28 June, 2016

Zeiss Loxia 50mm — Still my favourite

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Low Tide on North Stradbroke Island [Click image to enlarge.]
Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Late afternoon on North Stradbroke Island [Click image to enlarge.]
Zeiss Loxia 50mm - View from the Ferry Jetty on North Stradbroke Island [Click image to enlarge.]

The Loxia 50mm f/2.0 continues to be one of my all-time favourite lenses. I have to admit, however, that when things are moving a bit quicker, then the Sony/Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 is the better choice.

Work carried me out to North Stradbroke Island for the day, but I only had a few minutes to grab a few personal shots. All of these are from the bay side of the Island. The other side is the open ocean side. It has gorgeous beaches and features the transit of the whales when they move to and from their Arctic waters.

It was a little cooler than it looks. It's winter on this side of the world, but Brisbane is semi-tropical, so a jacket was enough.

18 June, 2016

Door Knock 2016

The Australian Greens in the Federal seat of Ryan in Queensland have been kind enough to allow me to photograph their volunteer campaign work. 

Every weekend, volunteers take to the footpaths to talk to their fellow citizens about the issues that matter most. It's a huge undertaking. (So, of course, I could only photograph a small part of it.)

The door knock is only one of the many efforts of the volunteers; so my task of documenting their work is far from done. At this point, however, I do have enough photos that I'm happy to share, in this short slideshow.

Thank you to all of you who tolerated my shadowing you. And my thanks to the Greens candidate for Ryan, Sandra Bayley, and to the campaign coordinator for Ryan, Don Sinnamon.

16 June, 2016

Sigma 24mm with the MC-11

Sigma 24mm "Art" w/MC-11 at f/1.4 - Bardon Queensland [Click on image to enlarge.]

The Sigma MC-11 mount converter does give the Sigma 24mm the feel of a native Sony FE-Mount lens. The focusing is quick and accurate and all the expected information is reported in the Exif data.

Lightroom is able to apply Adobe's Sigma-lens profile with no problems. But even though I have a user preset to apply lens profiles on import, it's not automatic for the 24mm. That may be because the 24mm is a Canon mount.

There is a bit of focus noise, but I don't know if that arises from using the converter, or whether it's inherent in the lens. It doesn't bother me, however, as I think only the photographer can hear it. But then, I'm not a videographer.

The mount connection between the lens and the MC-11 has confidence-building tightness — no wobble. And it's a match aesthetically.

13 June, 2016

Bright sunshine

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Santa Monica Beach [Click image to enlarge.]

Bright sunshine. Sometimes you just have to go with it.

Happily, the camera automatically underexposes this kind of scene, thinking that it can't really be this bright. That, of course, saves the bit of colour and the shadow.

11 June, 2016

Out of Sight, out of mind.

I'm an immigrant.

I came to Australia in 1989 and became a citizen in 1992. I'm grateful to have been accepted here, and proud to be an Australian.

I am disappointed, however, by Australia's current policy regarding our fellow human beings seeking asylum — those men, women and children often called, "boat people."

We have closed our doors to the "boat people" who came seeking our protection.

We have incarcerated men, women and children guilty of no crimes, save to escape persecution. And we have stripped them of all hope — seemingly as an example to others who might seek our shelter.

We have used the law to prevent the doctors, nurses and other professionals who have toiled in our camps from speaking out about what they have witnessed.

We have forced genuine asylum seekers (who will die or be persecuted if they return to their "home" countries) onto even more perilous paths.

We say that by 'stopping the boats,' we've stopped the deaths at sea; we've only stopped the deaths on our sea.

There's a story, perhaps apocryphal, that in testing early language translation programs, the designers experimented with colloquial phrases. One of the phases was, "Out of sight, out of mind." As the story goes, it was translated from English into Russian, and then back again. It was returned as, "Blind and insane."

—Bill Danby

08 June, 2016

Sigma MC-11 opportunities

Zeiss Loxia 50mm - My friend, John [Click image to enlarge.]

[This is not a discussion for those who shoot Canon or Sigma bodies and also shoot Sony. It's a no-brainer to want to be able to use Sigma's Canon (or Sigma) mount glass on both your bodies.]

The Sigma MC-11 gives Sony E-Mount users access to a range of Sigma lenses. But the first question has to be: What are the practical opportunities?

Sigma has been very clear that its MC-11 Mount Converter is only for still photography; that it only works with a selection of Sigma lenses; and, that it doesn't support autofocus-continuous (more about that later). After hearing that, videographers, sport and action photographers would be thinking (correctly, I believe) that the MC-11 option isn't for them.

It's also important to note that the Sigmas are not weather sealed. A wedding photographer, for example, might find that a deal breaker. On the other hand, the Zeiss Batis lenses are weather resistant and the Zeiss Loxias have mount gaskets to improve their weather resistance. The Sony/Zeiss full-frames are also weather resistant. Samyangs, however, are not sealed.

Today I'm only going to talk about the Sigma "Art" primes. A "zoom" discussion may be for another day.

The Sigma full-frame "Art" primes (20, 24, 35 and 50mm) have shown the world that Sigma is at the top of the full-frame DSLR lens game. As modern, high quality lenses, the Sigmas may be relatively inexpensive, but they are not cheap. And, high-end glass is a long-term investment, so some price disparity can't be a dominant factor.

In the various reviews, the Sigmas are usually, and favourably, compared to Canon or Nikon lenses. And with these comparisons, functionality is not an issue — but in using Sigmas with the MC-11, it is.

With the MC-11, the Sigmas all return distance and full exif data to the Sony bodies. That means that stabilised Sony A7 series bodies will afford the 5-axis stabilisation that they do for Sony and Sony/Zeiss lenses. In my limited experience with the 24mm on the A7RII, the stabilisation works well, and the focusing is both quick and accurate, even in lower light.

For me, however, I don't see an advantage for the Sigma 50 or 35mm lenses over their Sony/Zeiss counterparts. The Sony/Zeiss 55mm, f/1.8 and the 35mm, f/2.8 are outstanding lenses. And, if I really needed a 35mm, f/1.4, it would be the Sony/Zeiss, despite its higher price.

The Sigma 24mm is a stop faster than its Zeiss 25mm cousin, and it's substantially less expensive. (In Australia the Sigma 24mm is less than half the price of the Zeiss 25mm. In the US the Zeiss is about half again the price of the Sigma. But don't forget the cost of the MC-11.)

In 24/25mm, there are still opportunities to use depth-of-field for subject isolation — one of the reason why I like 24mm. So, I don't think that a stop of difference should be ignored.

The Sigma 24 and the Zeiss 25 rate about equally in DXO marks, And, while Sigma says that "autofocus continuous" isn't available on the 24mm using the MC-11 — it is on the A7RII, and with eye focus.

If autofocus is less important to you, you might consider the Samyang 24mm, f/1.4 (manual focus, and manual aperture), but with a native E-Mount (that does not report distance or other Exif data). The Samyang 24mm is fast, very sharp and a bit less expensive. Samyang also offers its 24mm in an E-Mount cine (clickless aperture) version.

I like the 24mm focal length over 35 more generally. And I'll have more to say about the Sigma 24mm with the MC-11, in the future.

The Sigma 20mm has two (sort of) counterparts: The Zeiss Loxia 21mm, f/2.8 (manual focus and manual de-clickable aperture), and the wider, but autofocus, Zeiss Batis 18mm, f/2.8. Both of these Zeiss lenses are two stops slower. And, while both are more expensive, the disparity is substantial, but not huge; and, both are, of course, native E-Mount. (To avoid confusion, there's also a Sony 20mm, f/2.8 A-Mount and a Sony 20mm, f/2.8 for the APS-C "NEX" E-Mount.)

Zeiss lenses are known for their high build quality, their contrast, 3D pop, and colour rendition. I'm dodging those discussions, as those issues are addressed in specific lens reviews elsewhere.

I would like to have seen Sigma shift from native, Sony A-Mount support to native Sony E-Mount. But Sigma has to know that they are in an increasingly crowded field of native E-Mounts, with the Sony, Sony/Zeiss, Zeiss, Voigtlander, Samyang, Lensbaby, Mitakon, and Tamron offerings. The MC-11 also means that both Canon and Sigma body owners, can use a Sony body to make their Sigma lens investments more versatile.

And, hey Sigma, How about a 135mm, f/1.8?

06 June, 2016


Zeiss Loxia 50mm - Santa Monica Pier [Click image to enlarge.]

I'm back from the US. Thank you for your patience. 

I spent a day in Los Angeles and went out on to the Santa Monica Pier in the middle of the day, trying to beat my jet lag. I'd been to Santa Monica before, but hadn't been out on the pier.

I'm originally from Chicago, the starting point of Route 66. Santa Monica is the western end of the Route.

I only took the Loxia 50mm to the US. It's great and it worked as expected. But I suspect, however, that for shots in good light the Sony RX100III would have served the purpose. (I don't have a RX100III.)