All posts by Edward T.

Ed is a musician, an entrepreneur, and a lawyer. He’s studied music with the Royal Conservatory of Music forever, earned a bookshelf science degree in Genetics & Cell Biology, and proudly graduated from Boston University with his J.D. His photographic works have been published in print and digital media, and exhibited in New York City. He focuses on fashion, street, and art photography. Ed despises self promotion but enjoys romantic dinners with his beautiful wife.

Breaking the Rules – Street Photography with the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8

We’d normally use ultra-wide lenses for two reasons: (1)  to capture something very big (i.e. landscapes, buildings, stars in the sky); or (2) to create a sense of space in a place where there is none (i.e. real estate photography). Portraits are generally a big no-no because its inherent visual perspective creates a sense of unease. But then again, a cinematographer like Masanobu Takayanagi can use it masterfully in Silver Linings Playbook to subtly bring out Bradley Cooper’s troubled mental state in front of Jennifer Lawrence.

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Ian Norman over at The Lonely Speck uses this Rokinon to great results for his astrophotography

I bought my Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 on a whim and while it was on sale. At $339 MSRP, it is one of the most affordable lenses in the Sony E Mount line up. But as neither a landscape or an astrophotographer, I had no real need for an ultra-wide. And I suspect for real-estate photographers, who incidentally have the highest average salaries out of all photographer types, they won’t be relying on this bargain basement lens with wild barrel distortions either.

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The Rokinon is also labeled as the Samyang. When mounted to the A7 series, it is absolutely humongous. Not the ideal street photography lens then, but fun to use nonetheless.

One day, over better qualified candidates like the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 and as if to defy the camera gods, I decided to bring this lens during my recent trip to China for Lunar New Years since Asia, in general, is great for street photography. So, I challenged myself to use a 14mm ultra-wide on the streets and this is what I’ve learned.

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Photographing “China B”

Spanning into the mists of time, its history has predicated thousands of years of philosophies, dogmas, and customs. It’s population, a conceptually difficult to imagine 1,357,000,000, is ultra diverse in its cultures, languages, and cuisines. It’s also very large, the same size as the United States, as it borders 14 adjacent developing countries.

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Shanghai, or as Anthony Bourdain put it, as city that makes his New York City look like a third world country.

What many envision China today, perhaps through news programs, tourism, or the Beijing Olympics, may be a rapidly developing economy with shining beacon cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Beijing. However, few casual tourists or tie-wearing business people will have the opportunity to venture into China’s countryside, to rural roads less traveled, and to what one scholar termed as “China B.”

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Power lines stretch across resting winter farmlands.

In my recent travels to China during Lunar New Years, I had the opportunity to travel to an old town on the outskirts of Xi’an, in the Shanxi province, right in the middle of the country. Along the 1.5 hour car ride, I pointed my Sony A7 out the window and capture a side of the country rarely seen. Every image below was shot with a Sony A7 with a Zeiss 35mm f/2.8. The lens focused quickly and confidently, but it was the micro-contrast of the images that really inspired.

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The Curious Case of the Wide-Normal Primes – Sony 28mm f/2 vs. Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

The wide-normal prime is somewhat of an oddity. Nestled between the 17mm & 20mm ultra-wides and the 35mm & 40mm normals, the wide-normal primes sit comfortably, or awkwardly (depending on who you ask), in the 24mm to 28mm range.

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Shot handheld with a Sony 28mm f/2. The wide-normal prime is arguably the most versatile consumer prime lens.

In this lens shootout, we took two of the newest and most anticipated primes for the Sony FE mount to the Orange County County Fair. The County Fair is a public event that brings family and friends together for carnival games, petting zoos, and bacon. Lots and lots of bacon.

In typical iLHP lens review fashion, our tests will be broken down in several rounds as listed below:

  1. Sharpness and Distortion
  2. Vignetting and Flare
  3. Bokeh and 3D Pop
  4. Field of View
  5. Real World Handling

The Contenders & Their Specs

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(c) John vR @ photographicwanderings.com. Despite the Batis’ larger size, it doesn’t weigh that much more than the Sony, and it’s materials are beautiful.

On the left, weighing in at a welterweight of 335g with a $1,299 price tag, is the brand new OLED displayed Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon. On the right, weighing in at a featherweight 200g with an equally wallet-easy $448 price tag, is the Sony 28mm f/2.

Both have completely silent AF systems. Both come with pedal-shaped lens hoods. The Zeiss blows the Sony out of the water in terms of build quality, what with its high quality plastics that resemble metal and the world’s first OLED focus scale. But at almost 3x the price, the build quality is expected and, honestly, necessary. The Sony is minimal yet still built very well. No complaints for either lenses then.

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5 Experiments to Overcome Photographer’s Block

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut. We feel lethargic and uninspired. We feel the urge to blow a bunch of money on a new lens or a new camera, in hopes that it would somehow reinvigorate our passions. But what if we already have what we need to overcome photographer’s block? Here are 5 simple experiments to try to expand our photographic horizons.

5. Shoot with Your Least Used Lens

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Shot with a Holga 25mm Pinhole

We’ve all been there. A late night Craigslist session, an impulse BUY IT NOW! on eBay, or a well commissioned salesperson at a camera store. We all have lenses that we sparingly use.

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Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

Mine used to be the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro. Fantastic lens. Brilliantly sharp. But I’m not gifted with the patience to shoot macrophotography and I also bought it as a portrait lens. I found it to be slightly too long, too slow to use in dim light without stabilization, and too inexpensive to part with. So I kept it. For years. In a closet.

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Right now, it’s my Holga 25mm Pinhole lens. Super fun lens. Incredibly inexpensive. However, a plastic meniscus lens at f/8 has limited usability at night or indoors. But rather than dwelling on limitations, a lens’ unique character could force you to think outside the box and be creative.

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A Quick Comparison Review – Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 vs Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar

Last time, we took the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 out to the Newport Beach boardwalk and did a on-location photo shoot with two of our lovely models. To get some perspective on just how good the Batis 85mm really was, we compared it to one of the best AF lenses on market today, the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar (aka the mini-Otus). We drove up to Lake Hollywood Park, busted out our tripod, and did some comparison shots using the famous Hollywood sign as the backdrop.

In a real-world but less-the-scientific comparison between the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 and the venerable Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar, we found very little difference in terms of sharpness throughout the aperture range.

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Click on the image for full resolution.

With the Zeiss 55mm being one of the sharpest and highly rated AF lenses, this is saying a lot for the new Zeiss Batis 85mm. In fact, pretty much most real world reviews on the Batis has found it to be very sharp right from thef/1.8. I’m sure once Photozone.de gets around to reviewing more Sony lenses, they will verify our current findings. In the meantime, here are some of our quick & dirty impressions.

Continue reading A Quick Comparison Review – Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 vs Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar