All posts by Phillip Reeve

I like to be outside with my camera and I am also a gear head with a love for manual lenses.

Project: $1500 camera with just one $25 lens for one month – updated

I am a gear head. How do I know? Because I own about a dozen normal lenses.

Usually I enjoy the choice I have but I was asking myself what would happen if I had no choice and could use only one lens for a whole month?  There is only one way to find out and so I decided that I would limit myself to the Minolta MC Rokkor 1:1.7 55mm which is 45-years-old and cost me $25.

When I started the project I was curious how it would affect my photography. I have always progressed the fastest when I was outside of my comfort zone and I expected that this project would give me many experiences outside my comfort zone.

In this post I will recapitulate my experience so far.

Day 1: Black and White

On day one I decided that the lens alone wouldn’t push me outside of my comfort zone enough so I decided to give myself additional challenges each day which would make the project more interesting.

For day one this was photographing in black and white only because color is usually essential for my pictures. I think it worked quite well as did using 55mm for zoo images.

Day 2: Unknown territory

Continue reading Project: $1500 camera with just one $25 lens for one month – updated

Review: Canon FD 85mm 1:1.2 S.S.C. Aspherical

The Canon 1.2/85 is a legend of a lens and in this review I put it’s earliest incarnation to the test on my Sony a7II.

Specifications

Diameter 81 mm
Length 72 mm
Filter Thread 72 mm
Weight 756 g
Max. Magnification 0.1
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor 1 m
Number of aperture blades 9
Elements/ Groups 8/6, floating elements
The Canon FD 1.2/85 Aspherical usually sells for around $600 used at ebay.com (affiliate link). 
In Germany you can buy it used for around 650 at ebay.de (affiliate link). 

Image Samples

Continue reading Review: Canon FD 85mm 1:1.2 S.S.C. Aspherical

The manual photographers series part 4: sebboh

Sony A7 | Carl Zeiss Contax 35mm f/1.4 Distagon | f/1.4 | My crazy eye

P: Hi Sebboh, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to use manual lenses?

S: I’m a neuroscience researcher from Portland, OR. Photography has been a hobby for most of my life and I shot with my father’s manual focus film camera (Minolta XE-5) when I was a kid. I wanted something smaller when I went to college and switched to the tiniest point and shoot I could find (still film). I was pretty happy with that way of shooting for a number of years till I became afflicted with the desire to take pictures of birds. That led me into DSLRs (Olympus and Nikon). This was my first experience of AF without the giant dof of a p&s and I quickly became extremely aggravated by the inability to get focus where I wanted it easily. Landscape shots were often ruined by miss focus that I didn’t detect till after the fact and shooting people moving seemed nearly impossible if dof was small. I found I got more consistent results with my old Minolta lenses as well as having a more enjoyable experience of fuller control of my images.

Being able to zone focus or use the infinity stop for landscape and street shots drastically improved my hit rate and speed. Focusing on moving targets was slower than AF, but I had a lot fewer misses and a lot more decisive moment catches. With only a meager number of old lenses from my father, I looked around ebay and discovered that manual focus lenses offered much cheaper ways to get long focal length or high speed lenses. I began experimenting with all the different lenses I could get cheaply and found many had very distinctive looks that I preferred for one type of shot or another. Unfortunately, this has led to me having far more lenses than are necessary, many of which are seldom used except for special circumstances.

one of those days
Sony NEX-7 | Carl Zeiss Contax G 28mm f/2.8 Biogon | f/2.8 | One of those days

Continue reading The manual photographers series part 4: sebboh

Beginner’s Guide to Manual Lenses on the Sony a7

Okay, everybody is talking about how manual lenses work so well on the Sony a7 series but how does it actually work? And which results can I expect?
Read on if you want to know.

DSC00720a7 II | Zeiss 2.8/28 | f/11 | price: around $250

a7 II | Olympus OM 2.8/100 | f/2.8 | around $100
a7 II | Minolta MC 1.4/50 | f/2 | around $60

Why should I use manual lenses?

  • They can be very cheap, you can get a great 1.4/50 lens for $50. For most applications such a lens will give you 90% of the performance of a $1000 Zeiss 1.8/55 FE. For the $1000 you would have to pay for that Zeiss you can buy an excellent set of five lenses from 20 to 300mm.
  • You have a huge choice between thousands of lenses ranging from exotic ones with lots of “character” to some of the very best lenses available.
  • There are 30-year-old primes with better image quality than many modern lenses. Of course progress has happened in recent years but still even cheap primes are often sharper than very expensive modern zooms.
  • Old lenses are usually beautifully built and more reliable than modern lenses which are full of electronics and very complex designs, both of which make them more likely to fail.
  • They also hold their value much better than modern lenses. With some patience you can sell most manual lenses without a loss but with new lenses you can expect to lose 30% in the first year.
  • Manual focusing can be very enjoyable. This certainly depends on application and personality but I for example enjoy working with fully manual lenses a lot more than with any AF lens. Check out our manual photographers series to read other photographers stories.
Sony a7 | Minolta MD 2/50 | f/2 | ~$25

Continue reading Beginner’s Guide to Manual Lenses on the Sony a7

Review: Techart Pro Leica M Sony E Autofocus Adapter

A manual lens needs to be focused manually? Think again! The Techart LM-EA7 turns about any manual lens into an AF lens. For the extended explanation and an in-depth assessment check out this post.

Specifications

Weight 133 g
Mount M-mount
Extension 4.5 mm
Weight limit lens 700 g
Compatible cameras Sony a7rII, a7ii, a6300, a6500

The Techart PRO LM-EA7 sell for $379 at amazon.com* or ebay.com*. In Germany you can buy it at ebay.de* for 449€.

*=Affiliate Link

Continue reading Review: Techart Pro Leica M Sony E Autofocus Adapter

Short Review: Olympus OM Zuiko MC 100mm 1:2.8

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The Olympus OM 100mm 1:2.8 is a tiny lens and yet a solid performer. In this shorter review I give you my impressions.

Specifications

Diameter 60 mm
Length 50 mm
Filter Thread 49 mm
Weight 230 g
Max. Magnification 0.12
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor 1 m
Number of aperture blades 6
Elements/ Groups 5/5
The Olympus OM 2.8/100 usually sells for around $90 used at ebay.com (affiliate link). 
In Germany you can buy it used for around 90 at ebay.de (affiliate link). 

Image Samples

Just click on any image to get to the full resolution version.

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olympus_om_100mmf2p8-39

olympus_om_100mmf2p8-25

Continue reading Short Review: Olympus OM Zuiko MC 100mm 1:2.8

Making of series part 1: “The Path” with Olympus OM 3.5/28

post-55357-0-13047500-1478624954

When I took this picture in late August I was working all day on some papers for university, so after many hours behind the desk some sport and photography was well earned.

In the Bag

I packed my small camera bag* with the lightest lenses I could find in my cabinet: a Olympus OM 3.5/28*, Zeiss C/Y 1.7/50* and Olympus OM 2.8/100.* Since I had some strenuous cycling before me I didn’t want to carry any unnecessary weight and I knew that I could capture about anything with this little setup. Of course one is always a bit limited by just three lenses. But I think it is a good exercise to be limited and to be out there is much more important than to have the absolutely best gear anyway.

*=Affiliate link

Continue reading Making of series part 1: “The Path” with Olympus OM 3.5/28

Review: Olympus OM 100mm 1:2

Olympus_Zuiko_100mmf2-1-7

The Olympus OM 100mm 1:2 is by some margin the best manual portrait lens I have used on my Sony a7. Read on if you want to know why.

Specifications

Diameter 72 mm
Length 72 mm
Filter Thread 55 mm
Weight 520 g
Max. Magnification 0.2
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor 70 cm
Number of aperture blades 9
Elements/ Groups 7/6, floating elements
The Olympus OM 2/100 usually sells for around $750 used at ebay.com (affiliate link). 
In Germany you can buy it used for around 650 at ebay.de (affiliate link). 

Image Samples

olympus_om_zuiko_100mmf2-7

olympus_om_zuiko_100mmf2-48

olympus_om_zuiko_100mmf2-50

Continue reading Review: Olympus OM 100mm 1:2