What is my favorite lens to use with the Sony A7R2? Why it's a Nikon, of course.

Portrait for Austin Lyric Opera Ad Campaign.
Camera: Kodak DCS 760C. Lens: Nikon 105mm f2.0 DC

If you are a frequent reader of the VSL blog you know I sometimes change camera systems. To the uninitiated it may seem like I do this capriciously; like a raven following the latest shiny object. But the real reason I do so is just to confound the readers of various camera forums. I routinely drop thousands of dollars to see how many people I can get screaming, "Fanboy!" "Paid Shill!" "Gear Whore!" and, my favorite: "Tuck changes systems more often than I change my underwear." 

But I'll bet I've been more consistent in my use of lenses longer than many of these armchair behavioral psychologists have been alive. You see, I have been shooting with Nikon 105mm f2.5 and f2.0 lenses since 1982. That's 34 years. And for most of that time it's been the same unit I purchased in 1982 for more money than they are worth today ---- even factoring in inflation. I have used it with an adapter to shoot on Canon digital cameras and now, with adapters, to shoot on Sony's mirrorless cameras. I shot with it on Olympus OMD cameras and, of course, on the Panasonic GH cameras. 

You know what? It's still a damn fine lens. As good or better than many of the lenses I buy new from Sony, etc. today. Lens crafting hasn't evolved that much where quality is concerned; for the most part camera companies have just learned how to make stuff cheaper and more cheaply. 

While my favorite, all time portrait lens is the 105mm f2.5 ais Nikon the image above was taken with the 105 f2.0 DC (defocus coupling) lens. Same focal length but the f2.0 lens has a ring on the barrel that lets you shift in some distortion in front or behind the plane of sharp focus. 

This portrait may not be your cup of tea because it's not razor sharp but that's because we were shooting wide open with the full measure of available distortion applied. If you want to see sharp all you really need to do is grab one of the 105mm f2.5s, put the aperture at f5.6, focus carefully (the A7R2 is a much better candidate for using this lens than any Nikon body ----- remember? Focus Peaking and Focus Magnification, made easy). Keep the camera steady (using in-body image stabilization, where available = A7R2) and make sure your subject isn't moving faster than the set shutter speed is capable of freezing, and you're done. You'll have an amazingly good image; at least technically. 

What lenses did I keep in my hands when I switched from Nikon to Sony? Just three. The 55mm f2.8 Micro Nikkor, the 50mm f1.4 (ancient, original, pre-ai), and a pair of 105mm f2.5s.  The most amazing thing for me to read these days? It's about the perennial search for a great, fast portrait lens. And then I go into a well stocked camera store and see a couple of rows of clean, nice 105mm f2.5 ais lensed in the used cases; orphans just waiting to be of some use to a gifted artist or hardworking studio guy. Yours for the taking for around $150.

See, I don't change my mind that often. Oh, the camera bodies? They are more like film to me.....


Chris Hawes said...

Hi Kirk,

Which adapter are you using for Nikon lenses on your Sony?


Chris H

Eric Wojtkun said...

Digital camera body = film....spot on. I told my wife this years ago...helped me explain why I was moving from one system to the next. You change film to meet a technical or artistic requirement. camera bodies became the film with digital...if the lenses can last you are good to go. I Just don't have the financial plan in my house to pull it off, but my hat is off to you. Do what you need to do to get the images which feed your family. Keep up the innovation and I'll keep learning how to make better images from you...and be informed on options in my future. Thanks. Eric