The Best $50 Lens Ever.

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Dec 272014

Okay, when I got the adapter, it was $150. But the lens itself was an amazing find.

I’ve had my A7 for a few weeks, and now my plan is to get rid of my Canon 60D and all of my Canon gear, except my IXY. I don’t need the extra gear.

I started looking around for a good telephoto replacement that I can adapt to my A7. I did a lot of frowning at the computer screen as I looked at some of the major online retailers, but it’s really hard to commit to buying a used lens I haven’t laid hands on.

We have a good local camera store that has a lot of used lenses, so I went by to take a look. They had a “mystery box” full of lenses they just got in, and I spent about 20 minutes looking through, until I found a great little Canon 70-210 f/4 Macro in an FD mount. The glass was perfect! $50, and it was mine.

I put it on my A7, and, uh-oh. It wouldn’t focus out to infinity. Was it the lens, the camera, or the cheap $30 adapter I got on Amazon a few years back for my Nex? Turns out it was the adapter. I picked up a Metabones adapter, which is in the middle of the price range for adapters at $100, and now it focuses out perfectly.

Since the 70, 100, 135 and 210mm lengths are all marked on the barrel, it means I can use the lens with the A7’s image stabilization, too! It’s a dual action focus/zoom barrel. Pull to zoom, twist to focus.

The macro part of the lens was a nice discovery. At 70mm, you can turn the focus into the macro zone and get up close. It makes this a great all-purpose travel lens. Honestly, this and my Leica 35, and I don’t really feel like I need anything else. The 35 for wide shots, and this for anything else.

I put both lenses and camera through their paces in the NC mountains, and got some great shots. I’m really enjoying this combo.

Sony A7 Mark II

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Dec 172014

After the JLPT in DC, I ordered the new Sony A7 Mark II body, and it showed up a few days later.

If you’re expecting stats, then move on. This is more of an impressions report than anything else. What I liked, what I didn’t.

My initial thoughts? Tinged with confusion because the manual wasn’t so hot. I wound up calling Sony because I wasn’t sure why some functions wouldn’t work with my manual focus lenses. Part of it was on me, but part of it was a slightly confusing message that kept popping up.

Once I got that sorted out, I fell in love with it.

The menu UI isn’t perfect, but the shooting experience with it is great.

The viewfinder fooled me a few times into thinking I was looking directly through glass. It’s really sharp. Better than the rear LCD panel.

The customizable C1-C4 buttons on the body make it a manual focus shooter’s dream. I assigned the focus magnifier to C2, so I just have to press it once or twice, and I can get nice sharp focus. Then I assigned the image stabilizer to C1, so I can set the focal length of my MF lenses with a button press, a dial turn, and another button press. That’s about as fast as you can make it. I put ISO on C3, so I can tear through my ISO settings, depending on what I want to shoot.

There’s a ton of customization in the menus. It’ll take a little while for me to tweak it just the way I want it, but there’s a lot I can either tweak or ignore.

The camera feels great in my hands, and shoots great. Is it loud? Who cares? Honestly, I don’t get the obsession over shutter noise on the A7 cameras. I guess it goes make a certain amount of noise, but not enough for me to care. I’m more into getting good shots. It does that!

The image stabilization is great. It feels like I get 2-3 more stops of hand-holding out of the camera. There’s a noticeable difference when it’s turned off.

It also has a well-thought out auto-bracketing mode, that I set on 3 shots 1 stop apart, and just left it there.

The NFC is useful if your phone does NFC, I guess. You need to download an app and you can control the camera with your phone. It’s kind of hit-and-miss. There’s a whole Sony app store for the camera. It’s kind of cool, but it’s also sigh-inducing, too. (Another user ID and password, and something else to manage? Ugh.)

What’s most important to me is that I can take the pictures I want without thinking about the camera. I think about the photo, and that’s about it. In that regard, this camera is great.

My only gripe is a lack of native full-frame E mount lenses that are affordable. There aren’t many full-frame lenses on offer, and the ones that are AF are all pretty expensive. I already have some Leica M glass from 10+ years ago, so I’m covered, but it would be nice to have one native full-frame AF lens. Gotta start saving on the side for that, I guess.

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