Thailand with M glass and the Sony A7rII
By Guillaume Dutilh
Travel photography has always been a compromise between quality, bulk, weight and inconspicuousness. Being a minimalist at heart, putting together a travel friendly photo system that would deliver on all these points was a fun challenge to tackle. I used to shoot Nikon full-frame bodies paired with Nikon’s top glass and while the quality was there, the combos quickly became too heavy and cumbersome to carry around. That’s when I decided to switch to the A7 system. But as Sony would release new lenses, I’d fall back into the trap and buy them! I quickly realized that I was facing the same issues as with the Nikon gear: my kit was getting too heavy and bulky again!
A Thai makes lucky charm bracelets – Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar
Thais maneuvering their longtail boat in front of Koh Tao’s smoggy sunset – Leica 135mm f/4 Tele-Elmar
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Thailand for three weeks. It was a backpacking trip and I committed to embracing that lightweight aspect of traveling, even if it meant leaving some of the photo gear home. I’d pack all my belongings in a 33L backpack and all my photography gear in a very small messenger style shoulder bag. To keep the kit minimal yet versatile, I chose all M-mount rangefinder lenses and I did my best to keep the total cost as affordable as possible (for M-mount lenses that is)! Being a scuba diver too, I packed a GoPro, RX100III and underwater housing in the backpack, but in hindsight wish I hadn’t. For the purpose of this article, I’ll ignore the underwater gear and just consider it just wasted space and weight added to my pack.
Feeding rescued elephants at Elephant Nature Park – Voigtländer 15mm f/4.5
Buddhist statue in Chiang Mai – Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar
Everything I packed fit in a carry-on sized backpack and camera bag. I won’t lie, I was pretty proud of the achievement! Here is the photo kit I ended up with for Thailand:
- Sony A7rII
- Voigtländer Close-Focus Adapter
- Voigtländer 15mm f/4.5 II Heliar
- Voigtländer 21mm f/4 Color-Skopar
- Leica 40mm f/2 Summicron
- Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar
- Leica 90mm f/4 Macro-Elmar
- Leica 135mm f/4 Tele-Elmar
Batteries, memory cards, filters, tools, tiny tripod, small flash, remote, white balance card, small air rocket, cloth, Peak Design strap, pen, lens-pen
It was a little tight but everything listed above fit in a cheap and tiny water-resistant Bestek messenger shoulder camera bag.
The entire travel photo kit!
I already owned the 15mm and 40mm lenses before this trip. I even had a tiny Leica 90mm f/2.8 Tele-Elmarit but sold it and splurged on the Macro version because it’s slightly better and collapsible. One of the main reasons I picked the 21mm, 40mm, 90mm and 135mm is because they all use the same 39mm filter thread, greatly simplifying filters. I also splurged on the 50mm because I’ve always wanted to play with that lens.
Standing Buddha in Bangkok – Leica 90mm f/4 Macro-Elmar
Tourist traps outside of Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai – Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar
Let me tell you, exploring Thailand with such a small kit was an eye-opening blast. I can’t imagine myself traveling any other way, it’s just not worth it. Here is a brief write-up of my impressions about each lens paired on the A7rII.
Voigtländer Close-Focus Adapter: this guy is a no brainer for mounting M-mount glass on the A7 system (or any E-mount for that matter). It’s very well made and allows for much closer focusing distances than with standard adapters. I was hoping I’d receive the new Techart autofocus adapter for the trip but it didn’t make it in time. That being said, I’ve played a little with the Teacart since and while it works ok (only tried it on the 50mm), it searches a bit, is loud and bulkier. It also gets in the way of the L-Plate I use on the camera, making it almost impossible to use a tripod with an Arca-like plate. But, when it’s not searching for it, it does nail the focus nicely. After playing with it though, I realized I didn’t miss it.
Thai Tourist helper – Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar
Voigtländer 15mm f/4.5 II Heliar: This one was a little weird. For whatever reason, 15mm ended up being either too wide or not wide enough for what I was shooting. Maybe I’m not very good with super-wides but I just couldn’t find the right framing with it so it didn’t make it out of the bag very often. I might sound like an extremist minimalist but the 52mm filter diameter was a little too big for my taste! Corner performance isn’t the best out there but is still acceptable. Vignetting is probably more of an issue than smearing, but not that much of deal breaker either. I still love the lens for its small size and acceptable image quality. I also own the new Voigtländer E-mount 15mm and while it does perform better, it is significantly larger and has an even larger filter thread. For these reasons, I’m still unsure of which one to get rid of!
Koh Tao secluded beach – Voigtländer 15mm f/4.5 Heliar
Voigtländer 21mm f/4 Color-Skopar: Awesome little lens! Sure the corners aren’t 100% perfect but they are still pretty darn good. The 39mm filter threads and microscopic size make this lens a winner in my book. It pairs beautifully with the A7 system making for an extremely compact and discrete system.
A blind elephant at the Elephant Nature Park – Voigtländer 21mm f/4 Color-Skopar
Leica 40mm f/2 Summicron: I owned this lens before Sony came out with the A7 system. It doesn’t have the most pleasing bokeh and is not the sharpest lens on the A7rII but I still love it for it’s mini size and 39mm filter threads (I’m sure you are picking up the pattern here). I wanted a lens between 21mm and 50mm that would have corners more usable then the Zeiss 50mm, which I why I packed this one. It’s about the same size as the 21mm, so small misplacing it on the bag is almost a consideration! In the end though, I didn’t shoot it that much.
The back side of Maya Bay in Ko Phi Phi – Leica 40mm f/2 Summicron
Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar: This lens is just pure joy to shoot with. It was never designed to be sharp in the corners and therefore won’t be, even at f/8. If you know that going in and are OK with it, it’ll reward you with beautiful captures and a unique look in a very small package. I actually like the pop, colors and contrast of this lens better when it’s shot wide open than when it’s stopped down, even when shooting a distant subject. The 3D effect is intense and bokeh of course is creamy. Ironically though, the out-of-focus corners are somewhat sharper than the out-of-focus center. The only drawback I can think of is the 46mm filter threads. It is now the main lens attached to my A7rII.
Frighteningly realistic wax statue of a Monk – Zeiss 50mm f/2 Sonnar
Leica 90mm f/4 Macro-Elmar: Stellar performer, nothing bad to report here. I picked it because of it’s super small size, especially collapsed, and 39mm filter threads. Paired with the Voigtländer close-focus adapter, it gets decently close but I’m not sure I’d praise its macro ability just yet. I used to have the Sony E-mount 90mm f/2.8 macro, so it’s tough to compare the macro performance of the Leica to the excellent Sony lens (that I ironically sold because I didn’t find myself shooting much macro, and it was huge). More testing needs to be done with the Leica close-focus adapter (I didn’t carry it on the trip). Maybe even some extension rings? Did I just say I didn’t shoot macro much?
One of the many colorful crabs in Thailand – Leica 90mm f/4 Macro-Elmar (and flash)
Leica 135mm f/4 Tele-Elmar: Another stellar performer. It’s about as small as it gets for a lens in that focal range but it is heavy (505gr) and a little too long to fit nicely in the bag I chose. It performs great though, and of course has the beloved 39mm filter diameter.
Lonely Thai long tail boat in the sunset in Koh Tao – Leica 135mm f/4 Tele-Elmar
I came back from the trip with loads of photos and a desire to minimize the rig even more! The 40mm and 50mm are too close and I shouldn’t have packed both after all, which I suspected might happen. I didn’t need as much corner sharpness in the 50mm focal range after all. I also preferred using the 21mm over the 15mm. I really enjoyed shooting the 135mm, but it’s just so large and heavy compared with the others lenses that I think I would’ve been fine with the 90mm only.
Thai boxing in Chiang Mai – Leica 135mm f/4 Tele-Elmar
James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay – Leica 40mm f/2 Summicron
Shooting for three weeks with this ensemble was way more fun than I expected. The drawbacks that come with using rangefinder glass on the Sony A7 system (corner performance for some lenses, challenging manual focus for others) were quickly eclipsed by the size advantage, build and image quality, unique look and by the feeling you get manipulating such nice optics. As a matter of fact, it was such an enjoyable experience that most of my native E-mount lenses are now going up for sale! Having to switch between primes and shooting in manual focus greatly improved the percentage of “keepers” I came back with.
Fire dancers on Ko Phi Phi – Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar
A Thai fisherman works his line in Phang Nga Bay – Leica 135mm f/4 Tele-Elmar
Ever since I returned, I’ve been using the same bag but the only lenses you’ll find in it are the 21mm, 50mm and 90mm and it’s been great. I’m wondering if one of the 28mm or 35mm M-mount would be a good addition to this kit, especially for more landscape and street photography. But honestly, I haven’t felt a dire need for it and I can’t really afford the 28mm or 35mm I want! Maybe some of your readers have recommendations in that range. The only different set up I’d be interested in testing is traveling with the two Leica Tri-Elmar, though I have no idea how they perform on the A7rII sensor and if I can’t afford a 28mm Summicron, I certainly can’t afford the Tri-Elmar. Or maybe it’s time to sell even more lenses?
A paddle-boarding couple enjoys the warmth of the setting sun in Koh Tao – Leica 90mm f/4 Macro-Elmar
Kabu broke her ankle in an illegal logging accident. Since she couldn’t pull logs anymore, her owners started using her as a trek elephant to carry tourists 10hrs per day. Elephant Nature Park purchased her from her abusers and gave her a loving home outside of Chiang Mai. – Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar
Thank you Steve for allowing me to contribute to the great photographic resource you’ve created. I hope this article helps some of your photographer readers looking for alternative shooting on Sony A7 bodies. If you like my photography style, consider following my Instagram account and visiting my website: PhotoXplorer.
Congratulations with the article ànd the pictures, Guillaume, I absolutely loved them both! Especially those sunset pictures have incredible mood.
Your philosophy towards gear is very comparable with mine, so I can find myself in everything you write. Still we made some slightly different conclusions. BTW, I have always been a MF guy, so I’m really pleased to read about how you have been turned over to the MF-camp. 🙂
But indeed, I find size and weight to be major factors as well, when deciding about any purchase. That’s why I own quite some M-mount lenses myself. I started buying them, in the days that I stil thought of one day buying a Leica body… But since the A7 series, I’m “cured” from that, 🙂 although I wish that Sony would also make a basic version of the A7RII, almost like Leica does with the M-D, but then WITH tiltable screen for low and high shots ànd with EVF. But NO menu and thus only “real” controls for direct access to the functions.
Anyway, fact is that the M-lenses give you indeed the most compact and lightweight gear-pack. Still, I personally have chosen for the Loxia way, although I probably will never sell my M-mounts. But fact is that I have ended up using the Loxia’s for 99% of my work. I’ll tell you why. The Loxia’s are (because of them being MF) clearly more compact than the Sony lenses, (but yes, they are one stage larger then M-mount) and their price is pretty comparable with the Zeiss M-mount range. BUT the main reason is: their IQ is about the best you can get for FE bodies, clearly better than all M-mounts I have ever tried, Leica included (IMO, but I’m not alone in this). The extra electronic functions are a bonus, but not decisive. Yet also their feel, both in use and built, is just a bit on a higher level then M-mount, to my taste, and sooo much better than any autofocus FE lens, Batis included. Their range is about perfect, with a magnificent 21mm, a lovely 35 and an impregnable 50 – soon to be completed with a short tele (85, 90? – we’ll probably see it at Photokina, but the space in my Zeiss Loxia case tells me it’s not gonna be longer than a 90. I’m personally hoping for a Sonnar 2/85.) Regarding space and weight, when you let out the 15 and 135 of your kit, the total of the four Loxia’s would probably be very comparable. So this set is really very well managable, although M-mount retains the advantage in the size matter.
Regarding your invitation for any suggestions to fill up the gap between your 21 and 50, I must strongly advice you to try (maybe rent) the Voigtländer Nokton Classic 35mm/1.4. This is an incredibly beautiful lens. Very compact, not expensive, fast, and a great performer. In the days before Loxia, I also owned the Leica 35 Summicron for a while and found this Nokton to equal the Leica in all domains and even clearly outperform it in the corners! But that is of course when used on the Sony body, where the Leica wide angles are not to be preferred (nor the Zeiss ZM’s for that matter.) So this little Nokton is an absolute marvel and will perfectly add to your gear, IMO, filling up the gap between 21 and 35 in a more balanced way than a 40. The 35 has always been thé most used option for street shooting, and this come not by accident. It combines great DOF (for large zone focusing) with a not too wide field of view, so that you stil can get people pretty big in the frame, without having to come rediculously close. And with its 1.4 aperture, you will also benefit from serious shallow dof possibilities, which are far more limited with any 28 or wider. So absolutely, Guillaume, try the 35/1.4 and let me know! 😉
Thanks for your kind words. I actually owned the Loxia 35mm and sold it and now have my loxia 50mm up for sale too. I guess I still found them to be slightly too large. One challenge with having to deal with both E-mount and M-mount lenses is that you now have to consider the adapter. Let’s say I’m shooting with the Zeiss 50mm with adapter and switch to the Loxia 35mm E-mount, I’ll probably take the 50+adapter combo off in one move. If I want to go back to the 50mm, that’s fine. But if I want to go to my Voigtlander 21mm, I have to finagle with the adapter from one lens to another. Doesn’t sound like much trouble but I find it to be enough of a pain that I’d rather keep them either all E-mount or M-mount in the field.
I’ll have to try the 35/1.4 you mentioned. I used to own a Nokton a while back, shooting on the NEX-7 and it was OK. Thanks for the suggestions
Well, I can totally get you. Me too, I’m thinking on a regular basis that the M-mounts are more convenient in size. But I have decided on the Loxia series (the 21mm is absolutely brilliant, BTW) because there isn’t any adapter needed and the use is slightly superior, as well is the IQ. The Leica and Zeiss ZM wide angles not being in the game is another contra for the M’s. But, as I said, I’m keeping my M-mounts, because they are so close in performance and because, just maybe, there will be a day that I might just feel to wanna use them again – just for the even more “classic” handling… 🙂
Same way of thinking, with a slight nuance.
Great photographies and great review my friend,
Sony A7 r2 is a top camera, I have one and nearly same gear than you for rendering and compactness (not for micro sharpness) I can share with my Leica M system (especially my lovelly M3 black) and my Nikon:
Voigtlander 15 II
NIKKOR 20. 2’8 ais
Nikkor 28. 2’8 Ais
Canon Ltm 50. 1’4
Micro Nikkor 55. 2’8 ais
Leica tele elmarit 90. 2’8
Micro Nikkor 105. 2″8 ais
Nikkor 200. F4. Ai
All work greatly with A7r2 and are not so very far of top Zeiss, Sony, Leica and have a great rendering.
Thank you for this great photos of Thailand.
Wow! Thanks for your kind words. Glad to hear that you have similar success with the smaller setups.
How do you like the voigtlander 40mm?
Great article with some really nice captures Guillaume!
If I may ask you a question, I really like your white balances and seeing that you carry a card, how often would you say you use it?
AWB on the Sony is overall pretty good, but in a lot of situations I’m just not happy with it and I find myself always rebalancing it in post. Do you use manual wb often, and do you find that helpful or you’re still correcting them after anyway?
Thanks Diego, glad you liked it!
I actually have virtually never used the card… I end up shooting mostly in AWB and adjusting if I don’t like the results. You are right in your conclusion that the Sony gets fooled sometimes with AWB. Nikon and Canon seem to perform better in that field. But usually I end up using AWB in raw. I do end up adjusting it, but not too often.
Great written piece, with some amazing accompanying photos. I also love to shoot my A7 (original) with two Voigtländers (15/4.5 III Heliar and 40/1.4 Nokton) and Leica 90/2.5 Summarit. The whole kit fits in the same space as an old aps-c dSLR with single kit lens would have taken up, but as you alluded to in the article, it’s so much more fun to shoot with, and the results are nothing short of breath taking. Your photos just inspire me to get my camera out more!
Wow, thanks for your kind words! I’m glad to hear the article I came up with was of use, whether in picking gear or just using it.
Wonderful images and some great info that should inspire other prospective travel photographers.
Thank you very much Fergus, I appreciate your kind words!
Great series, Gujillaume, altho most of the info about lens, etc, went right thru from ear to ear. But I thought it was terrific.
Haha, thanks for reading through Grammy. I hope at least some of the photos were entertaining 🙂
This article was the most enjoyable read for me in the last year. I shoot with the 135 f4 and the 90 elmarit on the A7rii. I regret dropping the 50 summilux for the af 55 sonnar but it is still quite good. I have been on the verge of hitting submit on the 85 g master at least 5 times, all the way to the point i hold and touch the elmarit. I totally understand what you mean by valuing a compact system. Im now going to look at 21 loxia reviews and may dump my larger 16-35 FE thanks to your influence. I realize that i haven’t been using my wide zoom because its so dang cumbersome.
Wow, thanks for your kind words. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed reading this so much! I had the 21mm Loxia for a little while but ended up returning it. Not because of performance or anything, but just because I wasn’t going to shoot it much. If I’m gonna go through the trouble of going manual focus, I might as well go with a teeny tiny lens. The Loxia was still to big for my taste. That’s why I sold my Loxia 35mm and have the Loxia 50mm up for sale too. I even have the 25mm Batis that hasn’t been shot in a while either, too big too! Might go up for sale as well.
I know how you feel about the 85mm. I’ve been there too. Every time though, I have to remind myself why I switched to the A7 system, and even though the 85 is a beautiful lens, I just can’t justify it anymore. Too big of course, and I wouldn’t shoot it enough. I’m satisfied enough with the bokeh-kick I get out of the Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar.
Again, I’m super glad to hear you enjoyed my article! Hopefully I’ll be submitting more.
Thanks for the post Guillaume!
I´m thinking about getting the Leica 90 macro. How do do you think it performs for normal photography compared to the Sony E-mount 90mm f/2.8 macro , both mounted on A7RII?
Glad you like it! Honestly it’s a bit tough to say since I sold the Sony 90mm pretty quickly after getting it so I can’t really do a direct comparison. On the A7rII, the 90mm Sony is surgically sharp and a better macro lens than the Leica for sure, but not my much. For normal use though, I’d pretty much always take the Leica over the Sony. Unless you’re in a lab environment, I doubt you’d ever see a difference in image quality. The Leica is plenty sharp and the weight and size advantage alone makes it a complete no brainer for every day use, as long as you’re ok with always manual focusing. For any serious macro work, the Sony will be better, but I don’t do all that much macro, so it’s perfect for the way I shoot. Mostly landscapes and other random stuff with a hint of macro here and there. I still need to look into extension rings for the Leica. Unfortunately, the genuine Leica adapter (goggly eyes) won’t mount because it hits the camera body. But the goggly eyes would be useless on the Sony anyway! Leica makes a cool new adapter for the 90mm, without the eyes and that can have the lens focused to infinity when collapsed. It’s stupid expensive though at $695… but I might still have to get it 😛
Anyhow, here are two shots from the A7rII kinda comparing both lenses though it’s not really a fair setting:
– Sony 90mm f/2.8 @ f/8 ISO 400 1/100 sec: https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-9zvvhkD/0/O/i-9zvvhkD.jpg
– Leica 90mm f/4 probably @ f/8 ISO 1000 1/125 sec: https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-hQZDKmZ/0/O/i-hQZDKmZ.jpg
Very good article. Since I got the Sony A7 in 2013, I have been looking for small, faster and light weighted lenses to go with it.
Today, one of my travel system consists following.
Fotodiox Pro LM-NEX adopter
Voigtlaender 21mm F1.8 Ultron
Voigtlaender 40mm F1.4 Nokton
Voigtlaender 75mm F1.8 Heliar
As showed in this picture https://www.flickr.com/photos/113208796@N07/27881129336/in/dateposted/
There are at least two things I do not like. Firstly, 21mm Ultron and 75mm Heliar are a little too heavy. Secondly, all three lenses have different filter sizes.
As you said, it’s all about compromise.
Thank you Frank. Nice kit you have. I used to shoot the 40mm on a Minolta CLE, it was a lot of fun but sold it before I switched to the Sony system. The two other lenses do look pretty hefty! That 21mm is way bigger than I thought it would be.
Finding the perfect, compact travel kit is a huge task, and you can’t learn from others because it’s absolutely individual. I made the same journey, coming from a DSLR kit with big, fast AF zooms, battery grip and stuff. Today I’m using a A6000 with 1-3 primes, and I even don’t need a bag at all.
When going light, it doesn’t mean to just have a couple of lenses. But to choose the right ones for the task. On my first trip, I took a 15mm, 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 135mm – similar to your choice. Way too many! It doesn’t make sense to cover your whole zoom range with primes. But it gave me some numbers and insights where each lens excels.
Today, I think about what photographic encounters I might run into, and pack for these circumstances. I have a whole bunch of primes, but just choose a three-lens set (normally) or even just a two-lens set if the environment is more predictable. Out of this set, I then just grab one or two lenses for the photo walk/session and leave the rest in the hotel/car. I’ve been to the Philippines just earlier this year with just the 15, 35 and 50mm. For a city trip to Lisbon, I took the 24 and 35mm last year and 35 and 50mm this year. A recent trip to the North Sea was accompanied by 15, 24 and 135mm lenses. I’m constantly swapping my kit for the anticipate opportunities – not to mention different primes of a single focal length with different character or AF vs. MF lenses.
My kit fits into a small ONA Roma insert with spare batteries, cards and a small tripod. When going out, I try to choose just one lens which stays attached to the body and just hangs from my shoulder all the time. The rest goes into my pockets. If I haven’t any, I use a kind of fanny pack around my shoulder too. So it’s all super light and unobtrusive.
Nice! That Ona seems like a nice little insert/bag, I’ll have to look into it as mine is kind of falling apart already. I agree with you on the primes approach, though I’ll be perfectly honest, it was tough for me not to cover as much as I could with primes for this trip to Thailand. I had never been to that part of the world and wanted to make sure I was set. Of course now that I’m back, I think I’d only pack the 21, 50 and 90. That’s basically the only lenses I really use nowadays.
I’ve heard amazing things about the A6300, maybe I’ll give it a look, thought it’s a little tough for me to get away from full-frames…
Love the wide photo of the elephant with the watermelon!
Thank you very much! I have to be honest, I saw another guy do it with his camera, so really it was his initial idea 🙂
Some very nice images Guillaume. I am thinking of doing something similar in southern Mexico. Anyway did you just have one body? no backup? Also did you ever feel a bit limited by shooting with fixed length lenses and what I assume just one camera? For instance the portrait of the monk is very nice but it would be nice to see a wide shot that would show context. I always like to juxtapose details / close ups with wider views. That is why I find the only way to shoot with primes on the street / on travel / at events is to have 2 bodies with 2 different focal lengths.
Your photos look nicer when expanded to full. Did you do any color treatment? Do you feel that the ZA 24-70 f:4 would have given you worse results?
Anyway focusing in low light is situations like the photo of the guy playing with fire requires skill and eye.
Personally I find the AF in general faster than my MF skills. unless it is a 20mm wide angle.
Thank you Stefano! I did carry a Sony RX100 for underwater photography but I don’t know if I’d call it a backup. It stayed in my backpack and never came on excursions unless it was a scubadiving or snorkeling adventure. Honestly, I’ve just considered my iPhone to be my backup.
As far as being able to capture context, I did but I would swap lenses.
You can see a couple more of the Monk statues shots below:
– Probably on the 15mm: https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-gP7gsff/0/O/i-gP7gsff.jpg
– With the 50mm again: https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-3PrW28z/0/O/i-3PrW28z.jpg
I don’t really want to have to carry two bodies. The A7 body is relatively small but still significant. Even carrying an extra A6300 or so would seem too much for me.
I do like how the photos look full size indeed! All of them have been treated with Lightroom to make them look more like what I remembered and what I think looks good. If you want you can see what the Monk and Thai man look like unprocessed, straight out of camera:
– Monk: https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-CHjKpwv/0/O/i-CHjKpwv.jpg
– Thai man: https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-MSzwwG6/0/O/i-MSzwwG6.jpg
As far as the 24-70mm f/4, I think this lens was underwhelming (I owned one and sold it). It isn’t as good as the primes I was using on this trip and just not as much fun to use. What I like about the primes is that it’s a process. Once the lens is on the camera, I’m more committed to a focal length than with a zoom. If I want a different framing, I have to consciously put the lens cap on, go into my bag, grab another lens, swap it, deal with the lens caps again, put the other lens away. Or I have to walk back and forth. This process makes me question if a photo is worth taking or not. I might not come back with as many photos as if I had an autofocus zoom lens, heck I might even miss some shots, but I come back home with many many more keepers! The percentage of worthy photos is much higher than if I had the luxury to zoom in and out and autofocus. And of course… the size 🙂
Thanks for your reply. I understand your arguments. I think I could work with 2 primes if I have 2 bodies. I did an assignment with the 28mm and 55mm recently.
I photograph people a lot, strangers. I feel that if I start fiddling with the lenses they may be less patient or even willing. I like your monk photos but it was a very static settings.
The other day I saw an senior polish lady picking some polish mag at the convenience store. SHe had an amazing outfit. I had the 55mm on and I wish I had a 35 mm on. she moved so fast that I had no real time to move to get the right framing.
So I find it hard to give up zooms. My copy of the 24-70 is actually very satisfactory. Stopped down to f8 or f9 is not so much worse than the 55mm. A litlle less detail and contrast but not much (while the A6000 with the 16-50 aor 16-70 can not compete).
Do you find these old lenses have less contrast than the new ones?
Anyway some great shots, comsistent and great editing too ( i liked the boat on the river editing, I am wondering if you are using color channels or split toning – all these Mastin lab plug ins that imitate film are all the rage, but yours seem more subdued and personal).
Anyway I also consider bringing 2 bodies in case one breaks or might be stolen ( i cracked the LCD of my A7 on a trip even if I had a screen protector).
Anyway I am really curious about your underwater photos. I shoot underwater too,
I use a Nikon J4 with an underwater housing that I got for really cheap as a close out.
So you had an enclosure for the RX100?
I ordered a refurb RX10 for travel, as I am not happy with the standard zooms for the A6000 that i usually bring as a backup.
I have some albums at Facebook.com/stefpix my website has only stuff shot with Nikon, I need to update it.
I can see how it could be useful for people. I’m honestly not much of a people shooter, I’m too shy in that sense and feel like I’m invading their privacy. It actually makes ME uncomfortable to shoot strangers for that reason! But, I did force myself in Thailand. I asked the first local to teach me how to say “picture?” in Thai, and how to count up to “three” to put them somewhat at ease. It really worked! I always do that with the little people shooting I do. Counting to three, slowly, gives me time to focus the 50mm: “one…. two… threeeeeeeee(damn it, focus on the eyelash)eeeeeeeeeeeeeeSNAP” Usually takes about five to seven seconds in real time. Haha. I think having the smaller rig also helps with strangers being photographed. It’s not as daunting of a camera I guess.
As far as contrast in the lenses, I’m not too sure. I’m not very “lab-surgical” in my lens choices. If the overall look is pleasant to me, that’s what I go with. I added the sharpness aspect to my report just because it was the easy one to talk about. That being said, most of the lenses I shot with aren’t really that “old.” The 15mm, 21mm and 50mm were bought new and aren’t really vintage. The 40mm is old-ish but I didn’t shoot it much at all. The 90mm isn’t that old and the 135mm is also old-ish but it has plenty of contrast and sharpness. You can get an idea of the contrast on the 50mm wide open with the two unedited shots I sent you links to. I guess the Monk shot is fairly static because, well, it was a wax statue after all. He couldn’t give me much more emotion!
Thanks for your comment on editing. Just like for lenses and their “look,” I just play with sliders until I think it looks good to my eye! I did do some level of split toning though I’m not exactly sure which boat river photo you’re talking about, so here are all the boat photos unedited (in order of appearance):
– 135mm sunset, I wanted more warmth in the entire shot (that’s actually more how I remembered it): https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-WWNZLJt/0/O/i-WWNZLJt.jpg
– 40mm Maya Bay, the shot was very contrasty to start with, very dark where the boats were: https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-3PRnVLT/0/O/i-3PRnVLT.jpg
– 135mm sunset, same comment as before for colors. I cropped out the horizon for a completely different framing (thank you 42mpx!!): https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-fGrMhr7/0/O/i-fGrMhr7.jpg
– 135mm fishing dude, that shot was tough to start with as it was extremely hazy that day, taking away any contrast in any photo of far away subjects: https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-rC8R8mD/0/O/i-rC8R8mD.jpg
– 90mm paddle-boarder, same comment as above for warmth: https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-KkVsbpX/0/O/i-KkVsbpX.jpg
I had an underwater housing for the RX100 yep. I was going through these photos recently and there are a few more keepers than I expected. I haven’t really published many but you can find some here:
– Finding Nemo: https://www.instagram.com/p/BHShgY6jXJK/
– Sunset underwater: https://www.instagram.com/p/BEdpzaAJvae/
– Going down: https://www.instagram.com/p/BEdWjxAJvYF/
– Nemo wannabe: https://www.instagram.com/p/BEdWTeMJvXj/
– Some fish: https://www.instagram.com/p/BEdYXfYpvbE/
If you browse my @carbo account, you’ll find many many more photos of Thailand (it’s my personal account, behind the scenes sort of).
I meant to reply sooner, thanks for the info.
I shot the closing of the historic Four Seasons restaurant in NYC in the past few days.
I used 2 primes, the Sony 55mm and 28mm, no flash
I had to use 2 bodies.as I wanted to take wider shots and some details / portraits
Using only one body would have been really limiting.
I’d rather get a shot than miss the moment because i need to change the lens. For people shooting only landscape or architecture is not an issue.
I think it is also possible to get great results with a Sony A6000 and a small Sigma prime 19mm or 30mm.
I recently purchased a Minolta 50mm macro 2.8 AF, and I have to say i used it for some landscapes and the results were more pleasing color-wise than the Sony Zeiss 55mm 1.8. Corners were not as sharp, but there is more than corner to corner sharpness when you look at a a photo.
My main gripe is that for travel my 16-70 zoom for the A6000 is sharp only in the center. gets soft in between the edges and the center.
Great article and some nice pics! One thing you said, ‘ It was never designed to be sharp in the corners and therefore won’t be, even at f/8’. I agree that wide open the corners are not the sharpest but stopped down my Sonnar is very sharp at f/8, albeit on an M240. I wonder if this is related to the thicker Sony sensor stack??
Thank you! I bet it has something to do with that. The Sony sensor wasn’t designed for rangefinder lenses. They do work, but they have their own drawbacks.
I just put two photos on my website shot with the Zeiss at f/5.6 or f/8 (another drawback is that you can’t tell what settings were used!).
Take a look for yourself, you can zoom in the photo too. The images aren’t full size but the crops should be once zoomed in.
– Shot 1 shows corner vs center sharpness: https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-9z22ghs/0/O/i-9z22ghs.jpg
– Shot 2 shows side vs center sharpness: https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-KKR8GMK/0/O/i-KKR8GMK.jpg
Hi Guillaume, some nice shots here, probably I’d square up the standing Buddha and then crop it to a square image; maybe I’d also get the long-boat shot and crop it to portrait format. The Elephant has a strangely ‘wooden appearance, not sure why though! I’ve been to Thailand quite a few times, around Kalasin, down towards the Cambodia border and along the coast near Rayong. One place that I found by sheer chance, is a Buddhist temple where there are flying fox-bats, which is north of Bangkok. On my travels I used Olympus m4/3rds cameras, along with the 7-14mm and 12-40mm zooms, the 40mm, 75mm primes and 60mm macro.
As for the coice of your next lens, I’d suggest the 28mm, as it sits nicely between the other lenses you have and I would have thought this will be more ‘useful’ than the 35mm which is very similar to the 40mm you already have.
Thanks for the great comment! I agree with the Standing Buddha shot, I think I sent the wrong file to Steve… Oh well.
I’ll do some more research on the 28mm. If I sell the lenses I don’t really use, maybe I can justify it! I just haven’t found a detailed article about it on the A7rII sensor.
I also want to say Thanks for this article to Guillaume. Lovely shots, and informative as well.
Thanks for your kind words Steve. I’ll make sure to submit some more reports (just wrote another one as a matter of fact).
Lovely article and pictures which I enjoyed reading. I love using my Voigt 15mm mk3 on my Sony A7s and the Sony 28mm F2 & 20F2.8(adapter) as compact lenses.
Remember that Leica Lenses only perform to their best on Leica cameras but I can appreciate you were probably using them for the smaller size as much as anything.
I had the Voigt 15mm Mk2 but the mk3 is better (less moire and a bit sharper all round) – I use mine on a close focus adapter.
Thanks for submitting the article.
Thanks! I agree with you on the MK3 and MK2 but the size… the size alone!! Ha.
And yep, M-mount lenses will definitely work better on Leica bodies but I’ve had a blast shooting them on the Sony.
Beautiful images Guillaume. You have some serious toys there! Did you get your hands on the Techart in the end? if so, how is it?
Thanks Ben! I did play with the Techart and ironically it’s just sitting around in a box… I first put it on with the Zeiss 50mm and it worked pretty nicely. It would search every now and then (it was fairly dark when I tested it) but when it’d find the focus, it would nail it, arguably better than I could by hand. Then I switched to the 21mm and I couldn’t make it work properly. If I understand well, you need to play with some settings in camera and set a fictitious aperture in-camera for different focal lengths (there’s a little cheatsheet) for it to work well. I couldn’t get it to work reliably with the 21mm and haven’t played with it since. Maybe I just need more practice but I’m at the point where I’d be carrying the Techart and still pack the Voigtländer close-focus just in case I can’t make the autofocus one work. And I hate carrying two items that virtually do the same thing so I end up packing the Voigtländer only… I’ll update the comment if I ever get to testing it some more.