This is the second part of my series of notes on the upgrade to the A7rIII. In the last part I said that the improved manual focus capability was my favourite new feature. This time I’ll talk about the AF improvements, which are what probably most people have focussed on. The last part will be about haptics and settings: rather than just list my settings and say you must use them, I’ll talk a bit about why they are right for me, and what might be right for you.
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.
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 affordable primes are often sharper than very expensive modern zooms.
Old lenses are usually beautifully built from nothing but metal and glass which makes it a joy to handle them. They can last a lot longer 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 but personally I enjoy working with fully manual lenses a lot more than with any AF lens and I would choose a good manual focus lens over an AF lens (almost) any time. Check out our manual photographers series to read other photographers stories who feel similar about this.
Most rangefinder lenses used on a Sony a7 series camera show some serious issues because of the rather thick filter stack in front of the sensor. There are two ways to deal with this. We have previously discussed the use of front filters to counter the induced field curvature. In this article Sebboh reviews another solution.
This is an extended use review of the Kolari Ultra Thin (UT, also sometimes referred to as version 4) sensor stack modification on a Sony A7. This modification removes the AA filter and IR cut filter from a stock Sony camera and replaces it with an ultra thin 0.2mm thick IR cut filter in order to attempt to provide similar levels of performance to the Leica M9 in dealing with the steep ray angles often produced by rangefinder lenses designed for film. I have shot a UT modified Sony A7 for 6 months now and can confirm that it dramatically improves performance with certain lenses (big thanks to Nehemiah for letting me use his lenses and cameras for the comparisons shown here). I will try to outline what kind of improvements can be expected here and what drawbacks there are to getting the conversion done.
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.
Those of you who read my Sony A7II vs. Sony A6500 comparison know that I have been curious about the Fujifilm X-T2 for quite some time, I am still looking for a reliable, handy and fast camera to take pictures of people, especially children. Neither of the cameras that I have used so far could satisfy me completely, therefore I decided to take a look over the fence.
The Fujifilm X system is to me the most obvious alternatives to the Sony FE system. The approach to offer as many manual controls as possible as well as the broad but reasonable lens lineup and fast AF are very appealing to me. So when I got the chance to give the system a try I jumped on it. I will use a Fujifilm X-T2 with four lenses for a month. Will it suit my needs?