Pre-Order the Batis Lenses:

B&H Photo

PopFlash.com

Additional samples…

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May 222015
 
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The Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon ZM Leica Mount Lens, my 1st look. Wow.

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Just tried out the new Zeiss 35 1.4 ZM lens and wow, the reviews and user reports are true, this is up there with the Leica 35 FLE though different in the way it renders and image. Some will like it better, some will not, but either way it is FANTASTIC. I’d say we can get most of the FLE out of this Zeiss, but with a whole different character and feel. It may not be as sharp as the Leica 35 FLE at 1.4, but it is close, and it offers a more “organic” rendering that I simply love. Smooth Zeiss pop on my Leica Monochrom 246 or amazing bold color and snap on the A7s or A7II. It’s a lovely lens, and I enjoyed the lens I rented so much I really want to own this lens for my new MM. From the few shots I have snapped so far I feel it makes a perfect match, and as a bonus it will work well on the Leica M 240 and the Sony A7 series as well. Yes, I rented the lens but will own it as soon as I can.

I will have a full review eventually here, maybe in a few weeks  – using it on the new MM and the Sony A7 bodies. But for now, Amazon has 2 in stock, via prime, in black. $2190 which is $100 less than normal. For less than half the cost of the Leica 35 FLE you can have a lens that is in reality just as good, but with a different character (which I prefer). The build is solid, the aperture click is AMAZING, best I have felt on any lens and the glass is beautiful. IT IS NOT large, but it is larger than the Leica 35 Lux by a bit. Reminds me size wise of a 50 Summlux ASPH.

The rendering is just what I like, and all Zeiss. I will own this lens as soon as I can afford it!

You can order this lens at Amazon (via PRIME) HERE. You can also buy it at PopFlash.com, or B&H Photo. 

A couple of samples on the Leica Mono 246:

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And a few with the lens on the Sony A7II:

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May 152015
 

Film Friday: Riots and Zeiss Biogon T* 2.8/25 on Leica M6

by fiftyasa

Steve already wrote a good review of the Zeiss Biogon T* 2.8/25 back in 2009 (http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2009/11/18/the-zeiss-zm-25-2-8-biogon-lens-review/), but the lens does not seem very common among Leica M shooters, especially if compared to other Zeiss lenses like the Planar 50 or Biogon 35.

I recently picked up one copy and tried to shoot some street action in the city of Hamburg where every year peaceful demonstrations and riots take place as a tradition on May 1st. Mounted on a Leica M6 loaded with TriX 400 and TMAX 400, I made my way through the “urban guerrilla”…

Shooting from the hip while walking and pre-setting the focus distance seem to work OK with a bit of luck (although the agents seem to smile at me, I don’t think they realized that I took a photo of them shooting from the hip):

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But the lens is wide! It seems you are never close enough… In the following 2 pictures I pre-set the focus distance, walked as close as I could and used the viewfinder to (guess-)frame.

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In the picture “you are never close enough” it is interesting to see that the 2 subjects did not notice me despite I was at less than 1 meter from them, while the young guy and the woman behind were probably asking themselves what I was doing so close…

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Unfortunately most of the copies of this lens bring up the 35 mm frame lines on the M6, M9 and Zeiss Ikon ZM. This is a bit distracting for me. The 28 mm frame lines would be a better choice (but not perfect, this lens is substantially wider!) if the external viewfinder is not available, but, at the time the lens came to the market, it targeted the M8 where the correct frame lines (35 mm equivalent) is triggered.

It is known that the lens can focus down to 0.5 m but the rangefinder disengages at 0.7 m. So if you want to use it from 0.7 and 0.5 m, you’ll have to guess the distance. I would also like to mention that, despite some websites state that the Zeiss Ikon ZM can use the rangefinder to focus down to 0.5m, this is not true. I have a Zeiss Ikon ZM and the rangefinder disengages at 0.7 m like the Leica M6 and M9.

Being the angle of view so wide, the Biogon 25 is an ideal companion for landscapes and cityscapes

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Or to give a “wide angle effect” to your shots:

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Or to capture a lot of things in one frame:

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Yes, the lens is sharp. In the picture above you can actually read the street sign next to the last flag on the right:

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Three more attempts to get closer to the subject:

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These pictures are digitalized by photographing the Kodak negatives with a Sony A7 mounted on a copy stand and equipped with bellow and macro lens Apo Rodagon-D 1x 75 mm. Negatives are inverted with negfix8 and post-processed (mainly tone curve adjustment only).

If you like to see more, please visit https://fiftyasa.wordpress.com

Apr 292015
 

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A User Review of the Zeiss 35mm Distagon f1.4 ZM on a Leica M 240

By Howard Shooter

I must confess to being a bit of a Leica fan. I love Leica and the purity of the rangefinders’ back to basics approach to photography. Up until three days ago I have veered towards only Leica glass and my thoughts have been mostly positive. I was niggled and irritated by the slight softness of the 50mm Summilux on the M240mm compared to the M9 and the ever so slight lack of contrast, which means I sometimes have to give the files a bit of the proverbial kick in Lightroom. The shift from M9 to M240 was another learning curve in appreciating subtlety and nuance for me and took longer than I expected to really love the new signature of the much debated cmos sensor.

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I always loved the 35mm focal length, as it’s such a versatile lens for so many situations from landscape to portrait. I wanted the Leica 35mm summilux but the price is too steep for me to justify the outlay.

Zeiss have always had their avid and similarly loyal followers and the Leica fit Zeiss lenses have generally reviewed well and been passionately spoken for.

I ordered the Zeiss 35mm Distagon f1.4 ZM a week before they came in and the initial online reviews were scarce and very favorable. At approximately one-third of the price of the Leica equivalent I was looking forward to testing out the lens and deciding if my long and loyal following to owning only Leica glass was now dwindling.

Physically the lens is a little heavy for my liking; bulky and substantial, not balanced perfectly with the body. This isn’t a deal breaker for me as the optics far outweighs the extra size but it is a consideration and a minor irritation. The focus ring is a little tighter than I’m used to but the aperture is wonderfully smooth in third stop increments. The lens blocks the viewfinder a little but not enough for me to care. For all of it’s differences it is a beautifully well made lens in the true tradition of Zeiss and feels and looks better than in the Zeiss promotional shots.

Incidentally I am not going to post shots of my camera with the lens as you can see other reviewers do this. I am not a “professional” reviewer so I’d rather share my hopefully interesting opinions and see if this helps you decide on whether this lens might be of interest to you.

I’m in my favorite photographic haunt again of Aldeburgh, Suffolk, a fishing town with a wonderful English appeal and atmosphere.

The following shots were all taken with the Leica M240 with the Zeiss 35mm lens at various apertures. All were processed minimally in Lightroom with a little post processing but the essence of the lens’s signature is preserved. After you’ve looked at the shots I’ll let you know my personal opinion.

Shot 2 Oyster Fisherman

Shot 3 Lobster cages

Shot 4 Boats Windows

Shot 5 Gone Fishing

Shot 6 Boat Silhouette

Shot 7 Fisherman Sorting Catch

Shot 8 Woman On Beach

Shot 9 Boats at Dawn

Shot 10 Man by house

 

I hope you like these shots because in some ways they really surprised me. Now this may seem strange but the lens seems to give more pop and contrast than most Leica lenses I have used on my M240. The signature almost reminds me of the look I used to get with my M9. In other words if you are missing the M9 pop from your M240 and are looking for a 35mm lens I think you can do no better then with the Zeiss.

Just to re-iterate, when used with the M240 this lens gives you the subtlety of the M240 cmos sensor with the pop of the M9… a perfect combination.

This leads me to wonder if the colour and contrast of this lens on an M9 might be a little too saturated and contrasty but I am merely speculating. I love this lens and think that it actually feels very old school Leica rather than modern day Zeiss. It isn’t overly clinical in my opinion but is very sharp, handles flare extremely well, is very adaptable with various subjects and in the right light gives plenty of pop but at a third of the price. The bokeh isn’t distracting but also isn’t class leading either as subjective as this always is. I think reds do come out a little too red and saturated on the M240 which means they need toning down a little but the black and white conversions are wonderfully filmic. The M240 has always been very good for black and white and I think with this lens you get a real sense of depth and dynamic range.

I can strongly recommend this lens. Have you got this lens and do you share my opinions….?

Shot 11 Staircase

Shot 12 Lobster cages2

Shot 13 Aldeburgh Town

As always many thanks for reading,

Warm wishes

Howard Shooter
www.HowardShooter.com

(From Steve: POPFLASH has one Zeiss 35 1.4 in stock in black!)

Apr 242015
 

Pre-Order the new Zeiss Batis Lenses at B&H Photo!

You can now pre-order the new Zeiss Batis lenses at B&H Photo NOW. The Batis page is HERE and the 25 and 85 are available for pre-order. These are full frame AF lenses for the Sony A7 (FE) system. if you wanted a Zeiss but wanted Auto Focus, these are for you. The 25 f/2 will be $1299 and the 85 1.8 will come in at $1199. You can also pre-order at PopFlash.com HERE!

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Apr 212015
 

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The Sony Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon FE Lens Review. Best 35mm Lens Ever.

Yep. I said it. The spoiler. This is the best full frame 35mm lens I have ever used in my life. But remember, I only review items I love and adore, so if there is something out there I have not reviewed it is because I am not a fan of it, plain and simple. Before anyone says “you like everything you review” – well, YES this is true as I have said over 1,000 times here. If this lens was a dog it would not have been reviewed. So what you see me review on these pages is all gear that I love and adore because if it sucks, it is not worth my time, my 40-60 hours that it takes to do a review like this. With that said, this lens is indeed the best 35 OPTICALLY I have ever used.

This image was shot indoor, f/1.4, and with only a bit of natural light coming in from my kitchen door window. Click it for larger. 

katie1sh

Yes.

Better than ANY 35mm lens I have used in life, and that includes those from Nikon, Canon, Leica, or whoever…and I have used the best of the best. At f/1.4 it is stunning. Absolutely stunning. The lens is a masterpiece of optical quality from detail to color to bokeh. It is auto focus and the ONLY weakness it has is that it is quite large. I am used to Leica lenses, or smaller Sony lenses and this guy is a beast. No bigger than a Nikon or Canon or any DSLR lens, in fact, it is a teeny bit smaller than those beats income ways but not by much. Weight is around the same with this lens being about a few ounces heavier than the Canon and Nikon. (1.32lbs  vs 1.4lbs). Even so, after 2+ months with the lens, I am so impressed that I can confidently say this IS INDEED the best 35mm lens I have ever used, or reviewed or held. Yes, beats the Sigma 35 1.4 Art lens for those that were about to ask.

Below is the video I made for my 1st look report which was published HERE

Paired with the Sony A7, A7r, A7II or A7s, this lens delivers the goods but I especially loved it on the A7II. To me, the A7II is the pinnacle of the A7 series. The build, design, features, 5 Axis IS, Af speed, and superb low light capabilities really flesh out this system and mature it to another level. Yes, I own an A7s as well and have shot with the A7R and A7 extensively but the A7II, for me, is the most polished and nice A7 body yet. Notice I said YET as I know there is something else on the way,  I feel it in my bones, and hey, this is Sony..and they are on a roll..and I bet they want to strike while the iron is HOT. In the mirrorless world I feel Sony and Olympus are on fire with Fuji right behind. Nikon and Canon are seriously MIA with nothing new, fresh or competitive and the others keep releasing cameras hoping they will stick, and they never do. Leica is always beautiful but most can not afford a Leica setup. Sony is doing most things RIGHT today from design, performance, new lenses and price.

This lens is a tour de force of a 35mm. Versatile for low light and AF which is accurate and pretty fast for a 35 1.4 design. This was shot inside a limo at night. No problem ;) ISO 4000, ZERO NR, f/1.4

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Want to get up close and personal? The 35 1.4 has a minimum focus distance of .3 Meters which is GOOD.  1.4

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AF is snappy, even in dim light on the A7II – 1.4

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We can no longer say that “There is a lack of lenses for the Sony FE system”..because they now have MANY amazing lenses. The A7 system is less than two years old and Sony now has SO many good lenses..

1. The 55 1.8 Zeiss – A fantastic and sharp lens that gets rave reviews. 

2. The 35 2.8 Zeiss – Another fantastic sharp lens with the Zeiss pop. 

3. The 16-35 Zeiss – a superb wide-angle zoom, this one is one of the best I have tested for Ultra wide. (Review)

4. The 28 f/2 (stunner for cheap) – This is a must own lens, a superb value for under $450 (Review)

5. The new 35 1.4 (this review)

6. A new 90mm Macro! (Review soon)

7. Wide angle and fish attachment for the 28 (Review soon)

8. A pro level 70-200 – The standard 70-200 and this one is also fantastic.

8. Some mega pro zooms and some kit zooms

10. Zeiss Loxia Primes, the 35 and 50 (review of the 35 is HERE, the 50 is HERE)

and more.. From fisheye to ultra wide to telephoto to Macro Sony is now fleshing out the FE full frame lens system for the A7 series. They released lenses pretty fast and more will be on the way as there are many more planned lenses coming like a fast portrait prime. I feel an 85 and 135 will be here eventually, sooner rather than later.

This lens is stunning. This time at f/2. Crisp all the way around.

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I have quite a few image of Katie in this review as I used the lens for some of her Prom images..this one, f/1.4, converted to B&W using Alien Skin Exposure

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The Zeiss Magic & Pop Will Wow You

This lens is a Sony/Zeiss collaboration and it shows. Zeiss is a legend and has always been lumped in with Leica when it comes to image quality though they have always had their differences. With Zeiss you will usually get more 3D pop, richer and warmer color and USUALLY they are a tad softer than the Leica counterpart. With this lens, you are getting all of the 3D pop and color but even more detail where you need it over a Leica or other lens. At f/1.4 this lens could NOT be sharper. If it was, it would not be a good thing. As it is, it is PERFECT. When focusing on eyes (see and click on the very 1st image in this review) you can see what I mean. But it is here in all images I have shot with the lens so far and I have not had one hiccup with this lens, at all.

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With this lens, shooting wide open is where you will get the true character of the lens. If you want to shoot at f/2.8, you would be better off with the much smaller and lighter Zeiss 35 2.8 or Zeiss 35 f/2 Loxia. THIS lens, the f/1.4 Zeiss, seems optimized for wide open shooting, and this is where its beauty lies. Much like the Leica 35 1.4 Summilux FLE which is the lens that used to hold my title for best 35mm lens ever made for full frame digital. Today the Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 take that title as it is just so good, again, with the only weakness being the size. There is no distortion, there is no offending CA or problems, there is no vignetting and there is no softness or focus issues. I feel the reason for all of this is because Sony and Zeiss REALLY took their time with it and wanted it to be a WOW kind of lens. This is also why it is large. If it were smaller it would have issues like distortion and other things so I think it is fantastic that Sony chose to go the route of optical beauty vs optical issues.

I have seen 1-2 reports of people buying this lens and saying it is “soft”. This is so not the case. If you are getting soft images with this lens you either have a bad copy, have an issue with your camera body, are not focusing in the right spot (shallow DOF here is VERY THIN at 1.4) or you are mistaking Bokeh for being Out of Focus. There is nothing soft about this lens in any way, shape or form.

As I look over the images I have shot with the lens I am thrilled that Sony did what they had to do as they created a masterpiece. Anyone who loves t he 35mm focal length will be THRILLED with this lens on any A7 series body. I used it mainly on my A7II which is the A7 I use 90% of the time these days. Still own and love my A7s  but the A7II just clicks all of my boxes.

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This lens is good for color or for B&W conversions as you can see above and below. You can go light on the contrast or heavy on the contrast. By default, this lens puts out a medium contrast  – not too hard and not too soft.

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But one thing remains a constant with this lens. It delivers the goods each and every time I bring it out or use it. From deep rich color, to beautiful black and white to nice creamy bokeh (background blur) that will not give you a headache, this lens shows what the Sony A7 system is capable of. I have tried the Sigma Art lenses. I have shot with the Canon 35L on a 5DII, I have shot with the Nikon 35 1.4 on a D800 as well as the Zeiss ZF 35 1.4. I have owned and shot with the Leica 35 1.4 Summilux, all versions. It is safe to say that I have had great experience with all full frame 35 1.4 lenses.

This Sony is the best one I have ever used for my tastes as it does everything right. Period. The one that comes closest is the Zeiss 35 1.4 Zf, then the Sigma Art 35 1.4. Last place would be the Canon 35L as it is getting a but long in the tooth, even when used on a 5DII or III. The size of the DSLR 35 1.4’s range from Large to Beastly and this Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 is at the large end. It’s a beast, and a few ounces heavier than the Nikon or Canon (1.4 vs 1.32lbs). After a few snaps you do get used to the size, though I admit I will always prefer a smaller lens. If this lens could be made in a small size it would be one of those legendary must own lenses.

The Leica 35 Lux is small, but manual focus only, a not so close minimum focus distance (.7 meters vs .3 of the Sony) and it does not offer the overall total IQ of this Sony/Zeiss. It is also $5400, so quite a bit more expensive. It is a jewel though, a beautiful legendary lens that was at the top of the heap for IQ. It is good to know that this Sony is up there in the same league as the Leica at a fraction of the cost.

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Before I end this quick lens review, let me show you a few comparison shots. Below you will find the same image taken with the Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4, the Zeiss 35 f/2 Loxia, the 35 2.8 Zeiss, the 16-35 at 35mm and for grins, the Leica 35 Summicron at f/2 (I do not own the Lux). I will show each lens shot at f/2 to keep it the same aperture except the 16-35 will be at f/4 as  that is wide open for that particular lens and the 35 2.8 at 2.8 for the same reason.

It is a LARGE lens  – left to right: Leica 35 Cron, Zeiss 35 2.8, Zeiss Loxia 35, Zeiss 16-35, Zeiss 35 1.4

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I am not looking for detail or sharpness here, as ANY of these lenses will deliver on that. ALL are fantastic in their own right. But I am looking at color, pop, depth, bokeh, and overall character of image, which is why 99% of us buy these types of lenses…character. A lens like this is not bought for low light or high ISO use, it is mainly bought because so many of us LOVE the character of a fast lens.

YOU MUST click images for the correct view..

1st the 35 1.4 at f/2 on the A7II

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Now the Zeiss Loxia 35 f/2 at f/2 on the A7II

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Now the 35 2.8 on the A7II (at 2.8)

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Now the 16-35 at 35 at f/4

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and finally, the 35 Summicron on the A7II

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Which do YOU prefer? 

I still prefer the Sony Zeiss 35 1.4 but ALL are great, even the 16-35 at 35mm and f/4 renders a great image with contrast and pop. To me, the most amount of depth and 3D comes from the Sony 35 1.4 but all are great and most would have a hard time figuring out which is which. Goes to show, most lenses made today are good and get the job done though these lenses above are all $800 and up, all the way to $3300 for the Leica 35 Cron (though it is my #2 pick as the IQ is fantastic and the size is TINY). I will say if all you care about is corner to corner perfection your best bet is the Sony 35 2.8, but it will lack in Character compared to the 35 1.4, Zeiss Loxia, Leica cron, etc.

DETAILS!

Below is a 100% crop from this 35 1.4 Zeiss on the A7II. Plenty of detail for me! THIS is wide open!

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My Final Word on the Zeiss 35 1.4 for the Sony FE System

I love this lens. Period. For me, it is the absolute best 35mm 1.4 lens I have ever shot with, used or tested when it comes to image quality. As you know, I do not go by charts or graphs, I go by real world shooting. Using a camera and lens for what they are meant to be used for..images..memories…the main reason we take pictures! For pros, if you have a 35mm in your kit you owe it to yourself to give this one a try. It is a beauty of a lens and now takes the title as the best 35mm lens I have tested or used. THAT says a lot. If you have this lens and you are not getting astounding quality with it then you may have a dud, which is not cool, but it is NOT the norm for this piece of glass. For me, this lens is perfect for just about anything you want to shoot. Environmental portraits, fashion, every day life, landscapes, still life or what have you.

This lens takes the A7 series to the next level. AF is speedy for a 35 1.4 (bested the Art 35 1.4 when I used it on the Canon 6D) and 100% accurate on my A7II. Never did I get a misfocus. I also shot some personal images on my A7s and the results were just as fantastic as they were on the A7Ii with a slightly different feel due to the different look of the A7s sensor (slight).

So I highly recommend this lens. It’s the best of the native lenses I have used for the FE system. $1600 is expensive but cheaper than the competition while being better. Bam. Sony did it again.

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Where to buy?

You can BUY/ORDER OR PRE-ORDER this lens at Amazon HERE or B&H Photo HERE. 

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Apr 172015
 

One from the Sony A7II and Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4

Many have been asking me when my full review for the Sony/Zeiss 35 1.4 Lens will be out. Well, I have been so swamped with all kinds of goodies lately, and I did not want to rush the Sony review so I will be wrapping it up within 10 days or so. For now, I will say that just as I thought in my 1st look report (see that here), this Sony 35 1.4 is the best 35mm lens I have ever shot with, period. For me it beats the Leica 35 1.4 Summilux, it beats the Zeiss 35 1.4 Zm, it beats the Nikon 35 1.4, and handily beat the Canon 35 1.4 L. It has an extreme sharpness at 1.4 but ONLY at the focus point. The background melts away into a beautiful bokeh and the color performance is top notch.

THIS lens, optically, is amazing. As good as it gets in the 35mm world. I will leave you with ONE shot I snapped an hour ago of my Stepdaughter Katie just before her Senior prom.

Review in about 7-10 days.

Indoor, NO flash (I never use flash) and just some soft window light. Shot at f/1.4. Click it for larger. Sony A7II. 

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Apr 162015
 

Shooting the Sony A7r at 12800 ISO

by Dirk De Paepe

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Dear Steve, Brandon and all site visitors. Here’s a very brief post of mine. It’s about my camera, the Sony A7r, and its ability to shoot at higher ISO’s.

I’m posting this because I’d like to put a bit of counterweight to so many opinions in this matter, that have been posted all over the internet, regarding the A7r. I even have the impression that many even see the “r” as the underdog of the A7 family, the more now the A7II has been succeeding the A7. Reason is said to be because the “r” has “bad” high ISO performance. … ??!

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Well, I never experienced that as such anyway. Of course I acknowledge that the “s” has the best low light performance. But I really never experienced that my “r” is falling short in this department, the more while I have so much more pixels at my disposal and I can seriously boost its low light performance by reducing its resolution in post production. After all, there’s a long way to go, before I “drop” to the A7s’s resolution. And when I have a reduction of pixels in mind, I even can perform some “Luminance” in Adobe’s Raw Converter. This isn’t a process without danger though, because it diminishes the detail and needs to be done with great care. So how do I proceed?

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Applying Luminance can in a way be compared to applying Unsharp Mask. Both need to be done with great care, otherwise you end up with a result that you really don’t want. Important in both cases is to look at the largest size that you want to use, when fine tuning. When sharpening I guess you’ll look at 100%, probably ending up with some limited sharpening at 0,5px. But when you shoot at very high ISO with the “r” and you want to reduce the size, there’s no use in judging the IQ at 100%. So what I do is applying the Luminance at full size, but judging at for instance 66%. Reducing afterwards the resolution to 66% still gives you a 16MP file. Up till now I often applied this technique with good results for ISO’s up to about 4000, largely reducing the gap with the “s”. (I don’t proclaim that it eliminates it completely.)

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In one of his articles Steve stated about the next Leica M that it had to deliver acceptable IQ at 12800 ISO. I guess he often shoot with less light than I do, because I really never need that kind of ISO. Still it encouraged me to go for an little experiment. So I just put the ISO at 12800 and went for some shots, seeing where I would end up. In the pictures hereunder, you can see the result. Of course there is some more grain than at low ISO (but the “s” as well produces grain at higher ISO’s), still I can say that I was pleasantly surprised with this IQ and, again IMO, I’d call this IQ very acceptable for sure. BTW, looking online for A7s pictures, I didn’t really find a lot of pictures, shot at this ISO, let alone higher, even not at sites that call themselves specialized in high ISO.

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As I wrote in a former article, IMO the A7r offers very good high ISO performance. Of course it’s outclassed by the “s”. But when processing the pics as described, one can come a long way, reducing the gap enough for me to largely prefer “r”. Personally, I definitely prefer this sensor, that offers me very good ISO as well as superb resolution. I rank it well above the 12MP sensor of the “s” that is too dedicated to situations that I virtually never meet. Again IMO.

To conclude, with the A7rII coming very soon now, that will offer even better IQ than the present “r”, that will feature the new and improved body of the A7II and the silent shutter of the “s” (if I’m well-informed), the high-resolution version within the A7 family will more than ever be thé way to go for me.

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All shots posted here were shot at 12800 ISO, even although it really wasn’t necessary. But, like I said, this was an experiment. Although I’d normally would have taken all of those shots quite a bit slower, putting the ISO that high resulted in producing a certain character, a character that one really can look for – like one used to (or still can) choose a very fast film for its grain. When shooting digital, part of this “creative process” needs to be done in post, and needs to be repeated with every picture. But I’m sure, with some experience, one can do it pretty fast.

For the first four pictures, shot in the garage, I used the Zeiss Loxia 2/50. The next four were shot with the Canon Lens FD 85mm 1:1.2 S.S.C. Aspherical, which is still one of my favorite 85s. As said, the resolution was reduced, but in all pics it still exceeds the A7s resolution. Don’t forget to click on them for a better quality. And on my flickr pages, you can find a dedicated album, called “12800 ISO”, with all those pics in full resolution.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/keepnitgood/sets/72157650993342429/

Thanks for reading to everybody and for publishing to Steve and Brandon. This site really is the best, don’t you think!…

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