For the past year, iLHP has been collaborating with some of the industry’s best brands and manufacturers in order to bring you the newest and latest in photography. We’ve had early sneak previews and exclusive interviews. This past month, we attended the PhotoPlus Expo in New York City and met with ZEISS. We had the fortune of speaking with Nicole (Marketing Manager), Christoph (Brand and Product Communications), and Christophe (Senior Product Manager).
What is Zeiss Up To?
They were very enthusiast in answering your and our questions. Many projects are being developed and as you can imagine the partnership with Sony is their main point of focus, so to speak. There are obviously some secrets that they have to keep as the industrial competition is always ongoing but they could let us know that we can expect about 5 new Full-Frame E-mount lenses, including 2 to 3 new ones in 2016.
The Full Frame system is now clearly what the engineering and R&D teams in Germany are asked to develop. The A5100 and the A6000 are amazing cameras but are not the primary targets they want to address. They admitted being surprised by how popular and successful the A7 series is.
A fast 85mm has long been a favorite among the portrait photographer’s toolbox. Slightly telephoto, this particular focal length lightly compresses the image so that models are comfortably nestled within the background. From a design perspective, large apertures like f/1.8 or even f/1.2 remain cost effective and practical because at longer focal lengths, glass elements necessarily become prohibitively expensive and oversized. Lastly, the 85mm’s working distance lets you stay close enough to the model yet provide a lot more depth-of-field (and bokeh) than your fast 50mm or 35mm.
So what do we look for when choosing a 85mm portrait lens? Three things spring to mind. First, it has to be easy to handle because the last thing you’d want is a lens encumbering you after the models are made up and the studio is paid for. Try shooting with an EF 85mm f/1.2 all day and you’ll see what I mean.
Next, of course, is image quality but that is often a broad and nebulous term, and 85mms, in general, have been great performers. More specifically, a defining feature of the 85mm is its ability to throw the background out of focus, isolating the subject in a cocoon of soft blurriness. So a good portrait lens should have its own character.
Finally, since for large aperture primes we’ll be working with a narrow depth-of-field, fast and accurate autofocus is absolutely essential, much more so than for shorter focal lengths. I defy you to eye-focus with a manual lens, on a non-split prism focusing screen, at variable light and working distances. You just can’t do it, consistently, so professionals rely on quality AF at longer focal lengths.
So for this hands-on review, we are using the latest and greatest from Zeiss, their Batis 85mm f/1.8. We briefly looked at its technical specs when we first laid our hands on it, so rather than doing that again here, we’re going to jump straight into the good stuff. We called up Peyton and Mikaila, they drove to Newport Beach from Hollywood and San Diego respectively, and we rented a few bikes along the beach boardwalk. A fun Sunday afternoon in California.
So here I am, thinking about dropping some hard earned cash on another camera system. I’ve definitely been a sucker for hype and the latest generation of cameras have lured hours of my attention from actual work. Maybe I was going to procrastinate either way, but at the end of this tunnel, I will probably be losing a hefty amount of cash to replace it with several hundred grams of magnesium alloy housing some serious CMOS circuitry.
Photographer or Photo Enthusiast?
As large camera manufacturers start churning out the hype machines, many photo-enthusiasts will start salivating for these new imaging monsters; bigger resolution, better dynamic range, higher sensitivity, faster processing, more connectivity, etc. It’s enough to make you go out and justify maxing out your credit card in order to ignite a spark that hasn’t been lit since the last time you purchased a camera.
But before you do that, you need to ask yourself this question: What do I need this for? It’s pretty simple but for many, this could be like walking through a land mine.
As mirrorless cameras start eating away at DSLR sales worldwide, the old guard of photography; primarily Nikon, Canon and Pentax have been trying to stop the hemorrhaging of their entry level and enthusiast range of cameras.
To this day, nothing excites me more than placing my eye against my Canon 5D Mk III eye piece and seeing a tried and tested system in that reflex but for many, it’s totally unnecessary to carry a bigger, heavier camera all for the sake of that mirror box . You see, many families now want great image quality without carrying the big DSLR, these mirrorless cameras can provide just that but on the other end of the spectrum, enthusiasts might require a sturdier built machine that can withstand nature’s elements.
Canon with its brand new 5Ds and 5Dsr did not really convince anybody. DxOLab said it is Canon’s best score ever but it is still ranked at the 21st position, far behind the Nikon D810 and the Sony A7r. Let’s imagine the score of the A7rII. Phenomenal. Don’t take me wrong though, the 5DIII is still a very good camera, but it needs a major overhaul to fight against the upcoming A7rII. That being said, some professionals have already made the switch seeing the great potential in these new kind of full frame cameras, probably even more once the A7rII will be available. So I wanted to provide an example of some great professional photographers that are pleased with their new system.
“I’ve got the greatest job in the world. My worst days as a photographer might be the greatest days in the lives of many people.” — Brian Smith
“You will never regret, even a second, the images produced by this sensor”.
That being said, with the A7 series announced back in October 2013, Sony had already declared war to Canon and Nikon with this new category of weapons stating new references on the market especially with the A7s in terms of ISO performances. This series was very well engineered right from scratch and no one can deny its success now. The A7II is thus a refinement of the A7 featuring new assests/ skills that we have been discussing in the first part here.
As you already know, I loved how handy and well built this camera is. It is very practical and easy to use even though I think I could use one more customizable button. I also had to point a few flaws but they are not significant considering the qualities and the delight that this camera will offer you! So I am now going to test and review the image quality, for those who cannot put $3200 on the table to splurge on the all new A7rII (body only), the A7II offers already a great quality enjoyable for most of us, enthusiats and even pro-photographers — as I discussed here in a previous article — for half the price, $1600 body only.
It is clear that the image quality depends on the lens you are using. It is then difficult to establish a clear ranking unless you do scientific tests and multiple comparisons with different cameras with the same lenses like DxOlab would do. Continue reading Sony A7II: Field Test! (Part2)→