Review: Canon EF 2.8/200 L II on Sony a7rIII

Introduction

There’s a gap in the Sony FE lens lineup that I find particularly irksome. There’s no AF 200mm f2.8. I don’t know when one will come either, because this is not a popular set of specifications. The lens makers think that you will buy a 2.8/70-200 zoom. But not only are they very expensive, they are very large and heavy. I would personally never carry one for the work I do, though of course many do, and many pros need to.

So what to do if that fast zoom is too heavy or expensive? I decided to have a look at a venerable and highly regarded Canon L series prime lens, the EF 2.8/200 L II. Adapted lenses work better than ever on the A7rIII, so it seemed like a good time to try it. Will it fill the gap, or should I be hoping for a Batis or Sony G?

A Few Samples

Continue reading Review: Canon EF 2.8/200 L II on Sony a7rIII

Best Sony FE Landscape Lenses for the poor Student

User Characterization: You are a Sony a7 series user enthusiastic about landscape photography but you work on a very limited budget. You look for lenses with a great bang for the buck ratio and good characteristics for landscape photography.

In this post I give you my top picks and a few alternatives for affordable landscape lenses. These where my criteria for this list:

  • Very good across the frame sharpness at smaller apertures like f/8 or f/11.
  • High contrast and good flare resistance.
  • Lenses should be less than $200.
  • I see manual focus lenses as preferable for landscape photography.
  • I would like to have nice sunstars but at this budget this is quite difficult if not impossible.
  • Small size is a bonus.

This is the fourth part of a series on the best landscape lenses for the Sony a7/a9 series in which we explore sets of landscape lenses for different user types.

Part 1: “Only the best is good enough”
Part 2: The light traveler and hiker
Part 3: The casual landscape photographer 

All links marked with * are affiliate links. If you buy a lens through them we will earn a small commission on your purchase without any additional cost to you. Thanks for your support 🙂

Wide

Top pick: Pentax K 3.5/28 | 261 g + adapter | $80-120

The very affordable Pentax is as sharp as good modern lenses at f/8 or f/11 and it maintains high contrast with good flare resistance which is rare for a legacy wide angle lens. Stopped down to f/14 it even draws a pleasant sunstar. But of course there is a catch: the Pentax is pretty rare and not easy to find. The best alternative I see is the more expensive Zeiss Distagon 2.8/28 which isn’t better but more easily available.

Check availability on ebay.com* | ebay.de* | KEH* | adapter guide

Alternatives

28 mm is not very wide but I think a 28-50-90 lens kit gives you the most versatility. Also with any wider lens you have to live with more serious tradeoffs like lower contrast and flare resistance.

  • Samyang 2.8/14A very sharp modern lens which can even be used for astro photography. Flare resistance and sunstars are no strengths of it though. It is also surprisingly cheap but there is a reason for that: Copy-to-copy variation is huge with this lens and even if you find a good copy it will not last for very long. So not the most attractive investment in the long run.
  • Canon nFD 2.8/20 This is the sharpest legacy 20 mm I know of. Stopped down to f/11 it has sharper corners than a Zeiss 4/16-35 but contrast is a bit lower and flare resistance is significantly worse than that of the Pentax K 3.5/28.
  • Canon nFD 2.8/24Similar performance as the nFD 2.8/20 but significantly smaller and cheaper. Build quality is a bit lower. If you can live with the weaker flare resistance it is a very affordable wide angle.
  • Sony FE 2/28Now we are leaving the very affordable territory but still it isn’t that expensive and the very light Sony is a very decent landscape lens at f/8 with very good sharpness across the frame and good flare resistance. Only the sunstars are unremarkable and distortion is very strong. Manual focus is annoying and it does not feel nearly as solid as the Pentax 3.5/28.

Normal

Top Pick: Pentax M 1.7/50 | 185 g | $30-40

The Pentax is a high contrast lens and veiling flare is controlled remarkably well. Build quality is very good and the Pentax is one of the smaller normal lenses. The only annoying aspect to me is that the focus ring turns the “wrong” way since I am used to Minolta, Canon or Zeiss lenses. Sharpness at typical landscape settings is very good to excellent with acceptable corner softening.

Check availability on ebay.com* | ebay.de* | adapter guide

Alternatives

I think the Pentax hits a sweet spot for landscape photography so I find it hard to recommend an alternative but here are some options.

  • Zeiss Planar 1.7/50: The significantly more expensive Zeiss is sharper in the corners but the difference isn’t significant at f/8. At f/2.8 the difference is more noticeable and the bokeh is also nicer. I prefer the focus ring of the Zeiss but apart from that the smaller Pentax feels more solid and focuses closer (45 cm). Before I got the Pentax the Zeiss offered the best flare resistance of any legacy normal lens I have tested so I was surprised to find that the Pentax controls veiling flare even better in demanding scenarios.
    195 g | $120-180 | check at ebay.com*
  • Minolta MD 2/50The super cheap Minolta is a little sharper off center, it has no distortion and it is a few grams lighter. Flare resistance is weaker as is the build quality and contrast is a little lower.
    150 g | $25 | check at ebay.com*
  • Canon nFD 1.4/50 The Canon is a good allround normal lens with decent wide open performance and similar sharpness to the Pentax stopped down. It has 8 aperture blades and it is rather affordable. Flare resistance, contrast and average bokeh are the only real weaknesses I see.
    235 g | $40-80 | check at ebay.com*
  • Sony FE 1.8/50Sony’s cheapest lens is a lot  more expensive than the Pentax but it has higher contrast with similar flare resistance and sharpness stopped down. It is also very light. The biggest drawback is the crude AF-motor but for landscape photography that shouldn’t be much of an issue.
    186 g | $248 | check at amazon.com*
  • Minolta MD 3.5/35-70If you prefer zooms for landscape photography the Minolta might be an interesting option. It is only a little larger and heavier than a prime and above 40 mm the performance is prime like with very good across the frame sharpness. At 35 mm the far corners never get very sharp and contrast is lower.
    365 g | $40-70 | check at ebay.com*
  • Zeiss C/Y 3.4/35-70. The Zeiss has often been called a stack of primes and that is a fair assesment here, especially for landscape photography. Handling of the push-pull zoom seems to be the most significant drawback.
    475 g | $3-400 | check at ebay.com*

Tele

Part of surviving on a limited budget is limiting the lenses you use. In my experience a three lens setup with a 24/28 mm, 50 mm and a 90 mm can come a very long way to capture landscapes so that is my suggestion here.

Top Pick: Zeiss Sonnar 2.8/90 | 240 g + adapter | $150-200

The Zeiss 2.8/90 is pretty much the ideal landscape tele but it has one drawback. Most important features are high contrast and very good sharpness which can be enjoyed from f/2.8. Flare resistance is good and sunstars have 8 points but they are only weakly defined. In this price bracket you won’t find a better performance though.  The Zeiss is small and light with very good build quality. So, why is it still affordable? Because of the adapter situation. The Zeiss is an AF lens without a focus helicoid so you need to use an adapter which provides a focusing mechanism. I use a cheap noname adapter which is annoying to focus but precise so while I wouldn’t recommend the Zeiss for general purpose photography it is an acceptable trade-off for landscape photography.

Check availability on ebay.com* | ebay.de*

Alternatives

  • Minolta MD 2.5/100This is my favorite general purpose short tele. It is a little heavier, doesn’t have the high contrast of the Zeiss and is a little less sharp but usually good enough for landscapes. I like it because it is more pleasant to handle and offers smoother bokeh.
    310g | $100 | check at ebay.com*
  • Zeiss C/Y 3.5/100The Zeiss 3.5/100 offers better handling and it is slightly longer which will be an advantage for some. With adapter it is close to 100 g heavier. Drawbacks are the price of about $300 and the fact that it has only 6 aperture blades.
    285g | $300 | check at ebay.com*
  • Olympus OM 2.8/100 The tiny Olympus is a little less sharp than the Zeiss with lower contrast but it is more affordable with a proper focusing ring.
    230g | $60-80 | check at ebay.com*
  • Minolta MD 4/75-150The Minolta is a push-pull lens which makes it smaller at the cost of handling. I was really surprised how sharp this small lens performs. At the wide end it outperforms the Sony FE 4/70-200. At the long end you should stop down to f/8 but then sharpness is still quite good. Contrast is only average which is typical for a Minolta.
    445g | $50-100 | check at ebay.com*
  • Canon nFD 2.8/135: A good performer which is cheaper and a little longer than the Minolta. Advantages of the Zeiss are higher contrast, less CA and less weight.
    395g | $45-60 | check at ebay.com*

Other lenses

  • Canon nFD 4/200 IF: A sharp, light and very affordable 200mm lens. Axial CA is the only real drawback but for landscape photography that shouldn’t really matter.
    440 g | $10-30 | check at ebay.com*
  • Canon FD 4/300 L: Not very affordable but a very good performer in a still manageable size.
    1060 g | $250-450 | check at ebay.com*

Compared to the other Kits

There is no one best landscape lens. There are only lenses which are the best lens for you specific needs. That’s why we created this series which assumes different user profiles and finds the best lenses for them. I think this kit gets the essentials right: For very little money you can expect very good image quality in a wide range of landscape scenarios. You can do serious landscape photography with it and make big prints. But of course there are a few limitations. For under $400 you would expect a few limitations. Our other kits cost many times that.

Compared to our “Only the best is good enough”-Kit you will miss a super-wide-angle lens so you can’t create compositions with a strong emphasis of the foreground or astro-landscapes. While you will be fine on a 24 MP Sony a7II the much more expensive lenses get a bit more out of the 42 Mp sensor. Other advantages of the fancy lenses is that some of them have very nice sunstars, even higher contrast and you don’t need an adapter for them. Disadvantages of the set is that it is heavier and costs over $5000.

Compared to our The light traveler and hiker-Kit this kit is actually a little lighter but it doesn’t go to 21 mm and is less pleasant to handle. Again I see less difference in image quality on 24 MP but on 42 it will be more visible.

Compared to our kit for the casual landscape photographer this kit’s main tradeoff is flexibility because that kit includes the very flexible 4/16-35 as well as a few AF lenses with good wide open performance which in this kit only the 2.8/90 offers. I see no real advantage in image quality for that kit and I would prefer the handling of the poor Student’s kit.

Some more images

 

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Sony FE Landscape Lenses – Part 3: The casual landscape photographer

User Characterization: You like landscape photography but you need a kit that can do more than just that. You look for the best jack of all trades with an eye on the budget and you appreciate autofocus. 

The typical casual landscape phographers are people who shoot landscapes as well as portraits, parents on vacation (me for example 😉 ) or people who just don’t like to different lens kits for different use cases.

Sony A6500 | Sony FE 1.8/55 ZA |  f/5.6 – captured out of a driving car, probably the epitome of the casual landscape photographer

Continue reading Sony FE Landscape Lenses – Part 3: The casual landscape photographer

Guide to Ultra Wideangle lenses for the Sony a7 series v1.1

super wide angle ultra uwa swa

We summarize our experience with all the native E-mount and a few (manual) legacy lenses in the 10-20mm bracket to give you a compact and independent resource for choosing the right super- to ultra-wide-angle lens for your Sony a7 cameras. In this summary we also included some adapted lenses we think are worth mentioning.

We also have a guide to 21-35mm lenses.

We have no association with any lens manufacturer apart from occasionally loaning a lens for a review. Before any short introduction we tell you how long we have used a lens and if we have borrowed it from a manufacturer. But in most cases we have bought the lenses new from retail stores or on on the used market. If you want to support our independent reviews please consider using one of the affiliate links. It doesn’t cost you anything and helps us a lot.

If we have left any question unanswered please leave a comment and we will do our best to answer it.

Voigtlander 5.6/10 E

Status: Sample loaned by the manufacturer reviewed by Bastian, who bought one for himself at retail after that. Still often in use.

voigtlander_10mm_5.6

  • At f/5.6 most of the frame is pretty sharp, only the extreme corners are somewhat soft. Contrast is always high.
  • You have to use f/11 for best across frame sharpness, the corners never reach excellent values.
  • Almost no distortion, quite good flare resistance, beautiful 10-stroke sunstars.
  • Small and lightweight, decently priced.
  • Widest rectilinear lens there is in a small package. Downsides are huge vignetting throughout the aperture range and maximum aperture of only f/5.6.

375g | $1300 | full Review | aperture seriessample images

buy from ebay | buy from amazon.com (affiliate link)

voigtlander hyper wide heliar 10mm 5.6 stuttgart sony e a7 distortion stuttgart mercedes benz museum

Continue reading Guide to Ultra Wideangle lenses for the Sony a7 series v1.1