How to: Create Environmental Portraits

Introduction

Sony A7rII |Voigtlander VM 35mm 1.7 +5m PCX | f/1.7

With the Sony FE 24mm 1.4 GM hitting the shelves soon and the ongoing Instragram hype it might be a good time to talk a bit about environmental portraits.
What is an environmental portrait and what is the difference compared to a normal portrait? Which lenses work best? Which mistakes I made in the past but you can already avoid today?
These are the questions I will try to answer in this article.

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Carl Zeiss C-Sonnar T* 50mm f1.5 ZM: A Detailed Review

We have become used to old lens formulas being revived and sold for occasionally huge sums of money to collectors and photographers hoping to create images with a magical vintage look. All of us here have been very sceptical about this. Mostly they have been simple lenses in simple bodies with poor technical qualities being sold for more than the price of the latest and greatest glass. From one perspective the legendary C-Sonnar from Zeiss is like this. It’s a classic design dating from 1932 whose principal design goal at the time was to reduce the number of air glass surfaces because the coatings of the day were so primitive. Why do we need it now? But Zeiss bought it back in 2006 in M mount as part of the ZM series. The optical design is not much changed, but it comes with modern coatings. Many prize it for magical rendering and flattering portraiture, others think it shows that not even Zeiss is above trying to rip off nostalgic hipsters. Read on and find out who is right!

Specifications

Diameter 56 mm
Length 45 mm
Filter Thread 46 mm
Weight (w/o adapter) 250 g
Max. Magnification (w/o close focus adapter) 1:15
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor (w/o CFA) 0.9 m
Number of aperture blades 10
Elements/ Groups 6/4
The Carl Zeiss C-Sonnar T* 1.5/50 can be purchased via our affiliate links at Amazon.com or else B&H Photo Video. You can get it new on eBay.com here, or you can get it used on eBay.com here.

Image Samples

Continue reading Carl Zeiss C-Sonnar T* 50mm f1.5 ZM: A Detailed Review

Photokina Recap Part 7: Tripods, Filters, Accessories

When I go to Photokina I am actually most interested in looking at new tripods, ballheads, bags and other accessories as most stores only have very limited stuff on display, and here you can often have a look at the manufacturer’s whole line up.
I will only cover the companies that I found to bring something new or interesting to the table.

Gitzo

I am a long time Gitzo user but the latest releases don’t really get me excited. Gitzo started producing a line of shoulder bags and backpacks. Whether you like the style or not is obviously a matter of personal taste, but I found most of them to be too heavy for what they offer.

Continue reading Photokina Recap Part 7: Tripods, Filters, Accessories

Voigtlander 110mm F2.5 APO Macro Hands-On: Photokina Recap Part 5

Specifications

Diameter 78 mm
Length 100 mm
Filter Thread 58 mm
Weight 771 g
Max. Magnification 1:1
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor 0.35 m
Number of aperture blades 10
Elements/ Groups 14/12

$1099 at B&H (affiliate link)

I think it came across from my review that I was quite impressed by the Voigtländer 2/65‘s performance. So when Cosina announced the 2.5/110 they had my attention and I made my interest in a review copy known immediately. For some reason though the release date has been postponed from August. I hope we don’t have to wait much longer.

Features

The Voigtlander 110mm F2.5 APO-Lanthar Macro focuses down to a magnification ratio of 1:1. Unlike the Sony FE 2.8/90 it does not focus internally so it extends a lot when focused at smaller objects. I couldn’t test the working distance at PK but it will be interesting to see how it compares to the Sony macro.

Another key-feature is the APO-correction. While other companies have used this term rather generously the 2/65 APO offers a really high degree of correction for any kind of CA so the expectation is quite high here. Conditions at PK didn’t allow for much testing of the CA-correction.

Another “feature” is that this is the longest native manual focus lens in E-mount. I think together with my 1.2/40 and the new 3.5/21 it could form a really nice three prime set which covers almost any application I would have for it from landscape over macro to portrait. If your focus is on portraits you will almost certainly be better served by the mighty GM 1.4/85 and eye-AF. But if you like to take an occasional portrait while your focus is on other applications and you enjoy manual focus this lens might work very well for you. At least that is what I am hoping for.

Handling

Voigtlander 2/65 besides 2.5/110

At Photokina I could handle a copy and take some images. I was positively surprised to note that the 110mm Macro is just 9mm longer than the 65mm. This is possible because while the 65’s front element is deeply recessed the 110mm’s is not. Another advantage is a more reasonable filter size of 58mm. This is shared by most other Voigtlanders.

I can’t say that much about the handling: The focus ring felt nice. I didn’t use it enough to notice how it balances. The aperture ring has moved from the front to the back which one will get used to. So it most likely will be what one has come to expect from a modern Voigtlander lens which is a very pleasant to use lens.

both lenses fully extended

Optical performance

Again I didn’t learn a lot from the short usage at PK. An exhausting fair where you are constantly bombarded by information and sounds isn’t a good testing ground. You can find my test images in this set. They were handheld and didn’t show anything unexpected.

One aspect I looked at was bokeh and cat-eyes. This is the full image and out of focus highlights look pretty smooth and not defined. Cat-eyes are pronounced though.

I also don’t see any onion rings which is good news.

Conclusion

I didn’t learn much about the CV 2.5/110 APO at Pk but I didn’t learn anything negative either. I look forward to either reviewing it myself or reading David’s review, depending who gets one first. I think it could find a constant place in my kit.

Manual Lenses | Sony Alpha