New year’s reflection

Before we really begin 2020 on the blog I would like to take some time to reflect the last year, offer my thanks to the many people who made the blog what it is and write a few words on where I think we are headed.

Personally I finalized my education and started into my first real job which brought with it moving to a place with much better access to nature so I spend more time in nature and took more images which really improves quality of life for me. I also found and a little more time for the blog but most of the content came from the team and I don’t expect that to change.

I am really grateful for having the team I have. I think it is rare that one starts a project and is then joined by a few like minded people who are driven by the same passion and who bring the project forward with so little friction and good spirit. When I have my focus elsewhere and not on this hobby project I can be sure that the blog is in good hands so it never feels like a liability to me. Thanks guys!

We worked together on the Guide to Portrait Lenses, Building a lens Kit and the 35mm E-mount guide. We also started our own podcast which was well received and of which we hope to record further episodes soonish.

Sony ZA 1.4/35 | by Bastian

In 2019 Juriaan, became the fifth team member. He reviewed a number of legacy lenses like the Nikkor 2.8/35, Minolta Rokkor 2/55  and Canon nFD 3.5/135. After we had so few legacy lenses in recent time these reviews are a valuable addition to the blog. Also be sure to check out Juriaan‘s travel report from the Balkans. To learn more about him read our interview.

a7s | Samyang 14mm t/3.1 | Montenegro 2018 | from Juriaan’s travel report

As last year Bastian was by far the most active contributor so I can’t list all his reviews. Most notable to me where his Sigma Art 1.2/35 review (which was also the most viewed review written in 2019), the 7Artisans 1.4/28, How good a camera do you need?The man behind 7Artisans lenses, the Canon EF 2/200 and the worst lens reviewed 2019, the Zenitar 0.95/50.

Sony A7rII | 7artisans 28mm 1.4 | f/1.4 | by Bastian

David wrote a very nuanced upgrader’s guide to the a7rIV, reviewed the surprisingly good Laowa 2.8/100 Macro, the underappreciated Batis 1.8/85 and the classic Zeiss C/Y 3.4/35-70.

Jannik reviewed the excellent GM 1.8/135, the classic C/Y 4-5.6/100-300 and created an extensive comparison of Tamron 2.8/28-75, Sony G 4/24-105 and Sony Gm 2.8/24-70.

Sony A7III | Contax 4.5-5.6/100-300 | by Jannik

Also a big thank you to Nehemiah who wrote an in-depth guest review of the Leica Summilux 1.4/75 and also compared it to the Summulix-R 1.4/80. Also entertaining and enlightening was the our interview with Hispan who is crazy in the best sense of the word.

Leica Summilux 1.4/75 | by Nehemiah

Personally I enjoyed the Voigtlander 1.5/75 and 2/50 APO the most and I am a little proud in the FE-List which took quite a bit of work to realize but now it is a really helpful resource to look up specs and lenses.

By whichever metric I look the blog is in a good state: We published 66 articles, our visitor numbers increased significantly and we receive a lot of feedback on our posts.

So where are we headed? I would like to continue what defines us: Writing independent in-depth reviews which combine thorough technical testing and extensive usage of lenses in the real world. I think we are well setup for that and see no major aspects we should change.

One thing I worry about sometimes is that blogs have had their golden days and much attention has shifted to platforms like Youtube, Instagram or Facebook. We could probably increase our audience if we created a Youtube channel or an Instagram profile but the incentives these platforms work under make it hard to both grow and audience and stay factual and true to yourself. We would also be rather late to the party. So I think it makes sense to keep or focus on the blog as our platform.  Maybe I will create a newsletter to be more independent from google as our by far biggest source of traffic.

To sum things up: I am quite happy with things are with the blog and I think that there is a good chance that will stay that way for quite some time thanks to a great team and a supportive audience. If you have any feedback to us please leave a comment!

Now my thoughts are with David and his fellow Australian’s who are deeply affected by the current wildfire situation.

 

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I have two hobbies: Photography and photographic gear. Both are related only to a small degree.

90 thoughts on “New year’s reflection”

    1. “I love the blog format vs. YouTube. Writing allows reflection on what you are actually saying, a big plus for an intelligent reviewer.”

      I completely agree.

    2. Hello Phillip and the team,
      I read your New Year’s post with interest as I do the articles you all post. I think that your “quieter” approach is really to be appreciated. You Tube videos often scream for attention, and the act of writing obliges one to make choices, to be selective.
      You all do great work, and your honesty and thoroughness shine through in every article. Thank you for doing all this helpful work. It sends forth a bit of “light” as do your photos.
      Paula

  1. Please, don’t change a thing and stick to what all of you have been doing!
    People are getting fed up with YouTube and Instagram stars, it’s not worth it.

    Blogs are, for lack of better words, classy.

    Regards!

  2. regardless of format, the real world comments about gear backed up by tech talk is what sets this place apart… the true voice comes through and its what i like the most… like comments about the unexplainable gravitation (see what i did there) towards the 1kg sigma 35 1.2 and the questionable real world relevance of the optical perfection of the 50 f2 apo… i see the effort in suppressing excitement about new gear and the emphasis on actual experiences…

    understanding and explaining the tech is one thing – but to share your experience with a well transcribed genuine voice – thats gold and its done well here

    now for constructive criticism, I do question if there are other motivations behind talking up the voigtlanders so much for example, and since i do focus (hehe) on family stuff, i wish there were more comments/articles about using gear for kids and family events…

    1. Hi Ron,
      in regard to Voigtlander: it is just that we get a lot out of them and use them a lot. Just had a look: of the 3 stars rated images in my LR library from 2019 72% were taken with Voigtlander lenses. Of course that translates to rather positive reviews. But I try to also offer other perspectives and clearly name the downsides of lenses. In terms of revenue trough affiliate links Voigtlanders are actually less attractive than Sony FE lenses since fewer shops sell them.

      Jannik is is the one who has a young kid at home but a side effect of that is that he has less time to write reviews. But whenever he finds some time I’ll prod him to write an article on the issue since it is certainly an important topic for many.

    2. I have an A7ii, Loxia 85 and bought a Sigma 1.4/56 (which is a rough FoV/DoF/light equivalent on APS, check mmcalc).

      Before the Sigma, I had all manual lenses. I decided I’d try an AF at that focal length, because I found it challenging to shoot my kids (now 3, aged 5, 3 and 0) with the Loxia.

      Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s that particular lens, maybe the A7ii is not good enough of an AF experience (no eye-AF on AF-S). IQ aside, I personally found it harder and more frustrating to shoot the kids with the AF Sigma. I got used to being surprised when it nails focus where I want it to be.

      There are family situations where I still think I’d rather have AF, but not 85mm portraits, it turns out.

      I’ll probably replace the Sigma 1.4/56 with a Sigma 2.8/45 which I feel should fare better between the manuals and be appropriate to shoot family/memory videos where I really don’t care they look great, just good enough. If that ends up replacing my manual 40/50s I’ll sell those to fund other focal lenses.

  3. I agree with the others. Reading is a skill that is at risk of fading away in the face of the overhyped video approach. A well written literate review can be read, saved, re-read (and read in the presence of my wife without having to use earphones).
    I do not use my camera for video and look at a video camera or lens review only when it’s absolutely necessary. I genuinely appreciate your reviews even of gear in which I’m not interested.

    1. thanks Eric,
      there are certainly some aspects where video has advantages but it takes more work, is overall less helpful in this case and as I said: the incentives for clickbaiting are a big issue.

  4. great website/source, maybe the best,
    indeed reading works much better than viewing Youtube.

    From the Maastricht-Aachen area, have a great 2020!

  5. Another vote for sticking to blogs. You guys would be just another youtuber amongst the many already there reviewing photo gear and I don’t think it would add to the quality of your content, maybe even detract from it. Facebook? Only to point to a blog post, cannot replace the blog in my opinion. Instagram. Don’t know what that would be like but you’d lose me for sure.

    Keep up the good work, your reviews have become my primary source to rely on for acquiring gear: Voigtländer FE 1.2/40, Zeiss Loxia 2.4/85, Mindshift Rotation Panorama, to name just a few. Each and every time the review accurately indicated what to expect, awesome really.

  6. Happy New Year to you all! Your blog is my favorite Photography site. Don’t change it a bit. It’s very insightful and helpful. As well as beeing a great buying guide. You guys have really opened my eyes for manual lenses! Thanks a lot. All the best.

  7. Really appreciate this blog and the team’s reviews. I am glad you will still be focusing on written reviews vs YouTube – it is far easier to use your reviews as an ongoing reference in text form vs video.

  8. It was real fun to read your articles in the last year. Using MF lenses(especially modern, pricey one) is not popular in camera communities around me, so I really appreciate your works. Thank you for your efforts.

  9. Hi Philip and the great team, I also read your great blog every day and look forward to new posts. For me it is the best photoblog, the contributions are very well written and understandable. I replaced my Fuji system with a sony a7iii through the reports and can now finally use my old glass without a crop factor.
    If you switch to facebook or yourtoube, i would no longer be interested.
    Please keep it up, your fan base will thank you for the great work. I like to read the articles several times, the diversity of the authoring team is also impressive.

    Thanks and regards
    Klaus

  10. Can you tell me one YouTube who never had his face on screen?
    To me it seems they are reviewing themselves in stead of a camera or lens.
    Please continue your blog!

  11. Hi Phillip,
    I bought a camera because I wanted to take photos of my newborn daughter. But it is only after I read your review here of the 40mm nokton and subsequently bought it and experienced manual shooting that I started getting into photography. The format you guys use here is long form but I believe it is a better method for teaching than YouTube videos. Your post on focusing using manual lenses for example helped me a lot more than any YouTube video on that topic. I would not change the format of the blog much.

    On a side note this blog has also given me a serious case of gear addiction ? as is witnessed by my lens purchases I bought based on your recommendations
    40mm nokton
    24mm GM
    135mm f3.5
    50mm f2 ?
    Hopefully that’s the last of it and all other lenses that come out this year you guys don’t like ?. Happy new year to your team.

  12. Its easy to miss things in a video, its also easier to “rewind” this format and read something again.
    Other sites often don’t include sunstars which is a deal breaker for me. Also really like the alternatives section.
    My wish would be for you to venture into APS-C as well as Nikon Z.
    Thanks for all you do.

    1. Hi Darryl,
      I think part of our success lies in the fact that we focus just on the one system which we all own. So we might take a view over the horizon from time to time and look briefly at other systems but in the foreseeable future our focus will remain on FF E-mount.

  13. I echo others’ appreciation of your blog and also commend the team for refreshing the content often enough to draw me back on a regular basis to read your latest articles. I also often re-read older posts if I’m curious about or interested in some bit of gear as my own interests in photography progress.

    The blog format is great because I, as I’m guessing is true for most of your readers, am primarily interested in still photography, and we can view and study your examples and test photos. I think that would be challenging and less useful in a different format.

    It has also been interesting to see how the site has evolved from Phillip’s early coverage of inexpensive legacy lenses to state-of-the-art a7 system cameras and lenses. For me this is especially interesting and valuable because my own interests have evolved along a similar trajectory, from experimenting with inexpensive manual lenses from the 60s and 70s to adopting some brilliant new MF lenses such as the CV65 and Loxia 25 or AF ones such as the Sony 85/1.8. So I have a personal affinity for your reviews, which I also think are every nicely written. (I should add that I think many legacy lenses still work very well with full-frame digital sensors. For example, every Contax C/Y lens I own is outstanding.) The comments on the site are great as well. Thanks for providing this excellent service. I look forward to reading many more articles in 2020.

    1. I sometimes worry that we lost our core readership when the focus shifted from affordable legacy lenses to much more expensive modern lenses but thanks to Juriaan we do still cover some and I am glad to read that readers evolved along with us

  14. Hi,

    I stumbled upon your blog a year ago after searching for A7 and legacy lenses related stuff. In this last year you’ve become my primary source of reliable information, inspiration and buying guide. I admire your technical knowledge and especially your talent. Even samples from the worst lenses look good when you review them 🙂 I love your writing style and overall blog format.

    As everything in nature evolves so does this blog and it’s a good thing. I just think that fundamental changes like switching to youtube should be considered very carefully. You might reach wider audience, make lots of money or more easily become one of the hundreds of other equipment reviewers and loose your old readers in the process. Instead of full video reviews you could make short videos as a part of written review. For example video of AF perfomance when reviewing AF lenses could prove invaluable when reviewing problematic lenses in this regard.

    Whatever you decide my BIG THANKS to the team for what you did an do and keep up the good work

    1. Thanks for the Kind words Rok. Using Video für such applications might indeed be an idea worth investigation though coming up with a useful test protocol for AF isn’t trivial.

  15. The great thing about your website is that, irrespective of the lens pr equipment, the pictures are always top! Keep on the great job. Beste wensen voor het niew jaar. Die grussen. Meilleurs voeux!

  16. Danke für eure umfangreichen und qualitativ hochwertigen Reviews. Ihr habt mich in der Vergangenheit überhaupt erst auf die Voigtländer E-Mount Objektive aufmerksam gemacht, die mir seitdem sehr viel Freude bereiten. Bewussteres Fotografieren ohne Autofokus.
    Danke dafür & alles Gute für das neue Jahr / die Zukunft der Website!

  17. I like the blog format. However if you were to do YouTube, perhaps use it to show how the lenses you are reviewing perform when it comes to video? No need for any dialog even- just short vids incorporated into the articles. Here’s to many more good posts in 2020, and danke for all the good reads so far!

  18. Guys, thanks for your work and time, this is my favourite photography blog – please stay away from youtube, I like to read things for myself, even if that is really old-school!

  19. I use Youtube a lot, but I value your reviews the highest, by far! I feel like I can’t trust youtubers 100%, and they’re usually not that indept.

    I look up your site 1-2 times a day to see if there’s something new, and I’m enjoying every bit. I have learned from you the fact that sharpness isn’t always everything, but rendering and colour often makes a far better photo, and that’s why 2019 was my vintage lens year. Thank you for you work, looking forward to 2020!

  20. since you asked for feedback ?

    I love the fact that you are staying in the blog format and not venture into youtube…

    I kinda think of this blog vs. youtoubers in the same way as I look at manual lenses vs. modern super fast af lenses – they seem to be more useful and better, but then you take a step back to reflect, only to find out that using af lenses over mf ones takes the most fun and the feeling of being involved out of the photographing process…

    I wish you all a prosperous new year and a ton of great reviews which you do best (even though they cost me money – CV21, CV40 and G 2.8/90 are all your fault ?) and lots of 3⭐ images in your LR catalog…

    Aleksander

  21. Just adding another voice of thanks to you and the team for all the excellent content on the site here.

    I am also a fan of the current format i.e. words and still images, not youtube. Just my opinion, but this allows the reader enough time to review the images and consider the words, and move on when they are ready, not when the video moves on.

    Keep up the good work and thanks again!

  22. I’d like to add my voice to the chorus: this is a valuable site. I enjoy your reviews–not only the technical bits but also the varied personal takes.

    If I may suggest only one change, it would be that you sometimes examine not only the center, midfield and extreme corners but also a bit farther in but beyond midfield; perhaps the edge of the frame would do–that would help those of us who are not wedded to the 2×3 aspect ratio.

    1. Hi Brian,
      we inspect the whole image and note it when they are better or worse than the crops we present. However including another crop would increase work quite a bit with not that much gain in my eyes.

      1. Thanks for your reply. Since flickr now makes it quite easy to enlarge and scroll through the full-size images that you post, I think that we can both understand that I was just being lazy. Thanks for your thorough reviews.

  23. Hi Phillip, I’d like to commend you on sticking to the present format; the site has a distinct air of quality about it, generated by excellent descriptions, great imagery and the selection of topics. I must add, in common with another commenter here, that reviews of legacy lenses are a favourite of mine (and there is a world of Nikkor lenses still to explore :-).

    Re the fires in Australia, there has been great devastation in areas of the country even if the burnt out areas do not come close to the 19thC totals (eg 25% of the State of Victoria was burnt in 1851). The controlled burning of undergrowth during milder months is imperative (often obstructed by certain groups) so that total forest destruction by super-hot fires does not happen.
    A criminologist today published figures showing 87% of Australian bushfires were started by human activity and 40% of those were by arson. Shocking numbers.

    2020 can only get better..

    1. Of course human activity is a big source of triggers. Not much else can trigger fire, besides lightning. But triggers aren’t what matters. It’s the underlying conditions that make the fires we will always have into devastating infernos.

      Re the arson claims: of course there are always arsonists and always have been. But https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jan/08/police-contradict-claims-spread-online-exaggerating-arsons-role-in-australian-bushfires

  24. Hello, i‘ve been an avid reader or this blog of quite some time now, and never made a comment before but reading your year end article made want to say something. I personally believe the format is perfect as it is, you really do have the control on this platform, and they way you talk about photography is much better displayed through your texts (always well written by everyone on the team) and pictures alongside it. You really created your own style and format, and you seem to be quite prolific doing it this way, perhaps a video platform would take away some of the finesse from the blog while making it even harder to maintain; that’s just my opinion, and i know i’m biased because i’ve been really enjoying the blog a long time. For me the most welcome “changes” are additions to the team like Juriaan, which gives yet another perspective to the blog. All in all, thanks to all of you guys for what you do, amazing work, you’ve been a great influence on me since i got back to photography, and i wouldn’t change a thing, just keep it up.

    1. Thanks for commenting Ruben,
      I can only stress how much the format has improved thanks to the others. When i started the blog it was much less refined and we each have a slightly different style which has impacted my own reviews much for the better.

  25. This site is great, I prefer the blog approach over video.

    I’ll 3rd the request for more vintage lens reviews, gear addiction syndrome is much easier on the wallet when the new to me lens is relatively inexpensive. To me they don’t have to be perfect if they have character.

    Also I really enjoy the articles where you go over techniques such as astro and bokehpanorama.

  26. I have enjoyed reading your web page. Thank you for all the hard work you and your co-authors put in.

    However, now I use Fuji, not Sony (though I still visit your web page). Can’t you find another co-author who is like-minded, but uses Fuji? 🙂

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Christos,
      we have discussed this and came to the conclusion that our focus on just one system is one of our strengths. That way we can check each others assessments and also cooperate on certain articles. Also we don’t want to make the team any bigger because it works so well now and increasing it would risk that.

  27. Phillip, Youtube could simply be the podcast recorded with a camera, many Youtube channels are just that: Ben Shapiro, Joe Rogan, the Northrups. Youtube isn’t ‘dumbed down’, as you seem to suggest, Stanford and Harvard post lectures to YT, it has audiobooks (hours long), plenty of complex content from the likes of scientists, the Economist, and the Institute for Economic Affairs… I know as I watch hundreds of hours of this kind of mind-expanding material. Another idea used by some photography channels: you could stick a GoPro on your camera when you go out shooting in Nature, and show the stills you capture, talk over it explaining why you shot one thing and not another, and how you are adjusting for light. Very light/easy edit. Both these approaches — recording a podcast you already make, recording photography you already do — take you into a new realm with minimal effort…

    1. Hi Quentin,
      I said that the incentives these platforms work under make it hard, to be successful and true to yourself, not that make it impossible. Though I wouldn’t see the examples you mention as role models I know a number of channels like Ben Horne, Dustin Abbott, DPR-TV or Mathieu Gasquet who in my eyes do a good job on the platform. I know many more though who use lots of clickbaiting, who create artificial drama, create lots of noise and who peddle stuff. They do that because the Youtube algorithms reward such behavior and you get significantly more subscribers and views that way. And I don’t know a single successful channel where I feel like they invest minimal effort.

      Here on the blog I don’t post all the latest deals and have no advertising beyond the affiliate links embedded in reviews because that would feel like I work for the advertiser, not the reader. I forgo many hundred Euros per month because of that but I am in the privileged situation that this is my hobby and therefore there is no pressure to increase revenue for me so I can do what feels right. And I know that here on the blog I will reach many readers without using attention grabbing headlines or artificial drama.

  28. hello Phillip ..
    respect from Iraq .
    I have sony a6400 need some lens low light for portrait ,macro,
    …so on . I read some vintage lens in your blog like canon fd , minolta md . my Q . is these lenses better than chines lens like 7artisans, mieke,..so on ? . because my budget is no good .
    I enjoyed reading your web page thank you so much

    1. hard to make any general claims here. I would say it depends onthe lenses you pitch against each other. sSometimes the Chinese modern ones are better, other times the legacy lenses.

    2. Hi Bebo, as a former ASP-C user I would recommend the 50mm that Sony makes for the A6** series cameras. I loved that lens and was able to take some wonderful photos with it.

  29. I like the blog format and regularly check for new content 🙂
    I also think youtube doesnt make a lot of sense, as it also requires a whole different skillset and additional time to make the content availible as a video.

    What you maybe could do is a post on Social Media (instagram, facebeook, can be automated from an RSS feed) that there is new content availible, so that people can “subscribe” there and get updated on the platform they use most.

    Anyways, keep up the great work. Im a big fan!

  30. Thank you all for the great write ups that you do. This site has been an invaluable resource for me, both in getting acclimated to vintage manual gear, but also just photography in general. If it hasn’t been done already, I would really love it if you guys did a walk through for how you have your A7’s set up as far as the menus go as well as the various settings. As much as I love my A7R3, it’s pretty daunting all the stuff in there – much of which I don’t even know what it does. Maybe someone here has some resources they’ve used in order to get their camera body set up properly. I’ve been really struggling with getting sharp and pretty landscape photos lately, and I’m very frustrated and just want to make sure I’ve got everything calibrated and set right…

  31. I just want to second the comments which emphasize that this blog is for many people, including me, much more useful, interesting, and even entertaining than many/most camera/lens/gear reviews and tests on YouTube. Thank you all for the good work, the wonderful and precise reviews, and the countless great photos!

  32. This site has served me well in my quest towards excellence using sony cameras and a variety of lenses. Through this site alone, i have acquired the zeiss loxia 21mm f2.8, voigtlander 15mm f5.6, 40mm f1.2 and voigtlander 65mm f2. These lenses have been a joy to use.
    And this site has been my primary source for equipment, thoughts as well as inspiration.

    Well done Phillip, and your excellent crew… keep up the excellent work…

  33. My vote also for the blog format. I prefer reading the posts in my own pace and have time to look at images as long as I want, and then go back and forth in the article to the things I want to check again.

    One area I would love to see discussed here is how the new full frame cameras behave with vintage lenses. I mean Canon EOS R and Rp, Nikon Z6, Panasonic S1. A suggestion: take a couple of the more problematic lenses (rangefinder wide-angles probably, and maybe a 50mm), put them on these bodies and show us the results. After all, the good old lenses remain, but sensors come and go. I hope this kind of trials would not be too hard to arrange.
    Have a good year 2020!

  34. Philip, I really love the first photo in this paper (river, mountains, sky). Could you send me an higher resolution one, strictly for my own use? I am willing to pay a fee of course – just let me know.

  35. First of all, thank you so much for all the time you have spent creating lots of useful articles.

    Regarding Youtube, there are of course a few things which can be better shown in moving pictures. But most things don’t need that and contrary to video, a blog allows to quickly scan the content and read the parts which you are really interested in. Video is just such a huge waste of time.

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