A $400 lens kit for your Sony a7 series camera

Five years ago I was a broke student and manual lenses were a way for me to get much more creative freedom and image quality for my very limited money. This post is aimed at people just like my 5-years-younger self who have a very limited budget but want to get the most out of it. I think that manual lenses are a smart way to deal with a limited budget since I wouldn’t know another way to get image quality on that level for a similar budget. Sure, manual focus can be a limiting factor for some applications but most people are surprised how far they can get with manual focus.

When I started with manual lenses there was very little reliable information about manual lenses available so I had to spend a lot of time to tell apart the good from the bad lenses. Now 5 years later I have reviewed several dozen lenses and gained a good oversight which I would like to share with you in this artice.

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Voigtlander 40mm f1.2 Nokton Aspherical: An In Depth Review

Introduction

40mm. One of my favourite focal lengths. Long ago the Voigtländer 2/40mm Ultron was glued to my Canon. Even longer ago, the Zuiko 2/40 was a favourite on my Olmpus OM film gear. The 40mm equivalent 20mm Lumix was my favourite lens on the M43 gear I used to use for travel and hiking. So naturally a native 40mm full frame lens for E mount has me very excited.
That slightly wider than standard lens look (close to the theoretical ‘normal’ focal length of 43mm) gives a lovely, natural perspective that leaves the photographer, rather than the angle of view, in charge of the image. But of course the cost of the slightly wider angle of view is less potential for bokeh; the nice, isolating, out-of-focus blur that people prize in people photography. That’s why the speed on this lens is potentially so great. Perhaps f1.2 sounds extreme, but the actual blur potential is about the same as f1.4 on a 50mm lens. So in order to keep up with a 50mm lens in terms of blur, you really do want a bit of extra speed on moderate wides. 40mm is a great length for portraits which place people in a context: but you don’t want that context to dominate, so being able to see the context but have it nicely blurred is a fantastic combination. But what price do we pay for that? Is the IQ on this surprisingly small and fast lens good enough? Thanks to Mainline Photographics  who are the Cosina Voigtländer distributors in Australia, for the loan of a review copy.

A Few Samples

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Review: Canon FD 300mm 1:2.8 L

The Canon FD 2.8/300 L was one of the most highly regarded manual super tele lenses in the 80s. Today it can be had for much less money and in this review I evaluate how it performs today on a modern mirrorless camera.

Image Samples

You can find all images shown in this image in full resolution in my Canon FD 300mm f/2.8 L flickr album.

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Review: Canon EF 200mm 1.8 L on Sony a7rii

Introduction

canon ef 200mm 1.8 l usm review sigma mc 11 mc-11 sony a7r2 a7rii a7rm2 mark2 markII
Sony A7rII with Sigma MC-11 and Canon EF 200mm 1.8 L USM

The Canon EF 200mm 1.8 L is one of the most extreme tele lens designs and while almost 30 years old it hasn’t been surpassed in terms of speed since. Also known as the “Eye of Sauron” it has already become a legend, so let us find out what is so special about this lens…

Sample Images

canon ef 200mm 1.8 l usm review sigma mc 11 mc-11 sony a7r2 a7rii a7rm2 mark2 markII
Sony A7rII | Canon EF 200mm 1.8 L | f/1.8
canon ef 200mm 1.8 l usm review sigma mc 11 mc-11 sony a7r2 a7rii a7rm2 mark2 markII
Sony A7rII | Canon EF 200mm 1.8 L | f/1.8
canon ef 200mm 1.8 l usm review sigma mc 11 mc-11 sony a7r2 a7rii a7rm2 mark2 markII
Sony A7rII | Canon EF 200mm 1.8 L | f/1.8

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5 hacks for the Sony a7 series to make your shooting easier

This is just a short selection of tricks which make it easier to use your Sony a7 series camera.

1. Use DRO to see into the shadows

final image/ uprocessed raw
To save the highlights I had to underexpose this image a lot. Thanks to the DRO function I could focus none the less.

This trick only works if you shoot raw.

The problem: If you have a high contrast scene and expose it for the highlights you often have to use a negative exposure compensation and end up with a very dark preview image. This is no problem because you can brighten your image a lot in post but it makes focusing and composition hard. Another situation where this problem arises is when you are using flash to light a foreground subject, but there’s bright natural light in the background. While you are focussing, the foreground subject will be likely too dark to focus.

The solution: The DRO function is meant to lift the shadows in your jpg images which is just what you need: Use DRO +5 and the shadows of your preview image will be pushed by about 3 stops so you can see into the shadows now. Your raw file won’t be affected by the setting. Don’t forget to turn it off though or it is easy to unintentionally underexpose your images.

2. Use the zebra function for perfect exposure

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